Canada’s lib­eral cham­pion PM Trudeau cel­e­brates one year

‘Peo­ple are con­nect­ing with his gov­ern­ment and style’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The phe­nom­e­non that is Justin Trudeau con­tin­ues to soar one year after his land­slide elec­tion. On the eve of this an­niver­sary, the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter’s ap­proval rat­ing reached 65 per­cent (compared with the pre­vi­ous Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion, which peaked at 42 per­cent), while his celebrity and poli­cies have molded him into the new lib­eral stan­dard-bearer on the world stage.

Early on in his man­date, the son of for­mer prime min­is­ter and lib­eral lion Pierre Trudeau staked out deficit spend­ing and open border poli­cies, re­ject­ing the di­vi­sive pol­i­tics of his pre­de­ces­sor Stephen Harper. The for­mer teacher and am­a­teur boxer has earned praise for moves like bud­get­ing bil­lions in spend­ing to bol­ster a frag­ile econ­omy, pro­mot­ing fem­i­nism and hand­ing out parkas to Syr­ian refugees-buck­ing the rise glob­ally of the ul­tra-right.

His fans in­clude United Na­tions Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and IMF Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Chris­tine La­garde. Trudeau’s im­pres­sive rise-de­feat­ing a sit­ting gov­ern­ment with a third-placed party-is largely at­trib­uted to his out­reach to Mil­len­ni­als. He has tapped into a gen­er­a­tional shift in val­ues and the way peo­ple in­creas­ingly use so­cial me­dia to com­mu­ni­cate, while us­ing his fa­mous name to his ad­van­tage.

“He has very strate­gi­cally pro­moted his and his spouse’s celebrity, know­ing that you reach a broader num­ber of vot­ers when you do that,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of ad­vo­cacy group Democ­racy Watch. “And they will con­tinue to do that be­cause peo­ple who don’t pay a lot of at­ten­tion to pol­i­tics, if they do vote, will make de­ci­sions based on who they like.”

Born to be lib­eral

Trudeau grew up in the spot­light un­der the wing of his fa­ther, who is con­sid­ered the fa­ther of mod­ern Canada. He is com­fort­able jump­ing into crowds to glad-hand and pose for self­ies. Us­ing so­cial me­dia, he reaches out di­rectly to cit­i­zens at home and abroad. Mean­while, the good looks of Trudeau and his fam­ily-wife So­phie, a for­mer TV host, and their three young chil­dren-have been splashed across the pages of fash­ion mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, and even a comic book.

“Peo­ple are con­nect­ing with this gov­ern­ment and its style,” said PG For­est, direc­tor of the School of Pub­lic Pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary. “His value set is also very much what peo­ple want of politi­cians at the mo­ment,” he said, adding that Trudeau also has “what I call ‘the Hol­ly­wood fac­tor.’ After a few min­utes the whole room re­volves around him.” The down­side of celebrity cul­ture in pol­i­tics, ob­servers agreed, is that style trumps sub­stance. “The more we talk about the way they look and their per­sonal habits, the less we talk about pub­lic pol­icy,” said Alex Mar­land, a pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor at New­found­land’s Me­mo­rial Univer­sity.

‘Canada is back’

The op­po­si­tion is rud­der­less with both the Tories and New Democrats due to pick new lead­ers next year. As the gov­ern­ment makes good on more of its 300-plus campaign prom­ises, which may re­quire com­pro­mises, some back­ers will in­evitably be dis­ap­pointed by the out­comes. So far, Trudeau has cham­pi­oned the land­mark Paris cli­mate ac­cord, abo­rig­i­nal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, fem­i­nism, and is ex­pected to make Canada the first G7 na­tion to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana in 2017. He also ex­ploded on the world stage, fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­treat, declar­ing: “Canada is back!”

This has meant a shift to­ward mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, in­clud­ing more peace­keep­ing mis­sions and in­creased for­eign aid. “He is the lone lib­eral on the global stage,” said Conacher, cit­ing Trudeau’s pro­mo­tion of “tol­er­ance” and the chal­lenge of grow­ing anti-im­mi­gra­tion and anti-glob­al­iza­tion in Europe and the United States. No­tably Trudeau has re­versed many of his pre­de­ces­sor’s poli­cies. “So when he goes out and speaks on the in­ter­na­tional scene, it has greater res­o­nance and news­wor­thi­ness be­cause it comes after 10 years of poli­cies that are the com­plete op­po­site (of those) un­der the Con­ser­va­tives,” Conacher said.

Some ar­gue that the cur­rent com­pe­ti­tion to be the world’s lead­ing lib­eral voice is lack­lus­ter. “It’s dif­fi­cult to find Francois Hol­lande very in­spir­ing, or (Mar­i­ano) Ra­joy Brey in Spain, or Theresa May or even Hil­lary Clin­ton. Obama is on his way out and peo­ple soon won’t be able to name an in­spir­ing leader on the world scene at this mo­ment,” said For­est. “So the world needs Trudeau to be a strong lib­eral voice and a coun­ter­bal­ance to the ris­ing right.” — AFP

OT­TAWA: French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls (L) and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau walk down the hall of honor on Par­lia­ment Hill. — AFP

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