Dispatch Lite: National Day for Truth and Surfing
It wasn't a mistake. He's just mad at you, Canadians.
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Thursday was Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. According to Heritage Canada, it is a day that “honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
To mark the occasion, ceremonies were held in Indigenous communities across the country. Politicians from every level of government took part. In those provinces where it was not a holiday, schoolchildren wore orange shirts and learned about a shameful part of their country’s past, and came home telling their parents that “every child matters.”
And Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who lowered the flag on federal buildings and has kept it down ever since, who has made reconciliation the centrepiece of his leadership, went surfing in Tofino. But not before lying about it — his official itinerary had him in private meetings in Ottawa, and it was only after Toronto Sun reporter Bryan Passifiume noticed that a federal jet had taken off from Ottawa and made its way to one of the most gorgeously isolated parts of the country that the PMO admitted that Trudeau wasn’t in Ottawa working the phones, he was in Tofino playing in the waves. When he was tracked down by a team from Global news, he turned his back to the camera and walked sullenly away along the beach.
What are we to make of this behaviour? Social media was full of people calling it an “own goal” or an “unforced error” or a “self-inflicted wound,” and that Trudeau’s officials should have known that this trip was a bad idea, and urged him to put it off by a day or two.
We think these people are getting it wrong. To call this an error in judgment fundamentally misunderstands Justin Trudeau’s psychology and what motivates him. As far as we at The Line can tell, the timing of this trip, the location, and the predictable negative reaction, was very deliberate, and is entirely in keeping with the prime minister’s previous behaviour. To put it bluntly, the prime minister is taking a suck attack.
When the Liberals came to power in 2015, winning a very surprising majority government, it was almost completely due to the perceived magnetism of Justin Trudeau. He charmed Canadians, he charmed the press, and he charmed foreigners; his “because it’s 2015” line made international headlines and made him the figurehead of youthful, global progressive politics. He was the handsome noble young prince here to save us all.
The problem is, when you’re at the top there is only one way to go in politics and that’s down. And so inevitably came the 2019 federal election, in which Liberal fortunes were undermined by two main things: the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin scandal that saw two ministers and his senior adviser resign, and the emergence of a number of photos showing a very grownup, but very immature, Justin Trudeau cavorting around in blackface. After the Liberals were reduced to a minority, with his own reputation heavily, er, stained, Trudeau disappeared in what was clearly an epic sulk. When he re-emerged in the public eye, he’d grown a beard that was clearly designed to Add Gravitas to his public image.
He kept the beard throughout the pandemic, spending most of the past 18 months looking increasingly disheveled, a Howard Hughes figure hiding out at Rideau Cottage. Coming into this summer, the clearest sign that Trudeau was angling for a fall election was that he shaved off the beard. The noble handsome young prince was back, baby! Alas, what didn’t come back was the public’s love and affection. Not only did Trudeau not get the majority he thought he was due, his party saw a reduction in its popular vote share and shed a further half-million supporters in a campaign whose outcome was notable mostly for how angry people were at him.
You can see why he’d be a bit confused and put out by this result. After all, hadn’t he personally spent a bazillion dollars protecting us from COVID? Hadn’t he permanently lowered the flag on the Peace Tower? What more did we want from him?
Rejection is hard for any of us to take, but Justin Trudeau seems to take it harder than most. What we are seeing right now in Tofino is Suck Attack 2: Justin’s Break Point. The prime minister seems to have decided something like the following: “If you don’t love me for the noble do-gooder I know I am, fine. I’ll be the jerk you think I am.”
His behaviour on the beach on Thursday wasn’t bad judgment, it was a deliberate heel turn. And if you are wondering why his advisers and officials didn’t stop him, it might be worth considering that they feel entirely the same way.
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