Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sweet, youthful, Willy Wonka façade is slipping to reveal that he’s just an old boy wedded to the old way of doing things at home and abroad.
Recently, Trudeau celebrated his first year in office by granting ‘exclusive’ interviews to golden-ticket bearing journalists who, predictably, treated him with gooey deference, careful to avoid asking their younger and perpetually effervescent guest any prickly questions.
It’s telling that a politician who claims to be doing politics in a new way continues to exploit legacy media to share his saccharine-laced message that ‘sunny ways’ Canada is back.
Of course, this is a media-manufactured mirage. But if Trudeau and his protective team of PR advisers have proven anything since he was elected last October, it’s how adept they are in fashioning an image of a prime minister who is all smiles, all the time, sans the top-hat, frilly outfit and candy factory.
A columnist with the Toronto Star - Canada’s largest circulation newspaper that has traditionally supported the Liberal party - wrote that Trudeau had earned an A- because he had kept some of his election promises, rehabilitated Ottawa’s relationship with Washington, provided safe haven to Syrian refugees, launched a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and introduced a modest carbon tax.
Despite plastering a happy face decal on Canada, Trudeau has followed in his Conservative predecessor’s reactionary footsteps so closely that critics are beginning to refer to him, justifiably, as Stephen Harper light.
Examine Trudeau’s environmental record. To date, it’s, in effect, a carbon copy of Harper’s: pay theoretical lip service to the existential need to stave off climate suicide, while adopting the Conservatives’ limp carbon emission targets and approving a liquefied natural gas plant, as well as a pipeline on British Columbia’s coast that, taken together, will substantially add to, rather than subtract from, Canada’s carbon footprint.
Like Harper, Trudeau dutifully sided with corporate interests over environmentalists, scientists and indigenous peoples who believe they’ve been betrayed by a malleable politician who has, once again, sacrificed the land and the people who inhabit it for the geyser of cash to be made from energy exports.
Meanwhile, the number of Canadian military ‘advisers’ in Iraq has tripled and his government approved a multibillion-dollar sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia that helped vault Canada into second place - behind only the United States - in arms sales to the Middle East in 2015.
Apparently, in Trudeau’s geopolitical calculus, war is indeed peace. Not only that, NATO and Obama are great. Putin is very bad. Israel is never wrong. Dead Palestinian children, women and men don’t count. Ukraine is a freedom-loving democracy. Russia is a dictatorship. Free trade deals and unfettered foreign investment are the keys to prosperity. ‘Protectionism’ is a dead end.
Canada’s spies remain The Untouchables, beyond the reach of any prying eyes or the law. Trudeau won’t even apologise to a trio of Canadian Muslims who were tortured overseas with the complicity of the RCMP and Canada’s spy service, CSIS.
Tough-on-terror Trudeau has rebuffed persistent calls by civil libertarians, constitutional lawyers and concerned citizens to repeal the Harper-engineered “national security” bills, opting instead to launch cross-country “consultations” designed to provide him with semi-plausible political cover to rebut cynics like me who insist the cement on this score is already dry.
Still, Canada’s Willie Wonka sits comfortably atop the opinion polls. But, sooner or later, Canadians’ appetite for Trudeau’s charming act will fade - whether he knows it or not.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Canada’s Willie Wonka’