There is no other modern Canadian politician who has attracted so many nicknames. Ezra Levant has dubbed him the Shiny Pony. Others have seen fit to describe him as The Princeling or the Once and Future Prime Minister. Yet the name that has really stuck, that has been applied even by some of his erstwhile admirers, has an appropriately regal ring to it: The Dauphin.
Justin Trudeau is a strange and nearly unprecedented figure in Canadian political history: A dynast. Even his staunchest admirers confess that, lacking the Trudeau name, this gaffe prone man with the post-it note resume would likely still be teaching drama in suburban Vancouver.
Given his work experience and education a responsible business executive or entrepreneur would not hire Trudeau to sell, manager, engineer, service, maintain or negotiate anything of any real importance. Yet as of the writing of this piece Justin Trudeau has a very strong chance of becoming Canada's next Prime Minister.
Paul Tuns, a veteran political journalist and long-time editor of The Interim, has taken up the task of exploring this paradox in his latest book: The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau. Let's be clear about what this book is not: It is not a rant, screed or a litany of loosely connected gossip.
There is no shortage of material on the Right-end of the Canadian blogsphere that takes cheap and vulgar shots at the Liberal Party's youthful looking leader. Instead this is a carefully researched, even handed and point by point review of the Justin Trudeau record. The picture that emerges is not appealing.
Most Right-leaning Canadians already have a strong and mostly negative impression of the Trudeau family, especially of the famous father and his eldest son. The book appropriately begins with a recap of Pierre Trudeau's mostly pernicious legacy: Fiscal incontinence, statist intervention in the economy and a policy of radical social liberalization. From the emasculation of the Canadian military through to FIRA and NEP, The Dauphin provides a quick refresher to those of a certain age and an introduction to those too young to remember the elder Trudeau's reign.
The argument the book lays forth doesn't, however, rest on guilt by association: You hated the father so hate the son. Instead it's the first step in explaining that in every way that matters Justin Trudeau is every inch his father's son. In voting for Justin we should expect, albeit in modern garb, the policies of his socialist father.
Tuns lays out his case over twenty-two relatively short chapters, ranging from Trudeau's views on sexual harassment, economics and pipelines to drugs and abortion. The book itself can be read comfortably in an afternoon. While drawing upon the whole of the younger Trudeau's public career, Tuns has focused his efforts on parsing the last two years that Trudeau has spent as Liberal leader.
The issues that the book covers touch upon almost anything of importance facing modern Canada. Yet despite the diversity of topics the impression of Justin Trudeau's record is consistent: Where he has not been vague or evasive he has shown himself to be a radical at heart.
In what is clearly the book's most important chapter, Tuns dissects Trudeau's largely inaccurate views on the state of Canada's middle class. The rhetoric emanating from the Liberal Party over the last two years has painted the picture of a middle class that has become poorer and more disenfranchise over Stephen Harper's time as Prime Minster. As The Dauphin lays out quite clearly this is mostly nonsense. The Canadian middle class, broadly defined, is the richest in the world.
Even the shopworn rhetorical flourish about "the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer" is given a careful once over in the book:
But what about middle income earners? By definition, the three middle quintiles are middle class (as, probably are many in the bottom and top quintiles, but for the sake of simplicity, only the three middle tiers will be used.) The second quintile, people making an average of $44,500, saw the second largest increases (170 percent) to almost catch up to the middle quintile. That middle quintile now earns an average of $47,500, up 58 percent in 2009 from 1990. Put in simple terms, there is now little difference between lower middle income and middle income earner. The fourth quintile saw its income increase 32 percent, to $60,100. The highest fifth of income earners now make more than $94,900.
The picture that emerges of Justin from reading this one chapter is clear enough: A trust fund kid trying out for the role of class warrior.
In their last two national campaigns the Conservatives have been able to successfully define their opponents: Stephane Dion was not a leader and Michael Ignatieff was just visiting. These bits of political spin worked because, underlying the tacky commercials, was a powerful and basic truth.
Dion was a well meaning man who lacked the personality and skill to lead a national party. Ignatieff was a political opportunist with a terrible grasp of what makes for a good opportunity. Years later we see that Dion has essentially vanished from the political radar and that Lord Iggy is now re-ensconced at Harvard.
The Conservative attack ads for Justin Trudeau have the same logic behind them. The Tories are claiming that Justin isn't ready. But it's actually worse than that. The take-away from The Dauphin is that the younger Trudeau is too immature and too lacking in judgement ever to lead Canada. Should he ever take the political reins it's likely that shrewder and tougher men, like his top advisor Gerald Butts, would be calling most of the shots.
With four months to the next election The Dauphin provides Canadian conservatives and libertarians with the intellectual ammunition they'll need in the fight ahead.
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