Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rolled into Vancouver on December 17 with all the fanfare of a Spice Girls World Tour, waving to throngs of supporters and reporters as he made the first trip to city hall by a sitting Canadian prime minister since Daddy Dearest in 1973.
Like all of Trudeau’s trips since becoming leader of a G8 nation, it was preceded by heavy public relations hype and a near hysterical level of excitement by national and local media.
The B.C. Liberals capitalized on some of this buzz in order to tell anybody and everybody who would listen that the federal government is helping to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, a move which premier Christy Clark said with no apparent sense of hyperbole would keep Vancouver’s harbour “safe” again.
Safe from what, we may never know. Orca whales, Russian submarines, or perhaps the floating debris of HIV-infected heroin needles from downtown eastside addicts?
Yes, Trudeau rolled into Vancouver to meet with another politician elected largely on his appeal to the female electorate, Mayor Gregor Robertson. The result was a carefully orchestrated photo opportunity, complete with meaningless and rhetorical quotes about nothing in particular.
“Vancouver and the big cities right across Canada are really looking forward to working with you to strengthen our communities and to build a better country now and into the future,” Robertson said, which is something that really could be said to any prime minister at any time now or in the dystopian future when robots rule as our overlords.
When reporters asked Trudeau for specific investments in municipal infrastructure spending, Trudeau politely asked Vancouver to get in line.
“Vancouver, like cities across Canada, will now have a partner in the federal government on issues of housing, on issues of public transit,” he said. “We don’t feel that Ottawa should to be dictating what particular transit project should be needed by the people of Vancouver. The people best to figure that out are in this room.”
Yeah, except they aren’t. The last time they pitched a transit idea and put it to a plebiscite, the politicians were proved to be thoroughly out of touch with residents of Metro Vancouver. Somebody might want to buy Justin Trudeau a local newspaper.
But as the prime minister noted in 2001, “I don’t read the newspapers. I don’t watch the news. If something important happens, someone will tell me.”
As has been the modus operandi since election day in Canada, Trudeau’s job has been to smile and look pretty, preferably while holding an iPhone at arm’s length surrounded by adoring female supporters.
Trudeau’s proclivity for vain self-inclusion into the narrative of anything political has not gone unnoticed. His disturbing G20 selfie pictures a day after the Paris massacres by Islamic terrorists fairly accurately demonstrated exactly what sort of narcissist we’re dealing with here.
And even as the rest of the world recoiled in horror at the atrocities in Paris, #selfiepriminister Trudeau had already been busy tweeting about a Peteborough mosque that may or may not have been set fire by racists, and which incurred no damage to life or limb whatsoever.
In fact, Trudeau lectured us about the Peteborough mosque on social media not once, but twice. In French and in English.
Apart from a rabid fan base on Twitter, a powerful public relations team and the financial backing of the taxpayer to fund his photo opportunities, Trudeau is also buoyed by the efforts of two media organizations that have become his de facto promoters.
Macleans' and the CBC have so far gone to great lengths to uphold the brand of Trudeau as something more than merely inherited wealth and power.
Christie Blatchford noted that even Junior was somewhat taken aback by the cloying antics of Peter Mansbridge in his exclusive interview back in November. Though the familiarity was less surprising to those who are aware of Mansbridge’s ties to the Liberal elite.
But if you believe that it’s only conservatives who are fetching for their retching bucket during this second iteration of Trudeaumania, you may want to have a gander at the latest from Toronto Star journo Susan Delacourt.
Noting the former prime minister’s own problem with being “image-obsessed” (and let’s face it, Stephen Harper branded the friggin’ Government of Canada after his name, which is pretty damned self-indulgent), Trudeau has been his equal so far in his short reign.
Although Delacourt’s argument is that Trudeau has every bit the substance as Harper did, she does note that Junior has opened himself up to a wider stream of image-crafting media, such as Vogue. He claims this is to generate a broader appeal for politics in places people might not ordinarily be interested, but let’s call a spade a spade.
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is very much another image-crafting weapon meant to wield Justin’s popularity. Especially when juxtaposed to Stephen Harper’s wooden, reserved and, dare I say it, conservative personality.
There’s not a more polarizing image to Harper than the grabassistic pose of Justin’s public display of affection with Sophie in Vogue, looking very much like a couple about to engage in an HBO Game of Thrones sex scene.
It’s difficult not to look with skepticism at every otherwise seemingly altruistic move by the prime minister, from a special viewing of the new Star Wars movie with sick kids to a somewhat voyeuristic and intimate photo of Justin comforting a child.
However, the question you have to ask yourself during these insights into the life of Pierre Trudeau’s eldest son, is why were these moments captured and repackaged into a political consumable?
The answer seems to be about more than simply Liberal handlers cultivating an image of caring and sharing, to demonstrate the charisma and charm that Harper (allegedly) lacked.
This is a kid who was born into the spotlight, a form of Canadian royalty and regality. If he seems to act as though he feels the world is watching him, it’s because he believes it is.
Trudeau is the closest real life depiction we may have to the film The Truman Show. He feels the world is watching his every move because that was how he grew up, being the centre of attention in a family renowned for making themselves the centre of attention.
When he posts gratuitous selfies on social media it isn’t solely for political marketing and propaganda purposes, but because he truly feels no story is complete without his face inserted inside. He is the embodiment of the “pics or it didn’t happen” meme.
To that degree, perhaps Trudeau deserves some form of sympathy. For, despite being a narcissist whose entitlement is so oblivious that he can at once criticize tax-free savings accounts while claiming the need for a taxpayer-funded nanny, the truth is that Trudeau is a product of his environment.
He’s never had to work in an oil patch, struggle to pay a monthly rent, languish on unemployment insurance or distinguish himself in some way requiring a learned skill. He’s always simply had to stand there and look pretty. That’s never changed.
And yet, poisoned by his father’s political influence, Trudeau retains the same dangerous ideals of wealth redistribution, moral relativism in foreign policy, and doomed energy policies. He is the embodiment of white male privilege with no apparent self-awareness of the irony as he preaches about racism and gender parity in cabinet.
The next four years will be a real test for Canada, not just for Trudeau. We’ve elected a man who believes budgets balance themselves and for whom newspapers are relevant only if somebody else reads them to him.
For all of our sakes, let’s hope his politics aren’t as shallow as his selfies.
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