The Baltics to Trudeau: Yes, we’re a ‘thing’

Politicians from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—otherwise known as the Baltic states—take Justin Trudeau to task


BALTIC_POST01It is, indeed, a thing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s Maclean’s Town Hall with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister answered a series of rapid-fire questions in a 60-second challenge, such as the name of his first pet and which language he wishes he could speak. But one question seemed to stump Trudeau: What is your favourite Baltic nation? “That’s not a thing,” he replied.

The video went viral and was picked up in news outlets around the world, but the news stories in the Baltic nations weren’t very positive.

“What Delphi [a Lithuanian news portal] wrote is that Justin didn’t know that the Baltics existed,” says Antanas Guoga, a member of the European Parliament for Lithuania. “Everyone was quite shocked.”

Now, in response, Guoga, along with members of the European Parliament from Estonia and Latvia, have joined to release a Christmas-themed video addressed to Trudeau, including the hashtag #BalticThing.

“It’s just a fun video to say hello,” says Guoga, which includes an invitation for Trudeau to attend a Toronto Raptors basketball game, where he’d see the Lithuanian-born star Jonas Valanciunas. Other politicians noted that the company Skype originated in Estonia, while Latvia is a world leader in the winter sport of skeleton.

Guoga, who poker fans may recognize as former World Poker Tour star “Tony G,” then invites Trudeau to come visit and play some cards.

While the video is lighthearted in nature, Guoga says he and his colleagues do have some serious concerns. The Baltics have long been NATO allies with Canada, and he says there are worries in the region that Trudeau will not be as forceful in his defence of countries that border Russia as former prime minister Stephen Harper was.

“Hopefully he’ll respond,” Guoga says. “We’re very concerned Canada’s position is that the Baltics are not important.”

And he did respond. Before Maclean’s town hall with Trudeau on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that what he meant to say was that choosing one’s favourite Baltic nation should not be a thing.

He was, Trudeau said, well aware that the Baltics exist—because he used to date a woman from one of those countries. On the spur of the moment while shooting the 60-second video, he said, he decided that no good could come from answering the question with reference to any specific country. So he declined as diplomatically as he could.

— With files from Paul Wells


The Baltics to Trudeau: Yes, we’re a ‘thing’

  1. HAVING a favourite Baltic state is not a thing! Why is this so hard to understand? ” Eg President Obama, which is your favourite state?
    Or asking a mother ” which is your favourite child? ” that kind of question is not a thing…smh

    • You’re not serious, right? That has to be one of the most nonsensical excuses that I have heard from Trudeau (and there have been quite a few). If he was trying to be diplomatic, he could have just said he likes them all or that he would be better off not answering that. When he said “that’s not a thing” he was obviously referring to Baltic nations. To take his “that’s not a thing” and apply it in the context that he now says he meant would make his response entirely incoherent… which, actually now that I think about, may not be such a stretch after all…

      • I’ll give a marginally more charitable possibility. By ‘that’s not a thing’, he meant it’s not something people think about, like, for example, having a favourite ice cream flavour, or season, or colour.

        Having said that, yes, the smart and diplomatic response would have been to list the names of a few of them to indicate he knows what they are, and then say something diplomatic/meaningless like you would if asked about your favourite child.

        Once again his inability to make precise statements on his feet has an interesting result.

      • You’re not serious, right?
        What’s your favourite Scandanian country?
        Be sure to email the others so they know you like them more than the others.
        I like Sweden quite a bit, not gonna tell the Finns that though, but carry on I guess, just like I will

        • Good grief…If what he meant was that he thought it would be prudent to not answer the question, then that’s what he would have said. You’re trying to create a world where words don’t actually mean what they mean, and what they actually mean is what Trudeau supposedly thought after the fact.

          Look, it was a gaffe. Trudeau has made them before and he’s not alone. Stick a microphone in front of any politician enough and every single one of them will be guilty of them sooner or later. As far as gaffes go, it’s not even that bad (not like Obama’s “57 States”). Obviously Trudeau knows about the existence of Lativa, Estonia, and Lithuania, he just didn’t realize that they are called the Baltic Nations. To be fair, neither did I, and now, thanks to Trudeau’s gaffe, I do.

          What gets ridiculous is the absurd claim made be Trudeau that it was not a gaffe and the even more pathetic defense of this gaffe by people like you. Just admit it, he screwed up and move on. Next week everyone will forget that this even happened, so it is certainly not worth making a fool of yourself over.

          • I have no idea if he knew they were called Baltic states. How are you so certain he didn’t?!? ” that’s not a thing ” check urban dictionary.
            Clearly we see the same thing from opposite perspectives…
            Good grief, right??
            I’m equally baffled by your interpretation as you are of mine…

          • ” You’re trying to create a world where words don’t actually mean what they mean, and what they actually mean is what Trudeau supposedly thought after the fact. ”

            Well, no.
            You actually have to assume Trudeau misspoke to reach the conclusion that he doesn’t know what ‘Baltic States’ are.
            favorite Baltic nation’, not ‘Baltic nation’ is the subject of the question and hence the ‘thing’.

  2. I don’t know if he’s PM Zoolander or Khardashian…..

    • Exactly! Why is Prime Minister Fauntleroy (or as I affectionately call him, “Jizm”) doing a game show anyway?

  3. A favourite colour is a thing. A favourite flavour of ice cream is a thing. A favourite Baltic State is not a thing. It’s an illogical juxtaposition. Which the PM pointed out.

    • Favourite French word is also not a thing, but he answered that one (“topinambour”).

      The fact that ‘favourite Baltic state” is indeed an illogical justification to most people (though not Balticians, I imagine) is what makes it a fun/funny thing to ask. All that was required of the PM was to respond in a way that wouldn’t be picked up, not in a good way, by “news outlets around the world”. That he couldn’t do that is what makes the story.

  4. so, what’s the deal with those baltic states, anyways? are they really fascist, or is it just some kind of hipster irony?

    “i can’t take it, jerry. i hear ‘lit your anus up’. every time. i can’t avoid it. it’s driving me nuts!”

    well, perhaps you should take her up on her offer.

    _george’s eyebrow raises. the scene changes to one listening in from a distance._

    “my god, what are you doing?”

  5. It is funny that Justin lived in Montreal for most part of his life, but doesn’t recognize any of the Universities in Montreal. Vaira Viike-Freiberga, the former president of Latvia had her education in University of Toronto but got her Ph.D. from McGill University. She lectured in Concordia and later on became a professor in the Universite de Montreal. Her seminal work during her tenure there in the fields of psycholinguistics and semiotics was well known all over the world. She decided to give up her post in Universite de Montreal in order to become the President of Latvia. Had Justin been moving in the academic circles instead of the wrestling circle, he might readily have recognized her as someone with a Baltic background. Ironically though, had Vaira remained in Montreal instead of moving to Latvia, she would have, because of her skills in translation and specialization in psycholinguistics and semiotics, been able to throw some light on what Justin mean by “the thing”

    • Another thing I noticed here is the willingness of journalists to get Justin out of trouble at any cost. Look at the way Aaron presents Justin’s defense.
      “He was, Trudeau said, well aware that the Baltics exist—because he used to date a woman from one of those countries”
      There is no willingness at all to examine this statement critically. Look, if you are dating a girl from Denmark, you wouldn’t say that you are dating a girl from Scandinavia. Of course, you do know that Denmark is part of Scandinavia. The normal response to expect from Justin would have been “Of course, I know what the Baltic Countries are, because I used to date a girl from Latvia (or Estonia or Lithuania for that matter). I am sure the girl that dated him would have told her country folk that she used to date a guy from North America but had to dump him as he was such an ignoramus that he didn’t know that the Baltic region didn’t lie within Syria.

  6. I like how no one comments about how he just whipped that Cyrano de Bergerac quote out of nowhere. I’m impressed.

  7. The Baltics are just great – scenic, European, well …. Baltic.

    But in the grand scheme of things they , as independent states, are historical aberrations. They are far too close to a lot of other larger more powerful states (like Sweden, Poland and Pomerania) that actually considered them tributaries for most of recorded history. That they are now full- fledged and patched members of NATO, and could by virtue of their mere existence, get us into another shooting war, is very dangerous , for us.

    The cheapest street on Boardwalk lumps all of them into one $30 Avenue – that says something. Now if you can fill it full of hotels ….

    • Neither Boardwalk? or Monopoly lumps the Baltic States in a $30 avenue. The reference is to the Baltic sea (as it’s paired with Mediterranean Ave).

  8. He’s still just not ready, and never will be, likely. By the way, our family’s hair stylist is from Riga. I doubt that Trudeau the Lesser knows what country that is the capital of. Quite bizarre, as one of the other commenters note, that he would just say that he dated a woman from one of the Baltic States. A normal human being would be expected to say something like “I used to date an ethnic Russian woman from Estonia”. What’s with this guy?

    Anyway, Maclean’s magazine obviously has his back. “On the spur of the moment while shooting the 60-second video, he said, he decided that no good could come from answering the question with reference to any specific country. So he declined as diplomatically as he could.” Telling people in the Baltic States that their region is not a thing was almost the least diplomatic way he could not pick a favourite country.

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