Justin Trudeau tries to find a place in the Iraq debate

The Liberal leader tries to setup himself and the Prime Minister


Justin Trudeau

“In the end,” he said, seemingly wanting to stick this line in everyone’s mind, “this all comes down to leadership.”

The man whose party currently leads the polls is still regulated to the sixth, seventh and eighth questions each afternoon. Thomas Mulcair gets the first five, and, if he’s feeling particularly inquisitive, questions nine through 15 as well. And on the Duffy-Wright affair and now on Iraq, with the NDP leader putting on his prosecutorial persona, Justin Trudeau has been most obviously relegated to a secondary role in the space of those 45 minutes.

For that, and possibly also for the simple political predicament of trying to find a happy medium between two tough-talking options, Trudeau has not quite been a prominent force this week as the debate over Iraq has taken shape. Stephen Harper is very willing to go to war. Mulcair is very skeptical. And that leaves Trudeau where?

A set-piece address this morning to the Canada 2020 convention, a thinkfest on the great challenges of the next five years, would be the Liberal leader’s chance to fill in that blank. And, later, a chance to make a dick joke.

The lead-up to that was a delicately calibrated attempt at setting up both Trudeau and the man he seeks to replace.

There was first a stressing of the problem: the “threat to regional and global security” posed by Islamic State, the “humanitarian crisis,” the “horrific” acts and the murders of innocent civilians, humanitarian workers and journalists.

And yet.

“But when we ask ourselves what Canada should do about it, a lot of tough questions arise,” Trudeau said.

The Liberal leader, his feathery hair slightly mussed, proceeded to recount the lead up to the Iraq war of 2003: the false pretences and flawed intelligence, but also “the overheated, moralistic rhetoric that obscured very real flaws in the strategy and the plan to implement it.”

Trudeau made a point of comparing Harper’s words this week with Harper’s words of 2003.

And yet.

“We know the Iraq fiasco haunts the choices we have to make today,” he said. “But we cannot make the wrong decision now because the wrong decision was made then.”

So what now then?

Whatever concern there might be for Trudeau’s position and handling of the matter—concern his opponents have been happy to raise—Trudeau was here keen to put the burden entirely on the Prime Minister. There was a list of things we did not know and a list of ways the Prime Minister has so far failed. There was a claim to how much more informed and multipartisan the discussion was in Britain.

It can feel a bit like the Prime Minister’s critics are grasping when they go looking to find fault—or perhaps that this mission, at least as compared to previous fights, is just less obviously controversial—but there might be something to be said for grasping. At least if it puts a certain level of demand on the government to explain itself. Is there a decent case for dropping bombs on Islamic State? Probably. Has the government handled that discussion as well as we might have hoped? Probably not quite. And not simply because it let Paul Calandra handle questions that one afternoon (although gosh that was a bad move).

On that note, Trudeau laid down four principles with which Liberals will approach the impending House debate.

“One: That Canada does have a role to play to confront humanitarian crises and security threats in the world.

“Two: That when a government considers deploying our men and women in uniform, there must be a clear mission overall and a clear role for Canada within that mission.

“Three: That the case for deploying our Forces must be made openly and transparently, based on clear and reliable, dispassionately presented facts.

“And four: That Canada’s role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities. And how best we can help.”

All of which looks and sounds basically good.

The appeal of Trudeau at this point does, of course, owe much to how he looks and sounds. It is not that he is bereft of substance, but that he particularly promises a certain style of leadership. That might be somewhat true of any opposition leader, but it might be particularly true of this one. (The NDP may spend the next several months laying out their ideas, but it’s not clear they can promise anything that will beat the idea of Trudeau.)

It doesn’t explain what Trudeau would want to do right now if he was Prime Minister—a question I heard whispered behind me later while the Liberal leader was handling reporters’ questions—but it makes a claim about how he’d do it. Which is perhaps no small thing if one of the primary concerns about the incumbent is how he does things. It co-opts all of the questions Tom Mulcair has been asking in the House and puts the question of seriousness back on Stephen Harper, without yet answering the question the Liberals will have to answer sometime next week: to support this mission or not.

There was an interesting tangent about what Canada might do to assist and strengthen Iraq’s nascent democracy. There was a curious line about how the Prime Minister seems to think the best Canada can offer is “a handful of aging war planes.” And then there was that dick joke. (Which will either gravely disappoint some voters or remind them that this guy is new and different: at this point, Canadians seem generally, perhaps surprisingly, willing to embrace him.)

In the question-and-answer session that produced that bit about whipping our planes out, the Liberal leader was asked about the simple politics of the situation, that which might simply force the Liberals to go one way or the other on the decision to bomb Iraq.

“In a room like this, it’s easy to say politics is politics and we have to do this,” Trudeau said. “And that’s one of the problems that happens in rooms like this, in the Ottawa bubble, we forget about Canadians. We think about tactical angles and how we might look to the press gallery or what our opponents might say about us. And that, quite frankly, has led Canadian politics to being in the position of having record levels of disenfranchised, disinterest, cynical voters. I’m sorry, leadership moments are not about making the easy decision that goes along with things. It’s about taking a stand on the values and the principles. And if there’s anything the Liberal party, I’m sure, have learned over the past years, it’s that Canadians need to know where to stand. And Canadians need to trust us.”

There’s nothing quite tangible to any of that. But the assembled crowd applauded the sentiment.


Justin Trudeau tries to find a place in the Iraq debate

  1. The Liberals will still be da turd pardi after the next election.

    Turdeau 2 will be thrown under the Liberal bus, just like Stephi and Iggy.

    • If only that would actually shut you up.

      • About the Liberals, yes it would, because the Turdeau 2 loss will be the final nail in the coffin of………….. “da turd pardi”.

        You can blame the Chretien/Martin civil war for the once “natural ruling party’s” demise.

        • One wonders if BB will have sufficient wit to analyze how Harper staying on too long ultimately cost the CPC their government.

          But then again, BB reveals his IQ with his pithy schoolyard name calling.

          Tell me BB? Do you know what a pendulum is?

          • Walter demonstrates his bias by assuming the standard left wing fallback position of accusing others who do not agree with their ideology of being somehow less educated than themselves.

    • More bombs means more enemies – An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind. Mr. Justin Trudeau’s comments are on both sides of the fence – he needs to be more assertive and state which side of the fence he is on. Politicians are murderers who drop bombs and murder people and never go to jail. Politicians expect civilians to get along peacefully but what do Politicians do ? Drop bombs and continue the cycle of violence. No wonder civilians don’t bother to vote !!!

  2. “And, later, a chance to make a dick joke.”

    I was a little worried about that one myself, until i listened to it in context of the DN question. It was mildly funny. But i hear Andrew is having vapours over it. I like Coyne a lot, but there are times when he comes off like someone’s Victorian maiden aunt.
    I’m curious to know if it was as spontaneous as it sounded – the Trudeaus being notorious for dropping not quite outrageous remarks.
    There was a lot of Pierre in that speech. It’ll infuriate the PM and his seals, but what matters is what effect if any it has on ordinary Canadians? I’m not sure JT will get a big win out of this. I suspect public opinion will lean more toward a tough response. But he wisely left the door open and staked out his ground far better than he could have in the House. A good speech is you’re a Liberal. Your serve Mr PM. Let’s see is this country has become as Conservative as you like to boast. My money is on no in the long run, even if you do have a case for action. The rub with Harper, as it always is, is not what action we ought to take, it’s the way he goes about stacking the deck to get it anyway.

    • Kc, still hard aground on that lee shore………………heh,

  3. (The NDP may spend the next several months laying out their ideas, but it’s not clear they can promise anything that will beat the idea of Trudeau”

    That’s a great line.

    • Turdeau 2 is not an idea, not much of anything, a unicorn fart maybe.

      • Billy Bob, you sure are one stupid ass. And insult for insult, Harper The Hypocrite is not a leader, nothing really but the putrid matter coming out of a pig’s ass.
        See, I can play the teenager game me too.

        • All you’ve done is proven what a vulgar lout you are.

          • If irony was fatal you’d be a dead man Billy Boob.

          • kc displays his lack of wit.

        • BB likes his own wit best, despite the fact he wears a “T” in front of it

          • So he’s a tit then:)

          • Weak

          • kc even weaker

  4. The mildly endowed individual standing beside me in front of a Calgary urinal reminded me that “Michelle Rempel did not get into politics to hear dick jokes made about aging war veterans”.

    But then pointed out that the F-35 would “give more bang for the buck.”

    Hence, the larger cup size and number, I guess.

    • When I’m attending to that particular need, I appear to be more focused on the task, hence, I couldn’t tell you the degree of endowment of anyone. To each their own.

      • He appeared to be modestly dressed. Not sure what you were thinking.

        en·dow (n-dou)
        tr.v. en·dowed, en·dow·ing, en·dows
        1. To provide with property, income, or a source of income.
        a. To equip or supply with a talent or quality: Nature endowed you with a beautiful singing voice.
        b. To imagine as having a usually favorable trait or quality: endowed the family pet with human intelligence.
        3. Obsolete To provide with a dower.

        • From Oxford:

          (be endowed) informal Have breasts or a penis of specified size:
          the girl on page three is well endowed

          Perhaps it was the “urinal” reference that threw me off, although as pointed out elsewhere on these threads, “cons always have their minds in the gutter”. Glad you cleared it up, notwithstanding which I expect I’ll be a little more inclined to wait until the men’s room is vacant next time I’m in Calgary.

          It did get me thinking: perhaps the Dauphin’s joke was a riff on another head ISIL is inclined to lope off. The comic possibilities from the current Syrian/Iraqi imbroglio are endless! I eagerly await the next display of T2’s formidable wit.

  5. “It is not that he is bereft of substance, but that he particularly promises a certain style of leadership.”

    You’ve got that reversed – he promises a certain style of leadership because he is bereft of substance. He is an shallow, frivolous person, as evidenced by the dick joke. There is a wide spectrum of leaders confronting this emerging threat – can you imagine any of them – Obama? Cameron? Hollande? Merkel? saying anything even remotely as bizarre in confronting the serious existential threat their nations all collectively face?

    Trudeau clearly thinks there’s electoral mileage to be gained from rehashing what happened in Iraq in 2003. Perhaps there is, but whatever Harper might have said in various speeches during that time, the fact is he wasn’t PM at the time. I have no doubt the irony escapes him that one of the strident voices against the war in Iraq is the person now making the request for greater Canadian involvement against ISIL. I would enjoy, but hold out no hope it will happen, watching the press pin Trudeau to the wall on that one.

    I suspect that boy wonder’s handlers aren’t getting much sleep these days over the prospect things could get a lot worse before they get better over there and Canadians may not be swooning as much over his slightly mussed feathery hair.

    • saying anything even remotely as bizarre in confronting the serious existential threat their nations all collectively face?

      Ah, OK. A few ISIS fighters came from Calgary. I see your point.

      • What if they get their hands on Iraq’s WMDs?

      • A few ISIS fighters came from Calgary … and Bruce Carson
        went to Calgary with millions of public bucks trickling from
        his pockets. I know which scares me more.

        There’s a lot to not like about the middle-aged kid but I do
        like the “joke”. Whoever wrote it.

      • I see yours as well. Just a few misguided youth engaging in hijinks. Certainly nothing worth losing our heads over …er…let me rephrase that.

        • Feign a whiplash. I’m sure the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre will supply a protective neck brace you can wear. Line with muskrat fur when the cold weather arrives.

          • Makeshift noggin protector.

          • Ah. I miss Sheldon though I doubt he would have supported going after ISIL.

        • Ah, the binary conservative mind – it’s either a threat to the very nation or …just some kids goofin’ around.

          • Your comments are as mindless as your leader. Please read more carefully. “Serious …threat their nations all face” is not “threat to the very nation”. “Kids goofin’ around” is the apparent attitude of your fellow travellor toward what’s happening over there.

            Anyhow, the CF-18s will now be whipped out. Should a Canadian fatality occur, it will be interesting to see if clever boy can resist the urge to make a fart joke.

          • Ah, no.
            You said that the existence of western countries is threatened:

            “…serious existential threat their nations all collectively face”

            Nice try with the editing, though.

          • Look up the meaning. Better yet, just go away for awhile – your time would be better spent boning up on reading comprehension.

          • It’s not complicated.

            pertaining to existence.

            Existential threat:
            threat to existence.

            But you know that. That’s why you replaced the word with ellipses.

    • “…but whatever Harper might have said in various speeches during that time, the fact is he wasn’t PM at the time”

      Thank heaven for small mercies.

      • And for big ones, like the paucity of drama teachers among prime ministers and presidents.

        • Pretty early in the game to be lying, Firewall…..you THAT worried?

          • When I pointed out there are no persons with T2’s credentials currently serving as PMs or Presidents (save possibly, I grant you, POTUS, if you equate “community organizer” with “drama teacher”), I was referring to the real world, not your fantasy one, where you apparently can’t shake a stick without hitting a drama teacher PM.

            I don’t find the prospect of one that worrying – I did survive the reign of the father. It would be the first time I would be governed by a dolt, however, so who knows.

        • Trudeau is a teacher…. in social studies and French.

          Obama is a lawyer.


          • Turdeau 2 is a vapid moron.

            Obama is the worst president in US history.

          • LOL go get your milk and cookies now Billy Bob. You’ve earned them.

  6. My first thought was that Harp wanted his 6 guns drawn in a blazing shoot-out at some aerial OK corral.

    But….Cons always have their minds in the gutter it seems.

    • Trudeau jokes about “whipping it out” to “see how big it is”, everybody including Wherry refer to it as a “dick joke”, but it’s the Cons that have their minds in the gutter? Thanks for clearing that up. What remains is the mystery concerning the whereabouts of yours.

      • Cons figured it was a dick joke, because sex is all they think about….the media just followed along like always.

        As for me, I regard Harp as the dick joke.

        • The things you are an authority on never cease to amaze me and I won’t query how you gained your astonishing insight. I have a new appreciation for what informs conservative thought and will ensure never to have any over for dinner. My grandmother will be upset, but – thx to you – her true self is revealed.

          • Yer granny had kids….obviously she knows about sex.

            Is this a surprise to you?

          • It’s the “sex is all she thinks about” aspect that, thanks to you, is now revealed. In hindsight, it make sense, since she came of age during height of Trudeaupia. Perhaps your understanding of this derives from the same experience – it would explain the irrationality of much of your defense of junior.

          • Justin doesn’t need any defense.

            Unless he accidentally blows up NB, he’ll be our next PM, and you know it.

      • Actually it was something he alluded to, …whipping it out referenced the use of F18 air strikes. Others dew the obvious inference, which many will just find funny, and some will work them selves up into a frothing moral outrage over.[ Harper is probably kicking chairs over this evening] But don’t let actual facts get in your way.

        • Don’t let the actual, verbatim quote in the story Wherry linked to get in your way either.

  7. “It doesn’t explain what Trudeau would want to do right now if he was Prime Minister… but it makes a claim about how he’d do it.”

    And as he pointed out in his speech, the PM has been holding his cards close to his vest… or up his sleeve,,, and thereby making it hard to get an accurate assessment of what he plans to do and why. If the PM isn’t sharing the info that would help the MPs (or Canadians generally) decide, then maybe the best thing to do is wait for more info.

    My own assessment of whether or not we should go similarly hangs in the balance. I’d like to know exactly what it is we are committing to, before saying whether or not I’m on side.

    • Yeah, even war tub thumpers like Terry Glavin are saying bombing in Syria is helping Assad, more than it is hurting ISIL. I’m not a fan of air power myself unless it can be demonstrated it is narrowly targeted with the least likelihood of creating civilian deaths. Iraq is already being accused of bombing recklessly by the UN. The whole thing is a mess…thanks W.

  8. To paraphrase Justin Trudeau today:

    “The responsibility to protect. Sorry, we, the Liberals, were just joking when we thought it up.”

  9. Chretien and the Liberals whipped out the old warplanes to join a non-UN-approved Clinton war in Serbia/Kosovo.

    They raced to Kabul, and then to Kandahar, both times with the military totally unprepared.

    They let members of the Canadian military fight in the Iraq War even though they refused publicly to support the war.

    The Liberals apparently believe that we have a responsibility to protect white people in Europe (i.e. Kosovo) but not brown people (i.e. religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq).

    • Sooo…Harper can’t be held responsible for sh*t he said cuz he wasn’t PM back then, but Trudeau who isn’t PM yet has to wear stuff that Chretien did – who was PM…gotcha!

      Your last point is too moronic to warrant a serious reply. Hell, much as i despise Harper i wouldn’t think of letting the partisan part of my brain anywhere near my mouth or fingers if it was ever tempted to spew that twaddle.

      • Why? The Liberals whipped out the CF-18s in a non-UN-approved war against Serbia to prevent the slaughter of white Europeans, and without seeking the approval of parliament, And well Serbia wasn’t making threats against Canada.

        The Liberal Party claims paternity for the notion of “the responsibility to protect”.

        There are clearly some “brown-skinned minorities” in Iraq in need of protection. The Liberals only seem to want to help them after they have been ethnically cleansed…i.e. accept the ethnic cleansing of ISIS as a fait accompli. The exact opposite argument Chretien made about Kosovo.

        • The R2P is a UN policy….not a local party one.

          No wonder you have to concentrate when you use the facilities.

          • Perhaps it’s a search and rescue effort…….

          • Sounds more like a wet shoes effort, Walter. LOL

  10. Harper has no problem sending out troops to show how tough we all are, as long as they do not come back and require any long term support as veterans.

    • Afghanistan was a Liberal war. Chretien sent the troops to Kabul. Paul Martin to Kandahar. Both without UN approval. It was not Harper who sent the troops. He had to clean up the mess the Liberals left behind because the military was no prepared, and the Liberals made no provisions for handling large numbers of detainees.

        • You have no idea what you meant.

          We were called out under NATO article 5….not the UN. For Afghanistan.

          We should have been back home in a year. Instead mission creep took over.

        • Tell everyone about your vast knowledge of the approaches to Douglas Channel you who is still hard aground on that lee shore.

      • Detainees? Huh?

        The treatment of veterans under the Harper government should give people pause to their moral authority to commit troops when it has demonstrated no interest in supporting those troops that come back broken.

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