Justin Trudeau’s false Davos dichotomy

After a fracas over his vacation, Justin Trudeau says he will not be going to Davos. But that’s doing Canada a disservice.


 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks after meeting with Indigenous leaders on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 15, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks after meeting with Indigenous leaders on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 15, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Rather than rub elbows and clink cognac glasses with celebrities and the global elite next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will spend days touring the coffee shops and winter fairs across his country.

Sounds a bit clichéd, doesn’t it? Let’s try that a different way.

Rather than an extraordinary once-a-year opportunity to help nurture major Canadian investment deals and link arms with fellow world leaders troubled with the rise of anti-trade and anti-immigrant populism, Justin Trudeau will extend by a few days his previously planned tour to plaster his smile and winter scarf collection across as many small-town newspaper front pages as he can.

Sorry, I’m wordy at times. It’s just that while that first version possesses a bit more familiar zing, it also fits too neatly and cutely into a Liberal branding narrative about a pivot back toward the coveted middle-class voter. It also tends to be a trickier task to explain the virtues of putting in time at international politician-executive conclaves like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; it’s much easier to sneer about posh hotels in the Alps, corporate jet traffic jams and the high-altitude oxygen inhaled there by Bono and the prime minister of Liechtenstein.

But the sneering was already fully under way by last Friday afternoon when the Prime Minister’s Office announced the cancellation of Trudeau’s trip to Davos. Hours earlier, the National Post’s David Akin reported that Trudeau had already used up all his elite hobnobbing credits for the month—possibly for the entire first quarter of 2017—when his family spent its New Year’s vacation on a private island in the Bahamas belonging to the Aga Khan. Now, the global forum will have to make do with Trudeau’s cabinet ministers; the Prime Minister will spend less time with Davos Man then he will in Brandon, Man.

In 2015, Canadians voted for the handsome youngish man who could look debonair in a Vogue photo shoot and handle a bout of summer-fair mainstreeting without looking too effete or out-of-place. For a long time, they’ve concluded that Justin Trudeau could walk marble floors and chew gum at hockey arenas in the same week. So it’s a surprise that, after making a splash as the international community’s big newcomer at last year’s Davos forum, he’ll be eschewing the conference now.

His trips have been fruitful. As former colleague Paul Wells has pointed out, Canada netted major investments from General Motors, Microsoft and Thomson Reuters in the months after each CEO met with Trudeau in Davos; those meetings at least couldn’t have hurt the chances that those would happen. There were doubtless more investment opportunities to help stoke this year, as well as potential export deals to nurture with the contingent of Canadian corporate executives who attend annually.

Trudeau had already begun honing his own sales pitch for international investment in Canada in a world shirking away from internationalist outlooks. In a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce last month, the Prime Minister spoke about Canada as the un-Trump-like destination for global capital: “Canada has extraordinary opportunities along with social, economic, political stability that—especially with the uncertainty about nativism, populism and anti-globalization—people on the world stage are very, very interested in,” he said, to a domestic crowd that was far more interested in hearing about pipeline policy that day. It’s a message that many at Davos, along with many other traditional liberal and conservative politicians, thinkers and investors, will crave more of in 2017.

After all, next week will be a showcase of two competing visions of how big international deals get made: either between sips of Brunello di Montalcino in a noisy, chandeliered room, or through a burst of 5:30 a.m. tweets generously sprinkled with exclamation points and all-caps. The foremost practitioner of the latter style—a man whose electoral triumph has been cast as a victory over the Davos ethic—gets inaugurated as U.S. president on the final day of the Jan. 17-20 conference. Donald Trump rattles against populism, global collaboration and the benefits of immigration in a globalized society, the kinds of themes that are the keys to both the Swiss gathering and Trudeau’s agenda. By rejecting Davos, the Prime Minister has passed up a chance to fortify his position as a leading voice for preserving those values, when those values seem most at risk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande have also backed out of Davos this year, with both countries facing elections this year, as well as their own rising anti-immigrant movements. (Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberals’ post-honeymoon hurt, two years from the next election, is a roughly 14 per cent lead in the polls, way down from the eight-point margin that gave them a parliamentary majority.) Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has also cancelled a week in Davos, reportedly because others pulled out too and he’s more interested in getting close to Trump. Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend, the latest sign that the world’s most populous country is growing more and more ready to converse on the global stage.

The billionaires, government heads and young ladder-climbers of Davos 2017 are not the lone saviours of global capitalism; they are not the last bulwark against an international descent into vulgar tribalism. But they shouldn’t be dismissed as floofy do-nothing jet-setters, either. Trudeau may be afraid of provoking a domestic wave of anti-elite populism himself by being seen too often in hoity-toity places, but Davos is the wrong sacrificial lamb. By playing the coffee-shop circuit instead of seizing the international opportunities that he knows—ones that just so happen to benefit Canadians and Canadian global interests—the Prime Minister may be doing a disservice to Canadians, while making it harder to return to those productive gatherings of those nefarious elites next time around.

If Trudeau was really looking to trim an event that would lead to accusations of aloof snobbery, perhaps his private-island vacation visit to a major foreign-aid recipient would have been the more elite delete.


 

Justin Trudeau’s false Davos dichotomy

  1. I have no idea why the media is telling Justin where and when to go on vacation.

    In the first place a holiday is vital for someone in his line of work…….and in the second it’s one of the perks of his job. Part of his salary.

    He’s got a rattly old plane in need of repairs, and a falling-down house…..it’s not even a fixer-upper……and now the media is complaining about every trip the man takes! What gives here??

    • They haven’t accepted Harpos decline.

    • I’ll tell you what gives here Emilyone, the media has gone into the selling of news, National Enquirer style, instead of reporting news. Justin Trudeau was elected by the people of Canada, not Davos, there is lots of time for Trudeau to get to Davos(3yrs), and guess what the headline would have been if he did go to Davos, “Justin Trudeau, Hobnobbing with the rich and famous in Davos”, we told you he was an elitist. Instead Trudeau is doing what he should be doing, talking to the people who elected him, he knows he can’t be Complacent, and i think he is setting the groundwork for the next election, good strategy, you want votes, you go to the people that elected you, don’t sit on your duff in the HOCs hurling insults with prepared questions at the government in order to get the news clip of the day, just ask Mulcair. Bother way, what happened to Tom, he and Rona seem to be gone MIA all the holidays, i don’t hear anyone complaining about their vacations, was she or Tom in some foreign country and the media didn’t think it was newsworthy. Just curious before i sign out, i am asking anyone in the media this, how much time and taxpayers money is wasted on staff and stationary in order for opposition parties to have the right prepared question to sling across the floor at the government daily, during QP, who really prepares these questions, are they prepared by Ghost Writers, chances are, they are. When the opposition starts to ask questions from the heart, and not from scripted questions by ghost writers, i may start pay attention to QP, until then, it just noise.

    • All of these things are just like the other:
      – Conservative supporters whinging about MSM coverage when the CPC was in power.
      – Trump supporters (and Trump himself) whinging about the “dishonest media”.
      – Liberal supporters whinging about MSM coverage now that the LPC is in power.

      The media is doing its job – nothing more, nothing less.

      • No, they’re writing out their own agenda….and they’re not elected.

    • Trudeau accepted a vacation at a tropical, private island from a man who heads a foundation that is formally registered as an organization that lobbies the federal government. This organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars over the years from the federal government. This organization recently received a commitment for $55 million from the current government.

      So, yeah, this is newsworthy.
      See: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/chris-selley-justin-trudeaus-vacation-with-the-aga-khan-proves-the-details-matter

    • Trudeau accepted a vacation at a tropical, private island from a man who heads a foundation that is formally registered as an organization that lobbies the federal government. This organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars over the years from the federal government. This organization recently received a commitment for $55 million from the current government.

      So, yeah, this is newsworthy.
      See: h$$p://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/chris-selley-justin-trudeaus-vacation-with-the-aga-khan-proves-the-details-matter

      • ‘Aga Khan’ is a title, not a name

        It’s a non-profit organization for social development…..and the men are friends.

        Harp just didn’t know anybody important.

        • Doesn’t matter that it’s a non-profit. It lobbies the federal government for money, received and will receive money from the federal government, and Trudeau received what can be considered a large gift.

          The fact that they are friends is all the more reason to ensure not even the appearance of conflict of interest.

          Don’t see what this has to do with the previous PM (diversion?).

          Don’t understand the title vs name comment.

          • Well actually you don’t understand anything……you might try using your Google button to gen up on the subject

          • I will elaborate: I don’t understand the title vs name comment in the context of what I wrote as I made no direct mention of ‘Aga Khan’.

            For kicks I did google, and came across this:

            “Aga Khan (Persian: آقاخان‎‎; also transliterated as Aqa Khan and Agha Khan[1]) is a name used by the Imam of the Nizari Ismailis.”

            See: h$$ps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aga_Khan

          • Trudeau visited a friend…..so?

    • .

      Trudeau accepted a vacation at a tropical, private island from a man who heads a foundation that is formally registered as an organization that lobbies the federal government. This organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars over the years from the federal government. This organization recently received a commitment for $55 million from the current government.

      So, yeah, this is newsworthy.
      See: h$$p://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/chris-selley-justin-trudeaus-vacation-with-the-aga-khan-proves-the-details-matter

      .

      • No, it’s bilge from an old blogger.

      • this is out to all the Justin just visited a friend people. he is the head of a lobby organization, period – not even borderline ethically wrong, just wrong. But hey lets just say for a minute that its ok, he’s a friend (actually Daddy’s friend), what about the MP and the Liberal party hack that joined him there…now that is something that smells…I know it is a long time ago, but does anyone else remember the flack Harper use to get for using the jet, Trudeau seems to think he owns it.
        I certainly love how much the left twist themselves into knots trying to justify Justin’s wonkiness…two more years…that is if he doesn’t change the law and pull a PM Jean…

    • Yes, every one percenter needs a vay cay on a friend’s private island so he can soak in the rays on the yacht and tool around in the helicopter. After all, poor Justin didn’t get the opportunity to do any of those things on the other 5 vacations in 2016. It really is too unfair that Canadians who are paying carbon tax are wondering why Justin who is sooooo environmentally sensitive, is not sooooo concerned when comes to his own personal carbon foot print or apparently the foot print of those he chooses to spend his vay cays with. How dare these peasants look to him for leadership on climate change. He should do exactly what Rachel Notley did when they were bothering her. Tell them to walk more and take the bus. Then punctuate it by speeding off in his sped off in his chauffeur driven SUV, just like Rachel did. Justin just needs to tell the press, “do as I say, not as I do” and then remind the citizenry of the “perks of his job.”

    • Who cares where the elites have their holiday’s ? They (elites) don’t give a turd what you think . Justin isn’t even real anyway he’s one of those artificial intelligence robot things. Seriously look closely . As well that Velveeta Raccoon who became President isn’t real either. The Matrix is becoming more and more plausible……

    • Perhaps you could expand your smug defense of Trudeau to explain why Liberal Party President Anna Gainey and Seamus O’Regan came with him? Are we to believe that they are old family friends as well?

      Or did the Liberal Party President tag along for a wee bit of conversation about how to bypass the $1,500 political contribution limit using charities and foundations?

      The Liberals are in a bind, they can’t match the Conservatives with grassroots fundraising, but are getting beaten up in the media about “cash for access” meetings. A quiet injection of a large bucket of cash from a rich supporter would help, and would certainly follow the Liberal’s traditional way of doing things.

      • time to invest in brown bags…

  2. Caribbean press reports that Aga Khan’s Bell Cay has been wantonly destroyed by extensive excavation and dredging. “The impact on the environment in and around Bell Island is severe: 13 acres or 600,000 square feet of sea bed has been destroyed. Conch, fish, lobster and turtle habitats and coral beds have all been destroyed. A pond where the protected Bahama duck and countless other wildlife thrived has been so heavily impacted that they are no longer there.” Trudeau is not only an opportunist, but an environmental hypocrite.

    • LOL Streeeetch that complaint.

  3. poor Jason. just got his period and MCLEANS is making him write something….guess this column is his revenge….

  4. It’s better if Trudeau stays home. As soon as he leaves the country he starts giving money away.

    • Do you really believe he needs to leave the country to give away our.. I mean his money?

  5. Globalism isn’t very popular right now. He is hiding from his policy, like Merkel and Hollande. Better to lay low until after the elections to see which way to he wind is blowing.