The romantic or the killer: Which Trudeau will emerge?

The romantic period will soon come to an end. Expectations will be dampened as deficits go up. The question is, who will Trudeau turn the blade on next?

(Sean Kilpatrick/CP; Chris Wattie/Reuters)

(Sean Kilpatrick/CP; Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The killer.

It’s not the image of Justin Trudeau that comes to mind today, but it did after he amputated Liberal senators from the party body. It was late January 2014, a time when Conservatives still believed that making jokes about Trudeau’s hair qualified as a serious political strategy. A senior Liberal adviser was giving me details of the event on background, trying to show that Trudeau was more than just the romantic ideal of a leader.

No one saw it coming. On a Wednesday caucus day, Trudeau looked into the eyes of people who had served the party for decades, many working side by side with his own father, and quickly pulled the blade across their necks. The senators were dazed. Senate Leader James Cowan faced the public with his guts still hanging out, mumbling hollowly that the decision was “courageous.” Like amputees suffering from phantom limb syndrome, the one-time Liberal senators could still not believe what they had lost: the body itself.

I asked why Trudeau didn’t warn them in advance as a courtesy: why the shock butchery? The adviser explained that this was more than just about Senate reform; it was a signal about the man who was in charge. A killer.

This is the impulsive Trudeau who cut two MPs from his caucus over allegations of personal misconduct and harassment; we still have no details of what happened or why they got the boot. This is the Trudeau who suddenly made being pro-choice a litmus test for his caucus. But this Trudeau is now nowhere in sight. For the last 100 days, Trudeau has tried to manoeuvre around the Maginot line of political cynicism with a blitzkrieg of empathy, the likes of which we have never seen, feeling the pain of every person, province and program. All we have now is the romance.

I choose that word carefully. In another conversation with a Trudeau adviser, we spoke about the poet John Keats—yes, people in this government talk about poetry. Keats had a poetic idea called “negative capability,” where a person “is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Keats was a Romantic, and in this sense so is Trudeau. He tells Canadians repeatedly that they don’t have to choose between what might appear to be contradictory ideas. The economy and the environment? Peacekeeping and war-making? Deficit spending and fiscal probity? Take all of them. As Yogi Berra once said, when he gets to a fork in the road, he takes it. Trudeau is trying to govern on the negative capability of the poet.

There ought to be a term to describe the romantic period a new government has before it delivers its first budget, when all promises are possible and no disappointments have been delivered. Pre-lapsarian? Antebellum? A political bubble bath? Whatever it is, the Trudeau folks are in it. So far, no calculator can keep up with the array of promises: to cities, provinces, the UN, First Nations. But we don’t know if it all adds up. A budget is supposed to be the irritable reaching for facts, and the end of romance.

But watch carefully and the killer has still been hard at work, quietly racking up casualties. The cold logic of governing dictates that building alliances requires tearing down an enemy, that the counterweight of trust is the need to distrust something else. For a time, the counterweight to Trudeau was the Harper legacy, but there are signs that new targets are now in sight.

On Monday, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett made the breathtaking statement that there are many more missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP claimed in their 2014 report. The RCMP put the number at close to 1,200, between 1980 and 2012.

“It is bigger than 1,200,” Bennett said. “Way bigger than 1,200.”

It was a stark condemnation of the RCMP. If Bennett is right, then the national inquiry into the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women might well trigger a national inquiry into the RCMP itself.

The problem is, we have no way of knowing. Bennett admitted her conclusion was not based on any actual data. As laudable as her goal of healing the grievous wound in Indigenous communities might be, how does a senior minister call out the RCMP as lacking credibility on the issue of murder without evidence? The message was icily clear: Trust us, the Liberal government, not the police.

The National Energy Board has already felt the same blade. During the campaign, Trudeau said the NEB was “a cheerleader instead of a referee” on the issue of pipelines. Since taking office he has added a more rigorous process to pipeline review. For many, it is a badly needed overhaul. But so far, we have no idea if any new pipelines will be built. The National Chief of the AFN wants something called “Aboriginal licence” to be part of the NEB process. There is a class-action suit against the federal governments over oil and gas rights. In criticizing the pipeline process, has Trudeau irrevocably undermined faith in it entirely?

Stoking distrust in the system in order to shore up trust in your party is old-school politics, and Conservatives did the same thing. They ran against the idea of government itself. But distrust is contagious and has a tendency to blow back. It’s not a leap to go from losing faith in RCMP to losing faith in the government itself.

Trudeau has already broken a series of campaign promises, from the number of Syrian refugees arriving by the end of the year to the size of the annual deficit. The romantic period will soon come to an end. Expectations will be dampened as deficits go up. Then the question will be, who does Trudeau turn the blade on next, before the public turns it on him?


The romantic or the killer: Which Trudeau will emerge?

  1. This article is a lot of codswallop. The attack ad is still right. He isn’t ready and he has nice hair.

    • Actually that hair thing you mention is a clue…Justin is a politician-bot, he’s not real and when you least expect it he’ll shed his skin, pull out his ray-gun, and barbecue the entire question period-bots live on CPAC………

      • Whichever of his romantic or killer sides he shows there will be two things paramount-you’ll get terribly frustrated trying to understand what on earth he is trying to say and a lot of smiling selfies will be taken.

        • You bet the honeymoon is coming to an end. The hair colour will change as the pressure amounts on his campaign promises and the growing debt he is creating. How stupid does he think Canadians are? He is stumbling in his speeches due to the uncertanity he has created. Enough said!

        • how many people lining up to have their picture taken with you…..south of zero?

      • harper had a hairdresser and photographer on staff, but no nannies…we know who his priority was..

    • you aren’t fit to comment, and probably have a bad haircut…No wonder Solomon was canned, that he was dishonest was just the excuse CBC was waiting for.

    • how articulate you are.. feel better now that you vomited ?

  2. Buttercup is PM in name only. The job of govening is being shared between the remainder of PETs old reign of terror. Canadians will soon wake up and realize what a terrible mistake they made on 19 Oct 15.

    • harper’s fourth reich is over-scurry back to your sewer…

  3. the article notes:
    “Keats was a Romantic, and in this sense so is Trudeau. He tells Canadians repeatedly that they don’t have to choose between what might appear to be contradictory ideas”

    Evan, it is called “doublethink” as developed in Orwell’s 1984. the Liberals are masters of it, and they have the same ideology as the “inner party” which demanded it from the people.

    Trudeau is not the machevelli in this story however, as much as he is the Howdy Doody. He is just the puppet…the strings are being pulled by others’.

    • Howdy Doody indeed. Except Howdy Doody was a whole lot smarter than Trudeau.

      • you think that passes for wit ? then the Con clowns must make you wear Depends….

    • better than Pinocchio harper-although he couldn’t hide when he lied…

  4. Inside the Shiney Pony there hides an angry clown. Soon now all but the most mesmerized will see past the enchantment to realize who it is we have elected, a narcissistic dictator who masquerades as a caring leader but is really just a common despot.

    • and he is in power for a minimum four years…..you will probably stroke out long before then…

      • Are you sure your name isn’t Gerald in the PMO?

  5. Eighty nine ($89) USD an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And i get surly a chek of 12600 USD whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids……………………. w­­­­­w­­­­w.Income-Join.Com

  6. Justin has obviously learnt from his father Pierre. Promise whatever you like to get elected.
    We lost the best Prime Minister that Canada never had because of Pierre. Robert Stanfield said, prior to the election in which he was running to form the next government. ” In view of the very high inflation factor, it may be prudent to freeze wages until things slow down somewhat”. To which P E Trudeau. ” Nonsense”.
    The first thing he did after getting elected was to freeze wages. It didn’t matter at that point, he had a majority government.

  7. Trudeau has no killer instinct. He has done certain things (like kicking the senators out of the party) because he makes decisions on the fly, based on ego alone, without consulting others or thinking of their impact.

    It is incorrect to confuse decisions arising from naiveté and lack of experience with the ability of experienced leaders to make hard decisions.

  8. “There ought to be a term to describe the romantic period a new government has before it delivers its first budget,…” There is already a romantic term for it. Ever heard of the honeymoon Evan?

    PS: I really do miss you on Power & Politics.

  9. That is hilarious.

    Is Evan Soloman’s turn at CFRA turning him into Lowell Green?
    This sort of stuff would appeal to Lowell’s old audience anyway.

  10. Even, wrong on one point.
    There is plenty of evidence that many indigenous people have gone missing, or committed suicide, etc., not reported and, thus, are not a statistic.

    • There are many statistics of indigenous men missing and dead but we don’t seem to want to do any inquiry on them even though they outnumber the women quite substantially. Why is that?

  11. It is known that journalist may play role to show the path to the public and even change their thinking. The journalist ought to show appropriate choice of words in conveying their messages. This is very well reflected in making a choice between half filled versus half empty glass. The use of the word killer for the Prime Minister here is too offensive for our Canadian values if not criminal.

    An appropriate criticism, analysis and advice should be the main path to follow by the journalist to keep Canada what it stands for and show high morality.

  12. Boy of boy, no wonder they canned you at CBC: your visceral dislike of the Liberal Party was soooo obvious that a few shows of P&P I just had enough. You tried epolitics but that didn’t give much of an income or attendance to your tirades.
    So here we are at Macleans, trying to rebuild your reputation. From this article is clear that you never will.
    Oh well, I will read the other authors and simply ignore you.
    Gogogood luck!

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