In this week’s magazine (subscription anyone?) there are a few thousand words under this byline on an obscure rookie MP named Justin Trudeau.
At the end of our day together we sat down in his office for one of those “wide-ranging” chats and there is reference in that story to his attempt to explain whether he wants to be prime minister someday. In fairness, the question itself is a tad unfair. Or at least sort of unanswerable.
But then it’s also been the central question of his public life since The Eulogy—the one thing everyone seems to want to know, or at least the question everyone assumes they already know the answer to.
Anyway. As noted in the magazine piece, his answer ran just over 700 words. Verbatim it would have taken up just less than a page in the print edition. So here, in full, is his response.
Make of it what you will.
“See, I mean that question in itself is so much more about what’s the end, what is the point. And politics isn’t… right now what I’m able to do by speaking for my constituency in a House that’s focused on economic troubles, but not focused on poverty challenges that people are going to be facing more than now than ever before. I have a capacity as a backbench MP, as an associate critic on HRSD to weigh in in ways that will improve things to the measure that I can. In the lead-up to the leadership convention, in the lead-up to the next election that we’re going through, there are things I can do that will make the Liberal party stronger as a good member of the team. If we get government, then there are things that I will hopefully have learned that will allow me to become a member of the cabinet perhaps in an area that I’ve developed strengths in. And we can keep going on and yes eventually if everything lines up, if I’m good at this, if I don’t make terrible mistakes, if I manage to stay grounded, if I manage to balance the family, I mean, if, if, if, if, if if… I know I’ve been given a hell of a lot. There’s no question about that. The education that I’ve been given, the love of family that has supported me all, even though it’s a difficult family life from time-to-time, the love I’ve felt was tremendous, the opportunity to travel, a deep conviction that I matter in the world, and whether it’s as teacher, an activist or now as a politician, you can’t underplay that because kids around the world feel irrelevant and that’s something that I hope to be able to change… You know, I’m going to get through this step-by-step. And I’m going to keep trying to make a bigger and better difference in the world by whatever natural steps happen in front of me. And if at one point it turns out politics isn’t for me and it’s a disaster and I’m not very good at it and everything goes in the wrong direction, well, you know what, I’ll happily go back to teaching because I knew I was good at that, or I’ll go back to public speaking, or I’ll find a different way to be an activist to continue making a difference in the world. I will use the tools in the time they become available. But I’m not spending my time focusing on ohh, what if eventually. Because right now I have a lot of work to do right here. And it’s not… it’s the question I get asked all the time. Before I went into politics it was, so Justin when are you going into politics. That was the question I always got asked. And I had varying degrees of answers. Yes, it’s something that I thought about. But it wasn’t the only path. Is becoming a prime minister a possibility? Sure, I guess. But it’s a path among many. There’s not a member of parliament in this place now who doesn’t think, oh, wouldn’t it be great to be prime minister one day. But you can’t spend your time focusing on that because if you look too far ahead or dream about something else, not only are you in danger of stumbling over the immediate steps you’re involved with, but there’s something of putting an ego forward, of saying, ‘well, yes, I’m obviously the answer to all the problems.’ I hope that everyone here can provide answers, but what role they have and what position they have is really something to be seen down the line. It’s… and I love journalists, I mean you guys ask the hard questions knowing that there’s no answer that is a decent answer. And that’s why it’s a long diatribe on the nature of the game. But that’s the game we have to play. And I understand it … Right now, I got hired to do a job, to represent the people of Papineau. That’s what my focus is. Anything that takes me away from focusing on doing that to the best of my capacity isn’t the best use of the precious little time that I have.”