Golden boy no more: As an election looms, two-faced Justin Trudeau has betrayed Canada

Danielle RyanDanielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

Justin Trudeau rode to power four years ago on a wave of progressive enthusiasm. With an Obama-like ‘hope and change-y’ vibe, plenty of social media savvy and an almost cult-like following, he was more a brand than a politician.

The media loved him. He was the “youthful,” “geopolitical golden boy” – even a “dreamy heartthrob.” They applauded his progressive promises, lauded his half-female and racially diverse cabinet, and fawned over his penchant for novelty socks. His team’s PR savvy even landed him on the cover of Vogue as the “new young face of Canadian politics.” 

At a time when Donald Trump was just bursting onto the political scene in the US in a more serious way than ever before, liberal Canadians were proud to show off their anti-Trump – and progressive Americans swooned and cooed with jealousy.

These days, the picture could not be more different. Once a shining beacon of hope, Trudeau’s approval ratings are today even lower than Trump’s – and as another election rolls around, the fresh-faced political wonderboy and media darling has lost his shine. With a trail of broken promises behind him and a serious corruption scandal on his hands, the 2019 incarnation of Justin Trudeau comes with significantly more baggage than before – and the controversies seem to keep piling up.

The most recent being the blackface scandal. Trudeau’s decision to dress up twice in blackface (and ‘brownface’ on another occasion) was a bad one, and yes, he should have known better. But let’s be honest, in the scheme of Trudeau’s worst political sins, it doesn’t crack the top 10. Yet, it seems to have been the moment at which the media began to realize they were fooled – and thank heavens for that, because after the blackface scandal, Trudeau’s desperate PR stunts have started to look a lot more like… well, desperate PR stunts. Case in point: He showed up to a recent campaign event in a red canoe. “Brownface, Blackface and About-Face. Is Trudeau Who He Says He Is?” asked the New York Times last month. The answer, of course, is no.

Two planes, two faces

There is no one issue where Trudeau’s hypocrisy is laid bare more than that of the environment and climate change. One day he declares a climate emergency, the next (literally) he’s expanding oil pipelines. One day he’s marching with climate activists, nodding in agreement with Greta Thunberg and giving speeches about cutting carbon emissions – and the next, we hear he’s been using two airplanes to drag his campaign staff and equipment around the country instead of one. Look, no one would expect the PM to ride around the country campaigning on a zero-emissions bike, but surely if he wants to lead by example, one gas-guzzling jet would suffice.

One tweet succinctly summed up the futility of Trudeau marching with environmental activists fairly well: “You don’t need to march bro, you’re literally the f**king guy in charge.”

However, Trudeau’s environmental hypocrisy had already been well-established before the Conservative Party whipped out the travel logs and photographs of his two campaign planes. See, usually avowed environmentalists don’t tend to be in the habit of building pipelines, but green-conscious Trudeau seems to have missed the memo on that one.

After promising to usher in a new era of environmentalism, Trudeau infuriated millions of Canadians when he bought the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion on the taxpayer’s dime – and promised federal support for its expansion. Trudeau revealed his true colors in siding with corporate oil interests, despite a wave of protests from local communities, environmentalists and First Nations peoples. The pipeline, set to ride roughshod over indigenous lands, poses serious environmental risks, including to drinking water.

In a win for activists, Canada’s energy regulator in July revoked previous route approvals for the pipeline and ordered that the entire route be reviewed. Some now believe the project, wrapped up in legal challenges and appeals, will cause so much of a headache and financial burden, that it would be easier to pull the plug entirely.

Facilitator of US imperialism

Time’s opinion columnist Nicolas Kristof named Trudeau’s Canada a “moral leader of the free world” in a column a few months ago. Indeed, Canada enjoys a generally positive image of being kinder and softer than the US on the world stage – but peel back the facade, and Canada, like most of Washington’s major allies, is a quiet partner in and facilitator of US aggression. From Ukraine to Venezuela to Iran, Ottawa plays a major supporting role to Washington, always unquestioningly supporting and amplifying US narratives.

Under Trudeau, Canada deployed 200 troops to Ukraine to train soldiers and National Guard personnel to “liberate” the country, sticking carefully to the US’ anti-Russia drive in Eastern Europe and providing aid to a post-coup government that was propped up by neo-Nazis. Trudeau also enthusiastically threw his support behind Trump’s provocations and campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran, painting Tehran as an “aggressor” and essentially endorsing any future action the White House may take.

On China, Trudeau has aligned himself with Trump on the anti-Beijing trade war – and in Venezuela, the Canadian PM lined up with other US allies to back coup leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido earlier this year, making sure to slap its own sanctions on the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Trudeau also continues to sell billions of dollars in military equipment to Saudi Arabia, despite its ongoing slaughter in Yemen.

Corruption and bullying?

Then there’s the minor issue of Trudeau’s embroilment in a major corruption scandal. The supposed goody-two-shoes PM is alleged to have pressured Canada’s ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to abandon a bribery probe into his wealthy friends at engineering firm SNC Lavalin. The Canadian firm is accused of having bribed officials to win lucrative contracts in Libya.

Wilson-Raybould, who was removed from her post as attorney general and demoted to a less important cabinet position, claims Trudeau made “veiled threats” to drop the case. She resigned when the story broke and Trudeau denied subjecting her to months of pressure. This doesn’t sound like the behavior of a man who would wear a pink anti-bullying T-shirt bearing the slogan “Kindness is One Size Fits All” now, does it?

Perhaps in future, progressives in Canada and beyond should heed the words of activist actress Jane Fonda, who eviscerated Trudeau during a tour of the Alberta oil sands two years ago. Trudeau, she said, knows all the right words to say and “talks so beautifully” about the environment, but has, in reality, “betrayed everyone of the things that he committed to” during the Paris climate talk. “I guess the lesson is, we shouldn’t be fooled by good lookin’ liberals, no matter how well spoken they are,” she added.

None of this is to say that Trudeau’s Conservative Party opponent Andrew Scheer is a better alternative – but like the Barack Obamas and the Emmanuel Macrons of the world, Trudeau’s failure to deliver should be another warning to progressives.

It’s time to recognize the hypocrisy and duplicity of the smooth-talking liberals who quickly reveal themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing – and admit that “peoplekind” would do well to avoid them as best they can.

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