Understanding Justin: A Genealogical Approach

In order to understand the bizarre actions and behavior of Justin Trudeau (b. 12/25/71), Canada’s child emperor, one needs to know where he is coming from, the influences he imbibed growing up, and the pursuits he engaged in prior to entering politics. Such has already been attempted by journalist Jonathan Kay in an ingratiating article in Canada’s left-wing culture magazine The Walrus. Kay shed an editorial tear over Trudeau’s abandonment by his mother Margaret, admired Justin's alleged resilience and marveled over Trudeau’s book-lined shelves, considering him impressively learned and endowed with intellectual heft. “Trudeau probably reads more than any other politician I know,” Kay effused. 

As a former editor at the National Post, Kay is surely aware that Justin is a mental lightweight compared to credentialed heavyweights such as recent Party leaders Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion or Michael Ignatieff, scholars in their respective intellectual fields. A master of slavish extenuation, Kay explains that his subject’s “boyish, eager-to-please personality leads him to project publicly in a way that can seem intellectually unsophisticated.” The problem happens to be that Justin is indeed intellectually unsophisticated. Despite a few pro forma criticisms, Kay’s tribute was no exception to the partisan adulation that helped propel a self-infatuated tyro to 24 Sussex.

Trudeau’s father, flamboyant former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919-2000), was a dominating figure in Canada’s political theater but in many ways a disaster for the country. His opening the doors of immigration wide to the Third World in an effort to dilute the push for Québec independence, as Salim Mansur observes in Delectable Lie, was a grievous mistake, and we are suffering the aftermath today with a robust Muslim enclave roiling the nation’s peace and depleting its welfare resources. His repatriation of the Constitution in 1982 (which allowed Canada to change its basic law without approval from Great Britain) was also, in the opinion of many, a serious mistake, in effect adding fuel to the fire of the French Mouvement souverainiste du Québec that Trudeau wished to extinguish.

Chip off the old block?

His passing of the National Energy Program (NEP) in 1980 at the expense of Alberta’s economic health was another catastrophe, costing Alberta, as Paul Koring writes in iPolitics, “$100 billion and set[ting] exploration and extraction back by decades,” while serving to alienate Western Canada to the present day. Moreover, as Gwyn Morgan writes in the Financial Post, “During the 15 years that Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, federal spending rose from 30 to 53 percent of GDP.” His avowedly leftist politics and close friendships with dictators like Fidel Castro were a severe blow to the country’s democratic identity and Loyalist patrimony. Such is the elder Trudeau’s legacy to Canada.

Justin’s mother Margaret, née Sinclair, in her youth a Jacqueline Kennedy-type beauty, is now an advocate for sufferers from bipolar disorder. She is also remembered as a 1970s “wild child,” dancing at Studio 54, doing drugs, partying with the Rolling Stones, hobnobbing with the famous, enjoying various “relationships,” and abandoning her family in 1977, when Justin was still a little boy, before divorcing Pierre in 1984. In her memoir The Time of Your Life, she candidly confesses her “inner teenager” and her “passion for the present [that] has given me a joie de vivre and an ability to savour the various phases of my life.” She recalls her divorce from her much older husband:

I was a free-spirited hippie who yearned for wide-open spaces. He was disciplined and austere, and as prime minister of Canada, virtually had the weight of the nation on his shoulders. I didn’t really mature until I was in my fifties, and as a result, I spent years of my adult life doubting my ability to be truly responsible.

Like mother, like son?

Though she is now restored to responsibility and involved in public projects, her influence on her son’s formative years along with a possible genetic contribution must count for something. No one escapes one’s mother.

Justin’s leftist sensibility clearly owes much to his father. His cataclysmic increase of the national debt and deficit is bred in the bone, as is his animus against Western Canada, formidably expressed in his destruction of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. “No country of Canada’s size, geography and climate could exist in its current form without cheap and plentiful coal, oil and natural gas,” warns David Yager in From Miracle to Menace: Alberta, A Carbon Story, but “investor confidence has been crushed” by confiscatory taxes, choking regulations and the banning of tankers and pipelines. And as Gwyn Morgan points out, “Justin Trudeau won’t admit that, like his dad, his ideology is one of tax-and-spend, anti-business and anti-Alberta-oil… It’s perfectly clear from his actions he is indeed his father’s son.”

 Here I would add a caveat. The elder Trudeau was educated and accomplished, a graduate of several prestigious universities, a practicing lawyer and a founder of the influential critical review Cité Libre. The younger was a substitute high school drama teacher, nightclub bouncer and snowboarding instructor. As Edward Dougherty writes in a brilliant article for American Affairs treating in part the educational deficiencies of our political leaders, “Certainly, one cannot expect good political leadership from someone ignorant of political philosophy, history, or economics, or from someone lacking the political skill to work productively amid differing opinions.” This remark sums up Justin rather accurately. Nonetheless, he remains his father’s son, equally misguided, though without the erudition. He has his father’s insouciance but not his father’s substance.

At the same time, judging from the preposterous nature of his official and ideological acts—imposing a punitive and unnecessary carbon tax upon the country, sending needed PPE as well as cash to China (of all places) and the tarnished W.H.O., adhering to feminist doctrine and a parity cabinet ("Because it’s 2015," as he fatuously explained at the time), awarding $10.5 million plus apology to a Muslim terrorist, etc.—and his nonsensical personal behavior—preening in blackface, sitting humbly beside fake hunger artist and Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence in her teepee on Victoria Island, sporting Muslim-themed socks while attending a Pride Parade, prancing about in Bollywood gear during a diplomatic visit to India, etc.—Trudeau also reveals himself as his mother’s son, a “free spirit” and irresponsible adolescent.

Writing in the National Post, Canada’s premier columnist Rex Murphy points out that Trudeau has spent the last two months “governing” from his cottage steps in the Gatineau Hills near Ottawa, delivering daily pronouncements while communicating with 28 world leaders in his quest for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council. The major hurdle, it appears, involves the approval of Fiji. “This is geopolitics as it is played by the masters,” Murphy quips, “Do we have Fiji on our side?” Meanwhile, unaccountable “billions upon billions are gushing out of Cottage life.” This is giddiness at the highest level. Trudeau was abandoned by his mother at the impressionable age of six. It seems he is repeating his childhood trauma with a frivolity reminiscent of his mother by abandoning the country he was elected to serve.

The only political advantages Justin Trudeau possesses are his mother’s good looks and his chic adherence to the “social justice” fads of the day. But he is, in my estimation, the worst prime minister in the history of the Canadian Confederation, as a perusal of Arthur Lower’s Colony to Nation or Michael Bliss’ Right Honourable Men should confirm. It is hard to find anyone in this disparate group more risible than Trudeau, including the ingenuous Joe Clark or the hapless Kim Campbell.  

Jim Gehl, a commentator at The Pipeline, says that Justin’s “focus as Prime Minister has really been in three areas, gender equality, indigenous rights and climate change,” ditzy initiatives of which his mom would surely approve. But he is also an “economic illiterate,” very much like his dad whose fiscal mismanagement was arguably the Achilles heel of his stewardship. Admittedly, pop psychology is always as tempting as it is facile, but common sense suggests that Trudeau’s observable conduct indicates a strong parental character derivation. The apple doesn’t fall far from the genealogical tree. 

A socialist and a socialite, Justin Trudeau has inherited his father’s demagogic politics and his mother’s feckless temperament, producing the cerebrally devastating cocktail we see in his current policies and behavior. His latest escapade is typical of an authoritarian personality ungrounded in reality, as exemplified by his announcement to develop and import, in collaboration with the Chinese company CanSinoBio, the Ad5-nCov coronavirus vaccine. Canada is the only nation to sign such an agreement with China, irrespective of the fact that China is where the virus originated and was allowed to spread while its nature was hidden. In true despotic fashion, and in violation of the Constitution, Trudeau is now contemplating making the vaccine mandatory for Canadians.

The country can scarcely survive so Harlequinesque a leader performing in a commedia dell’arte of national proportions, a ridiculous figure cavorting on the brink of the country’s fiscal implosion, health-policy imbecility and coming disintegration. As David Yager writes, “In Canada, the future is here today, and it is ugly.”

Like Father, Like Son

For all the pearl clutching about Boris Johnson, Viktor Orbán, or even Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (whatever one thinks of their actions) using this pandemic to introduce irreversible authoritarianism into their respective polities, among western political leaders it is likely Justin Trudeau who has done the most to exploit the present crisis to implement his preferred policies.

He has played it perfectly. As Canadians were watching frantic news reports about the apparently-impending collapse of New York City's hospitals and worrying that Toronto and Montreal were next, Trudeau was doubling his country's carbon tax. As they were processing the biggest one month increase in unemployment in decades, he was releasing an oil and gas aid package (for a sector that makes up roughly 10% of Canada's economy) which was clearly ordered toward ending that industry. And most recently, as Canadians continue to shelter in place and congratulate themselves on their general superiority to their American cousins, as evidenced by their lower COVID-19 death-rate (a questionable metric, since subtracting de Blasio's New York leaves the two nations on similar footing), Trudeau has introduced a program for helping Canadian businesses through this time which specifically requires any company that participates to slash their carbon emissions.

In a news release titled "Prime Minister announces additional support for businesses to help save Canadian jobs," the Trudeau government outline a new four-point plan that is aimed to help businesses through the pandemic. This will be done mainly through the new Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) "to provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers, whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing, in order to keep their operations going."

Trudeau said that oil and gas companies will be expected to put forward a frame that shows their commitments to reducing emissions and fighting climate change to be eligible for the LEEFF. Companies which avail themselves to the LEEFF subsidies will need to make a commitment to the fight against climate change. "We have seen many oil and gas companies make commitments already around net-zero by 2050, around understanding that we need to do better in terms of reducing emissions both as a country and as a sector. That's why we're expecting them to put forward a frame within which they will demonstrate their commitments to reducing emissions and fighting climate change," said Trudeau of the funding.

John Ivison argued last week that the unveiling of LEEFF "should have been a moment of consensus, a rare instant of accord," but that Trudeau's Liberals had to go and ruin it because they "couldn’t resist the chance to indulge their relentless wooing of left-of-centre voters." This is true enough, but it undersells Trudeau's ambitions.

Trudeau and his advisors have not forgotten that they lost their majority in the election this past Fall, and only stayed in power because the incompetence of the Conservative Party (specifically its failure to capitalize on Trudeau's SNC-Lavalin and blackface scandals, and leader Andrew Scheer's ambiguous relationship with social conservatism, which alienated social liberals and conservative alike) kept them from making inroads in Ontario and Quebec. Even so, the Liberals only govern at the pleasure of the opposition parties, and while they are enjoying sky high approval ratings at the moment, largely due to the rally-round-the-flag effect related to the pandemic, they know that that can't last.

This scenario echoes, to a certain extent, the situation in which Pierre Trudeau, architect of modern Canada and Justin's father, found himself in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1979 the elder Trudeau had been Prime Minister for 11 years, and the nation was tired of him. More than anyone else, he embodied Canada's conscious rejection of its past after the Second World War, but his years in power saw unemployment rise, the value of the Canadian dollar fall, and the Treasury strained by what Conrad Black called in his monumental history of Canada, Rise to Greatness, "Trudeau's giveaways to buy votes, especially in Quebec."

Regular Canadians were hurting, and that came to be more important to them than the suave, sophisticated figure Trudeau presented on the world stage. Joe Clark, the youthful (he was 39) and relatively inexperienced Tory Leader, hammered him on pocketbook issues in the election that year and came away with a minority government. That inexperience, however, came back to haunt the Tories a few months later when they introduced their first budget, which hiked taxes significantly in the hopes of cutting the deficit (including the introduction of an 18-cent per gallon gasoline tax -- the more things change, the more they stay the same).

Trudeau had already announced his intention to retire as Liberal leader, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to rally opposition to Clark's budget behind the scenes. As Black put it, "Trudeau smelled the blood of his enemies." Clark, meanwhile, took its passage for granted, not insisting that an MP who was overseas return to Ottawa for the vote, or postponing it (as a more skilled parliamentarian would have done) when opposition began to build. Finally, on December 13th, the budget came up for a vote, and Clark lost 139-133. His government fell less than a year after it had come into power (in the Westminster system, budget votes function as de facto confidence votes), and Trudeau -- who quickly rescinded his resignation --won a resounding victory in the election in early 1980.

Trudeau knew that this was his last bite at the apple of power and he was resolved to make it count. He pushed through major structural changes in the way Canada operated, including the introduction of the National Energy Program (NEP), which mandated that Canada's western provinces sell its oil and natural gas to the rest of the country at below market rates. Of course shortly after the NEP passed the price of oil fell worldwide from its post-Iranian Revolution highs, and consequently that program is estimated to have cost Alberta alone between $50 and $100 billion. It was repealed by the Mulroney government in the latter half of the decade, but it set back the finances of the oil producing provinces and inspired western discontent which has lasted to this day.

Even more significantly, Trudeau finally attained a goal he'd been working towards throughout much of his time as prime minister with the passage of the Constitution Act of 1982, which, among other things, introduced a bill of rights, known as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter effectively superseded the extant Constitution. It centralized political authority in Ottawa and massively increased the authority of judges. It was fairly explicitly written as a liberal answer to the U.S. constitution, adopting certain aspects of the American document while leaving little room for interpretations which might benefit conservatives. One Canadian friend of mine likes to say that the Charter is the method by which Pierre Trudeau "continues to govern us from beyond the grave."

The complementary stories of Trudeau père et fils illustrates the danger of conservatives snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Pierre Trudeau was blessed to have Clark as an opponent, and the same can be said for Justin with Scheer (the scope of whose poor political instincts became even more apparent after the election). Clark's ill-conceived budget, and his mismanagement of it in the House of Commons, was an own goal which ended in an unearned return to power for the Liberals and an opportunity for Pierre to transform Canadian politics forever. His son aspires to build a similar legacy, and he is currently seizing upon the windfall of the pandemic to bring that about. While not all of his bold moves have been successful, nor have they been entirely limited to the environment, the biggest feather in his cap would be the managed decline of the oil and gas industry.

Lets hope that the Conservative Party can get its act together quickly, because otherwise history is going to repeat itself.