You would be quickly forgiven if you thought on October 20th, 2015 that Justin Trudeau, Canada’s newest Prime Minister, was going to be a revolutionary politician and accomplish all of his lofty goals.
He was charismatic with his campaign. He promised a better Canada, one with the legalization of marijuana, better access to health care and a new and inherently more fair voting system, among other things. According to TrudeauMetre.ca, a non-partisan, citizen-driven website that tracks if and when the prime minister delivers on his commitments, Mr. Trudeau made 214 promises during his campaign, some of which he has already got the ground moving on (marijuana legalization, bringing back the long-form census) but others he has ignored or is simply shying away from (electoral reform, negotiating a new health accord).
This isn’t good news for Mr. Trudeau. Rightly or wrongly, world leaders are mostly judged by the things they weren’t able to accomplish rather than the successes they shared while in office. Think of Barack Obama, the now-departing American president, who will be criticized by many for not being able to close the Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) facility while also not officially ending the war in the Middle East, despite killing Osama Bin Laden.
Just over a year into Trudeau’s term as Prime Minister then, it’s interesting to see the legacy that will be established. Sure, he has accomplished some truly commendable actions during his time in office such as being the first prime minister to join in a Pride parade as he did last year in downtown Toronto. There’s also the fact the he made it a concrete point to ensure that there was gender diversity within the cabinet that he created, setting a powerful example for board rooms and companies across the country.
But that progress is getting harder and harder to see through the mud he’s bringing up with broken promises, questionable decisions and a lack of understanding during interactions with the public. Will people be able to remember his gender-equal cabinet in the years to come after he got physical with a female Member of Parliament during question period? Will people be able to laud him for his work on creating a better functioning democracy, ignoring the praise he had for one of the most infamous dictators in Fidel Castro?
His recent actions—deciding to answer English questions in French because of the location of the town hall meeting in Sherbrook, Quebec—certainly won’t be doing him any favours.
“Thank you for using our country’s two official languages, but since we’re in Quebec I’ll respond in French,” he told a woman who asked him a question last week.
If Trudeau wants to create a unified country without language barriers and lines of diversity, why choose to draw one himself? Does being an Anglophone living in a commonly Francophone area disqualify you from asking a question?
It sure seems that way to Mr. Trudeau. Sure about 80 per cent of Quebecers report that they speak French as their mother tongue and it is customary for political speeches in Quebec to be mostly French, but you projected yourself to be different than customary. If you were in Ontario and were asked a question in French, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the logical (or politically correct) decision to answer in English just because of the land you were standing on.
For most, that gaff is not a big deal. For many Anglophones in the audience that night and living in Quebec, it will be memorable for years to come and will be part of the way they describe Justin Trudeau throughout history.
Lucky for Trudeau, he has until 2019 to help the electorate and society in general forget his blunders and replace them with the “example” that so many international countries have said he can become.
In the year and change since he took office, Justin Trudeau has been just another politician. We’ll see if he’s ever more than that.