Four years ago, Justin Trudeau won Canada’s general election with his own version of the promise of “achhe din”. And for the first half of his first term, it seemed that the Liberal prime minister was indeed delivering on “sunny days”, including for the besieged liberals far beyond Canadian shores.
Trudeau welcomed refugees fleeing West Asia even as much of the West turned xenophobic, he renewed Canada’s commitment to fighting climate change, celebrated diversity and immigrants, all the while wearing quirky ties and socks, to make sure everybody knows he’s just another woke guy at the neighbourhood artisanal coffee shop.
This week’s election result has confirmed that Trudeau will have another term in office. But Justin 2.0 is starting out with just a little less shine.
Two scandals in as many years have cast a shadow over “sunny days”. Photographs of Trudeau sporting “blackface” — painting himself to play Aladdin in an Arabian Nights-themed costume party and as US singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte — tarnished the prime minister’s claim of being sensitive to issues of race and minority representation.
And earlier this year, his cabinet was rocked by the SNC-Lavalin scandal: Canada’s Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould accused Trudeau of pressuring her to cut a deal while prosecuting the engineering and infrastructure company on corruption.
Wilson-Raybould resigned, as did another member of the cabinet due to Trudeau’s alleged behaviour. The scandals may have had political consequences: The Liberal Party lost 20 seats and did not get a majority of the vote-share. It will now form a minority government, likely with the support of the New Democratic Party led by Jagmeet Singh.
Trudeau has suffered, perhaps, because of the high standards he set for himself. After all, the two scandals that cost him so much political capital would barely be a weekend’s worth of tweets for his counterpart — President Donald Trump — in the US. Perhaps hypocrisy is indeed the “homage vice pays to virtue”. Even so, Trudeau didn’t have to prove the adage true.
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