Those who are remotely familiar with the Trudeau family have always known that Justin Trudeau takes more after his mother than his father. Like Margaret, he is charming, sociable, warm and emotional, but even though he had a close relationship with his father, he didn’t inherit Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s steely determination, his sharp, cerebral mind, and certainly not his political judgment.
This is why the infatuation of so many anglophone Liberals with Justin Trudeau has always been incomprehensible on this side of the Ottawa River. From the day the photogenic eldest son delivered a moving eulogy at his father’s funeral, he has been touted in many circles as Pierre Trudeau’s natural successor, the one with the “royal jelly” – as if, in a weird nostalgia for monarchy, the Liberals longed for a Trudeau dynasty.
Now, though, after the recent outburst of Trudeau fils – who essentially told the CBC that he’d rather embrace Quebec separatism than live in a Canada dominated by the “Harperites” – the Liberals have probably come down to Earth and realize that this young man is more of a liability than a future leader.
Here is a Canadian who’s ready to renounce his citizenship and accept the breakup of the country because he doesn’t like the government of the day? What would happen if he didn’t like the policies of the future government of a separate Quebec? Would he emigrate back to Canada?
The sovereigntists greeted this declaration with glee. Coming from Pierre Trudeau’s son, this indirect endorsement of separatism fit nicely into the Parti Québécois’s current agenda, whose main theme is that the Harper government is alien to Quebec’s “values” and that this, in itself, justifies separation.
This, of course, ignores the fact that most Canadians outside Quebec didn’t vote for the Conservatives and that Quebec is not entirely made up of “progressives.” But there’s more than simple-mindedness in Justin Trudeau’s over-excited sortie.
By demonizing the Harper government (he even suspects it wants to ban abortions and gay marriage!), Mr. Trudeau showed an extraordinary lack of respect for those who voted for this government – people from rural areas and lower middle-class suburbs, and especially the West, which is the motherland of the Harper Conservatives.
This tirade was also politically silly, since the Liberal Party will need many of these voters if it wants to regain some of its lost territory. And it was just plain nasty, since it smacked of contempt for the political culture of the West and it confirmed the worst prejudices against “rednecks.”
There’s something else. When he said that he wouldn’t recognize (his) Canada in a Harper-led country, Mr. Trudeau was indeed the inheritor of a long line of Liberals, those who used to see their party as Canada’s “natural governing party.”
I remember the horror with which Liberal stalwarts reacted when the Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives took power in 1984. By all accounts, Mr. Mulroney was a small-l liberal and the Tories, at the time, were quite moderate. Yet, the Liberals in Pierre Trudeau’s inner circle kept fulminating against the new government, with a charge of fury and contempt that was surprising, coming from bright, sophisticated people. But they were unable to accept the logic of alternateness. Instead, they had the gut feeling that the party that dared replace the Liberals was a usurper, somehow devoid of legitimacy. This is the subtext of Justin Trudeau’s outburst – that the “real” Canada is Liberal – and in this sense, yes, he is the true son of his father.