Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintained a low profile on Thursday, conducting private meetings on Parliament Hill, one day after announcing a legal separation from his wife of 18 years, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.
Members of the Liberal team are attempting to move ahead with government business after the couple released separate but similar statements to publicize their separation on Wednesday, which garnered international media attention.
The only public comments from Mr. Trudeau were a series of social-media posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he highlighted the government’s plans to address the rising cost of living.
On Friday, Mr. Trudeau is also expected to attend meetings behind closed doors, as well as speak with the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, who was recently deposed in a military coup.
Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Grégoire Trudeau will take their children on a family vacation together in Canada early next week.
Long-time Trudeau ally Dominic LeBlanc, the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister who also assumed the Public Safety portfolio in the recent cabinet shuffle, briefed the Liberal caucus on Wednesday afternoon about the separation. He told MPs that it is a tough time for the family but reiterated the message that the Trudeaus are focusing on their children.
Mr. LeBlanc, who has known Mr. Trudeau since childhood, was asked by the Prime Minister to let caucus know that he and the family is doing well and will be taking some private time.
Scott Reid, a co-founder of Feschuk.Reid who served as director of communications to former prime minister Paul Martin, said the Trudeaus’ decision to depart on vacation shortly after the announcement takes the pressure off the Prime Minister and allows the children to leave the domestic political spotlight.
“In terms of how they handle it as parents, it just seems to be very carefully, consciously orchestrated,” he said. “I think that that’s wise.”
Mr. Trudeau has ostensibly been dealing with the separation for quite a while, he added.
“Presumably for some time, the Prime Minister has been reconciling himself to this situation in his personal life,” Mr. Reid said.
“These events – anybody who’s been through it – they change you profoundly, they affect you deeply.”
Patrick Gossage, a former spokesperson for the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, said in an interview that the Prime Minister’s separation is bound to weigh on him and that the experience certainly affected his father. In 1977, he separated from Justin Trudeau’s mother, Margaret.
Justin Trudeau is an “image politics guy” and this will have an impact on his image, Mr. Gossage added.
Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, who married Mr. Trudeau in May, 2005, has been part of Liberal Party efforts over the past number of years. When Mr. Trudeau first took over the helm of the Liberals in 2013 and when his party won a sweeping majority government in the 2015 election, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau had a more forward-facing role and was at the Prime Minister’s side. The couple were featured in a photo shoot published in Vogue magazine in January, 2016.
In recent years, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has not been as visible in the public eye with the Prime Minister. For example, she did not attend a recent foreign trip to Iceland and she was not present for the overhaul of his cabinet.
She was, however, doing public events during the U.S. presidential visit in March and did appear during the 2021 election campaign. As a result of their legal separation, she no longer will have a formal role during his domestic or international travels.
Lori Williams, a political-science professor at Mount Royal University, said the Prime Minister’s political life has been primarily conducted with Ms. Grégoire Trudeau at his side and she was a strong and public supporter of him, especially in the early days.
On a political level, she said she does not think this will be a primary consideration for which party Canadians choose to support.
“I think that support will hinge on who they think has the better plan,” she said.
Speaking in Halifax on Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his team has reached out to Mr. Trudeau’s office to offer his sympathies regarding the separation.
“It is a very difficult thing, and particularly to go through a separation in the public eye,” Mr. Singh said. “I just want to acknowledge how difficult that is for not only Mr. Trudeau and his wife, but also for his children.”
Ms. Grégoire Trudeau’s future includes a deal with Penguin Random House Canada to write what the publisher has described as an inspirational self-discovery and wellness book for publication in spring, 2024, as well as a picture book to be published in 2025.
She also is a director of a communications company called Under Your Light Communications Inc., registered in Ontario. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister declared the company, which had begun receiving dividends, in the public registry.
In a statement on Wednesday, RCMP spokesperson Corporal Kim Chamberland declined to comment on how the Trudeaus’ separation would affect their protective services covering the family. The Prime Minister plans to continue to live at Rideau Cottage and his children will primarily live there to preserve stability. Ms. Grégoire Trudeau has a separate home in Ottawa but will spend time at Rideau Cottage with her children and stay there when Mr. Trudeau is travelling.
Mr. Trudeau has pledged to stay on as Liberal Leader in a coming election campaign, though one is not imminently expected because of a working agreement the party has in place with the federal New Democrats until 2025.
With reports from Ian Bailey and Marie Woolf in Ottawa