Just when you think Justin Trudeau has his prime ministerial act together, he starts playing Justy the Clown, distant cousin of loose-lipped Crusty on the Simpsons.
There must be a thwarted theatrical explanation for it. Despite Opposition efforts to paint him otherwise, Prime Minister Trudeau is clearly nobody’s fool. He might not have the intellectual acumen of his late father, Pierre. But, then, how many of us do?
What Trudeau fils undeniably has is a shrewdness and tenacity that have let him wildly overachieve by causing others to consistently underestimate him. He won a massive majority against a veteran political opponent known for his strategic brilliance. He has largely sustained his government’s popularity long past the usual honeymoon phase of electoral politics. As my Convivium colleague Father Raymond de Souza recently pointed out, his shuffle of leading cabinet ministers, including the deft dispatching of former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, showed as much royal jelly as has been seen in Ottawa since the Chretien years.
Yet for all that, things pop out of his mouth from time to time that leave Canadians scratching their heads over whether there actually is anything more than air and hair there.
At the very start of his cross country “listening tour,” the prime minister blundered into musing about “phasing out” Alberta’s oil sands at a time when the province is on its knees economically.
Then, as if it weren’t enough to scare the daylights out of Albertans about their fiscal future, he went to Quebec and summoned up the specter of ugly language wars past by refusing to speak English to voters in the province’s Eastern Townships.
It’s a mug’s game pinpointing which bobble-headed play was worse. Obviously, threatening the livelihood of an entire province by talking about getting rid of its primary industrial driver is inexplicably chilling. Yet the cultural sensitivities of Quebec’s anglophone population about the legitimate place of English in the province are no less acute than Albertans’ rightful fears for their pocketbooks and provincial treasury. What is most mystifying is why the prime minister felt the need to pull in trouble’s tail by raising either issue.
Whatever the explanation, as veteran Quebec journalist Nancy Wood wrote recently on CBC.ca, it’s time for Justin Trudeau to remember he’s not just acting a part. He is the prime minister of all of Canada. It’s time for him to quietly leave the over-sized shoes, the face paint, and the fright wig at home.