We have a gorgeous new Prime Minister and even though I no longer live in Canada, I have a sudden urge to show him off.
He’s young (43) and he’s inexperienced, but that shouldn’t be held against him. We have known older, experienced world leaders who have proved themselves to be utterly inept while leading their countries to ruin. It’s imperative, of course, that Trudeau surrounds himself with mandarins, the more brilliant and visionary the better. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles himself on the world stage. He has already called President Obama to confirm his decision to pull Canada out of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq. He’ll be leading the Canadian delegation to Paris for the World Climate Summit starting November 30th and I assume he’ll be reversing Stephen Harper’s damaging decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011. By the way, Justin Trudeau speaks beautiful fluent French, I listened to his bilingual acceptance speech on YouTube.
When Trudeau, his wife and children move into the prime minister’s official residence in Ottawa, it will, in a way, be like coming home because he was born there on Christmas Day in 1971. For those who don’t know, his flamboyant father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was Canada’s Prime Minister twice from 1968 to 1979 and then from 1980 to 1984. Here are two iconic photos of him, one doing a naughty pirouette behind the Queen of England and the other sliding down the banister of Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier Hotel.
Buckingham Palace, May 7, 1977. Known for his cavalier flamboyance, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau drove sport cars, dated celebrities and was also accused of using an obscenity during debate in the Canadian House of Commons. But his most controversial moment was when the photographer Doug Ball caught him spinning a pirouette behind an oblivious Queen Elizabeth during a G7 summit Conference in London, England. The picture expresses his maverick anti-conformism and his democratic disdain for aristocratic pomp.
A lot has been printed about the demise of ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his 9 years of destructive Conservative rule. Destructive because Harper, schooled in right-wing philosophy and neo-liberalism at the University of Calgary, is a Neoconservative. Canada doesn’t sit well under Neoconservative rule.
I think Beth Kaplan summed up Trudeau’s victory best on her blog –
“I think of those movies where a subjugated people are freed from tyranny and emerge, dazed and disbelieving – are we actually free? And then – were we actually prisoners that long? That’s how Canada feels to me today. I think of Narnia under the spell of the ice queen, and how, when she was finally vanquished, spring returned. I know, Justin Trudeau as Aslan is a stretch … but you get the idea. We live in a different Canada today.
It was not just any victory – it was a monumental victory by a party that had been completely undone. But more importantly, the victorious leader is someone we have known all his life – at least, those of us old enough to remember his birth on Christmas Day 1971. We remember the love affair of his parents and its painful dissolution; we remember his father’s canoe trips and overseas junkets with Justin and his brothers. We remember, with great pain, the tragic death of his brother Michel and the subsequent death of his devastated father. If I ever want to conjure up a portrait of grief, I need only think of Pierre Trudeau’s drawn and haunted face the day of Michel’s funeral, and I weep.
We Canadians have watched this man grow up, and now I feel a maternal pride at what a fine upstanding man he has turned out to be. And – to tell you the truth – I feel something more than maternal, because he’s a treat to look at. But so are his gorgeous wife and their children. It’s like the early days of Barack Obama’s administration, when we felt liberated from the ugly shroud of the Bush years and rejoiced to look at idealism and beauty, intelligence and accomplishment.
I wrote once here about seeing a photo of Harper with his mother – he was trying to hug her, but he couldn’t actually touch her, his arms were sort of hanging nearby uselessly. There’s something seriously wrong with that man’s heart. But not with this man’s.”
Justin and his mother last night –
“I know there are tough days ahead, and that a certain disillusionment – as with Obama – is inevitable. But right now, we Canadians have our version of Camelot. And as the days grow cold and dark, that sunny face is a most welcome sight.”