Sunday, December 13, 2015

Justin Trudeau – a giant among men?

I have not made up my mind about Justin Trudeau. I expect that he will disappoint (not so much me as the large number of his current fans). And hey, he is Liberal. And finally, I was never that fond of his father (not that I expected J. Trudeau to be a reincarnation of his father).

But OMG! Have you seen that video of Trudeau greeting the first Syrian refugees to land in Toronto two or three days ago? Telling them that they will leave the buildings as Canadians?

Trudeau greets the refugees

Canada is coming out of ten years of the rule of the man without a heart – a characterization that the man so characterized pretty much owned up to himself. If there was a way of making a policy less generous and more divisive, he found it. If a policy used up some of the reputational capital that previous governments and private individuals had earned, or sucked up to the great powers while ignoring Canada's need and desire to maintain an independent international identity, our just past prime minister enthusiastically adopted it. And the extent of the rot he encouraged and promoted in Canada's institutions – the civil service and Parliament in particular -- will only be revealed over years and years of investigation and the testimony by people no longer afraid to speak up.

This is a man who was perfectly happy to say that he was unmoved by a picture of a dead baby on a beach. It's not that the past PM lacked a certain degree of support. Any country has its fearful and ungenerous elements. But when those elements are made the foundation of the ruling party's efforts to create a permanent ruling coalition, god help the country so afflicted.

But that dead baby reminded Canadians that they are by and large more generous than that. Justin Trudeau was given the opportunity to embody the generous side of Canadians, and he took it. Enthusiastically and without compromise. While people all over the world were freaking out about the supposed dangers of admitting refugees, Trudeau (however sincerely, however calculatedly) made a major commitment to work with private organizations (who were already gearing up) to do something to help the Syrians. And has stuck to that commitment, despite the supposed political dangers.

To look at the situation from the crass political angle, the ungenerous approach taken by the past government may go down as one of the most amazing own goals in Canada's history. A year ago, six months ago, the past government could gain a certain amount of traction by presenting Trudeau as "not ready for prime time." Then they handed him an issue that he could exploit, not just during the election campaign but after. Has there ever been a newly elected PM whose stature was so great so soon after his initial victory? Who has identified himself with what many Canadians like to think is the best aspect on this country? Who in fact has made it clear that if the government wants to do something, and has the backing of a good part of the citizenry, it can DO SOMETHING WORTHWHILE?

This could all blow over and the Liberals may end up looking like a group of sad sacks – hey, they've done it before. But maybe not. This could be an important turning point.

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