Justin Trudeau is a likeable politician, with popularity not seen since Trudeaumania swept the nation in the late 60s after his father became Liberal leader. For the battered Liberal party, Justin has been seen by many as its savior – the person who could lead us back from our self-inflicted time out, which voters punished us with in 2006.
After the stilted and hapless Stephane Dion, and then the aristocratic, out-of-touch Michael Ignatieff, we needed Justin. Fresh, young and telegenic seemed the perfect prescription for Liberal woes. And, indeed, Trudeau junior’s honeymoon lasted longer than anyone ever expected. It lasted exactly until this week.
In the midst of two crises of government – the ongoing Senate scandal and Toronto’s Rob Ford crack saga – team Trudeau made a mistake that had the ability to break through the near-constant media coverage of these beleaguered governments. No small feat.
The brain trust surrounding Trudeau had decided to hold a “ladies” night event, ostensibly to raise money for the party, in an urban Toronto riding. It was to be an event for women, or rather “ladies,” organized by women. “Who are your real life heroes?” the invitation asked in a swirly font. “What’s your favourite virtue?” I could almost feel young Justin batting his eyelashes at me. (To be honest, when I first saw the invite – complete with Warholian photos of Justin – I thought it was an attack ad, thought up by the Conservative party’s war room. And then I looked again.)
Justin Trudeau, the guy who’s been criticized for being a vapid light-weight, was to be hosting a fundraiser that, from the invite, could only be characterized as being, well, vapid and light-weight. It was also patronizing and demeaning, which I, and about a zillion others, mentioned on Twitter. I mean, look, if Justin is running to be Prime Minister McDreamy then it’s fine, I guess. But I, for one, don’t want my party to be parked on the backbench in perpetuity. So, I would like less glitter and more vision.
In a matter of hours, social media sites were overrun by the #askjustin hashtag. Many women expressed frustration and anger toward being condescended to and being belittled in what was seen to be the worst kind of political pandering. Female MPs such as Conservative Minister Michelle Rempel and NDP MP Megan Leslie – both of whom I like and respect a lot – responded and very clearly articulated their position, with Rempel asking, “What’s the biggest issue facing women? This kind of crap.” “+1,” agreed Leslie.
Event organizers pushed back. “Get a grip, people,” Amanda Alvaro scolded on Twitter after advertising the event as “unconventional,” with an invitation “designed to inspire dialogue.” Well, I guess she got that part right.
And then came the event itself.
Full disclosure, I wasn’t there but I watched the video footage before a TV appearance this morning. A smug Justin Trudeau perched on a stool answering the “ladies” questions. One question in particular stood out.
As David Akin wrote, Trudeau was asked the so-called “unfluffy” question, “Which nation, besides Canada, which nation’s administration do you most admire, and why?” (Over to you, Justin – this one’s easy!)
“China,” Justin answered.
Wait, what? You mean China with the horrific human rights record, particularly against girls and women. That China? After being criticized for hosting a fundraiser that is patronizing and sexist, you go with China?!
And with that, Trudeau again became fodder on social media sites. The hashtag #mostadmiredadministrations provided dozens of humourous posts, all at the expense of our Prime Minister-in-training.
As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.