He banned the word mankind and cried when he met his wife... Is Canada's PM Justin Trudeau the world's most PC politician?
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From the gaudy costumes straight out of a Bollywood wedding to the toe-curling burst of Bhangra dancing, it was a state visit India would rather forget.
And when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — the ‘rock star’ of liberal politics — flew home to cold, grey Ottawa after an eight-day tour (longer than the Indian government wanted) last week, he did so not with the applause he’s used to ringing in his ears, but mocking laughter.
From the moment he arrived in Delhi to be greeted, not by Indian PM Narendra Modi, but by a junior agriculture minister in a calculated snub, Trudeau and his equally photogenic wife and children brought embarrassment on themselves as they rubbed shoulders with a Sikh extremist, posed in ‘traditional’ Indian robes and begged for selfies with film stars.
India has accused Trudeau’s government of being too soft on Sikh extremists in Canada who want to establish an independent state — hence Modi’s failure to show. Undeterred, and in a bid to impress Canada’s half-million Sikh voters, Trudeau opted to pepper the trip with unending photo-ops. It proved too much for some.
‘Is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now?’ huffed one Indian politician who summed up the feelings of many. ‘Also, FYI, we Indians don’t dress like this every day, sir, not even in Bollywood.’
Once hailed as the perfect political antidote to Donald Trump, Trudeau now has voters worrying if there is any real substance to their superstar premier and one of the world's most politically correct politicians.
The son of former premier Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret, the notorious party girl and Rolling Stones’ groupie 30 years her husband’s junior, Justin became the chattering classes’ favourite pin-up when he became PM in 2015, aged just 44.
The epitome of a ‘PC PM’, he wanted to save the planet, welcome immigrants and legalise marijuana, all while demonstrating his yoga prowess.
U.S. Vogue included him in a list of the 10 Sexiest Men Alive, gushing that the ‘politician-dreamboat’ is ‘a feminist and capable of balancing a baby on one hand’.
Fellow leaders and public figures — including Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, the Duchess of Cambridge, Ivanka Trump and actress Emma Watson — all seemed giddily awestruck in his presence.
But even before Trudeau made a twit of himself in India, his critics had been warning against the global adulation he was generating.
The ‘Selfie PM’ isn’t just a preening, smug show-off ‘more interested in perfecting his pout than his policies’, they said, he’s also a hypocrite who repeatedly reneges on pledges.
With his popularity on the slide, Canadian voters are belatedly asking whether there’s any real substance to their superstar premier and why no one heeded the warning signs. Here’s the evidence.
Detractors say nothing sums up Trudeau’s zealous political correctness than his patronising put down of a woman at a political meeting in Alberta earlier this month. After she used the word ‘mankind’, he felt moved to correct her.
‘We like to say “peoplekind” not necessarily “mankind”,’ he said. ‘It’s more inclusive.’ The crowd cheered as, smiling piously, Trudeau added: ‘We can all learn from each other.’
His later claim that he was joking wasn’t convincing. After all, this is the man who created a ‘gender equal’ cabinet (same number of men and women) when elected, not on merit but ‘because it’s 2015’.
He also supported a Canadian senate bill to make the country’s national anthem gender neutral by removing the word ‘sons’, and has written earnest essays for women’s magazines on how he will turn his two sons into sexism-fighting feminists.
Stink over ink
Trudeau has a tattoo of a raven with a globe on his shoulder which he tweeted in 2012. The raven was designed by an artist of the Haida, an indigenous folk of British Columbia.
The Haida said they were ‘proud’ of Trudeau’s tattoo after he promised a ‘new’ relationship with indigenous people — but that was before his government approved a $36billion natural gas project that threatens the breeding grounds of one of the province’s biggest salmon runs.
The Haida now vehemently oppose the idea and accuse Trudeau of ‘cultural appropriation’ by sporting the tattoo.
Even his socks are a statement of Trudeau’s refusal to be ‘just another boring politician’. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January he wore a purple pair with yellow ducks. A year earlier, he’d worn a pair of rainbow socks bearing the words ‘Eid Mubarak’ (a Muslim greeting) at a Gay Pride march in Toronto.
More curiously, he donned Star Wars-themed ones when he met the then Irish premier Enda Kenny.
The Macho Man
He’s a world-class hugger and never holds back, whether it’s fellow world leaders (especially Barack Obama, with whom he’s had a bromance for years) or Syrian refugees.
But the 6ft 2in hunk still likes to show his macho side. He’s a keen amateur boxer who, at a charity match in 2012, ‘pummelled’ conservative politician Patrick Brazeau after happily weighing-in topless.
A keen practitioner of yoga, he has been photographed performing a ‘peacock pose’ (a considerable feat that involves lifting his body up horizontally purely with his biceps and core muscles) at policy meetings.
He also did press-ups while announcing that Canada was to host the 2017 Invictus Games for wounded, disabled and injured veterans.
In 2011, he raised more than £1,000 by performing a partial striptease at a gala in aid of liver disease research.
'Diana' on his arm
Almost as gorgeous as her husband, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, 42, has been dubbed ‘Canada’s Kate Middleton’, although her devotees whisper a better comparison is with the late Princess Diana.
A former TV presenter and department store personal shopper, she is mother of Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien.
Describing herself as a ‘gentle warrior’, she shares her husband’s touchy-feely politics — and his love of the spotlight. She performed yoga at a parliamentary Press dinner and once memorably — though not tunefully — burst into a ditty she’d written called Smile Back At Me after making a speech.
Fans will sigh over her account of her first date with Justin, while others will cringe. ‘At the end of dinner, he said: “I’m 31 years old and I’ve been waiting for you for 31 years.” We both cried like babies.’
Believe it. When Gord Downie, singer in the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, died of cancer last year, the tragically hip PM gave an impassioned tribute during which he wept on camera. ‘I thought I was going to make it through this, but I’m not,’ he said.
Critics on the Left say Trudeau is a hypocrite who rarely lets his pledges on the environment, world peace and human rights get in the way of pragmatic politics.
In climate talks in 2016, he bullied the rest of the world into accepting tougher goals for fighting global warming.
Yet at home he’s pushed for huge new oil pipelines through Canada and the U.S. to harvest more from Alberta’s tar sands — one of the world’s most environmentally damaging ways of extracting oil. Feminists have also accused him of treachery by demanding the government rewrite ‘Discover Canada’, the citizenship guide given to all immigrants before they take a citizenship test. He wants to remove a line saying Canada doesn’t tolerate any barbaric cultural practices — on the grounds that condemning the brutal practice of female genital mutilation discriminates against Muslims.
On the same day he talked about ‘peoplekind’, it emerged Trudeau’s government had brokered a $233million deal to sell 16 combat helicopters to homicidal Philippines dictator Rodrigo Duterte.
And after welcoming 25,000 Syrians amid great fanfare, Canada has closed the door to many others, including thousands of impoverished Haitians.
Trudeau may have acquired his hippy ethos and taste for flowing robes and floral necklaces from his mother, Margaret, a Sixties rebel who once said: ‘I don’t intend to be just a rose in my husband’s lapel.’ She proved it by walking out on her young family — Justin and his two younger brothers — and repeatedly flying off to join up with the Rolling Stones’ hard-partying entourage. A manic depressive who had problems with drink and drugs, she allegedly had affairs with Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Ted Kennedy and Jack Nicholson.
Gift of the gaffe
‘one of the guys’ Trudeau was criticised during the 2015 Canadian election campaign for wearing a $7,000 watch, while three Caribbean holidays on a yacht owned by billionaire Aga Khan have failed to impress voters. Scandals are building, meanwhile. His decision to pre-emptively settle a civil suit with ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, and pay the convicted Al Qaeda killer £6million, outraged those who questioned why Canadian taxpayers should have to compensate Khadr for mistreatment in a U.S. detention camp.
republicans bristle at Trudeau’s readiness to cosy up to our Royal Family, particularly its younger members. The French media dubbed Trudeau and Princes William and Harry ‘le trio sexy’ when they met at a commemoration of the World War I battle of Vimy Ridge.
It helps that the Trudeaus are already chums of Meghan Markle. She moved to Toronto in 2011 to make the TV drama series Suits, started doing humanitarian work and was rapidly inducted into Canadian high society.
Meghan is also connected to Sophie Trudeau through stylist Jessica Mulroney (daughter-in-law of former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney), a mutual friend who advises both what to wear. And, of course, they’re all yoga nuts.
Justin Trudeau’s only royal gaffe has been thinking he could put one over on Prince George.
On the 2016 tour of Canada, Trudeau tried to engage the toddler with a high-five, then a low-five, and finally a handshake. Each was royally snubbed.