On April 12th, 2018, as he prepared to board a plane heading for the Summit of the Americas in Peru, Trudeau turned and waved to an empty tarmac. Nobody was there, but it was a photo op, and a brilliant metaphor for a foreign policy that is high on fashion and low on substance. Trudeau is a man who places appearances over substance every time.
Trudeau’s politics of personality is built almost entirely on appearance and empty rhetoric, and can you blame him? He’s gorgeous. He stormed onto the international stage declaring “Canada is back” to anyone who would listen. Then Trudeau told the UN, “Canada is a modest country. We know we can’t solve these problems alone. We know we need to do this all together. We know it will be hard work. But we’re Canadian. And we’re here to help”. This was something special – so selfless – so refreshingly naïve – and it was exactly what the world wanted to hear. Trudeau was enthusiastically embraced by the globalists and the mainstream media, and he even landed in Vogue and on the covers of GQ and Rolling Stone, the latter calling Trudeau the “best hope of the free world”.
It seemed that everyone wanted to meet with him, and to be seen with him, and no other Canadian leader in history has ever enjoyed such a fawning reception. Obama gave Trudeau a state dinner, and the two men joked about another Canadian named Justin. The affection displayed caused some to dub them Trubama, especially after an intimate candlelit dinner in Montreal. During Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama joked, “Somebody recently said to me, ‘Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He’s so handsome, he’s so charming. He’s the future’. I said, ‘Justin, just give it a rest.’” Similarly, when Trudeau met with Emmanuel Macron, the French President, the mutual affection and admiration was on constant display. Regrettably, Obama has retired, and Macron daily faces a growing mob of angry Frenchmen demanding his resignation for promoting policies nearly identical to the ones being advanced by Trudeau, but C’est la Vie.
The election of Trump brought the utter ruin of the one great achievement of Trudeau’s foreign policy – our very friendly relations with the White House. Though it wasn’t enough to get approval of Keystone, the optics were still awesome. Canadians mostly liked Obama, and Trudeau’s bromance with Obama was something we’ve not seen since Reagan and Mulroney. Obama’s foreign policy priorities had Canada’s full backing. Trubama championed the Paris Accords, a non-binding agreement on climate change that saw nation after nation commit to doing little more than they were already committed to doing. Trubama proudly sold the Accord as something that would save the world. Trubama embraced the Iran deal, and Trubama pushed funding for over-seas abortions while running up massive deficits at home.
No foreign policy survives contact with the world. Events often upset the global landscape and force a reassessment of one’s plans. When that happens, you can either adapt, or cling to your prior assumptions, double-down upon your approach, and expect the world to reward you for your complete lack of flexibility. When Trump won the presidency, Trudeau decided to stay the course. Fighting Trump has proven to be very popular with those who hate the Donald – and they are legion. They all cheered jubilantly as our relations with the White House descended to their lowest depths since Confederation. Trump pulled out of the Paris Accord, ripped up the Iran deal, and stopped funding foreign abortions. Justin and the Donald are barely on speaking terms, and the President has repeatedly undermined Canada’s foreign agenda. In trade talks the Americans took us to the cleaners. Canadians are left with very little influence in Washington because most American Liberals are “Never-Trumpers”.
The wheels have fallen off the bus – but it’s not Trudeau’s fault. First there was the India trip. Trudeau put on a charm offensive, dressing in Indian garb and dancing like a Bollywood star, grabbing international headlines. Then the media made a big stink about how ridiculous he looked, and how Jaspal Atwal, a Sikh extremist who served five years in a Canadian jail for his role in the attempted murder of a visiting Indian cabinet minister, was invited to a reception in India. Of course Trudeau insisted that it was all India’s fault, but for some reason, no one believed him.
Then Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, bravely tweeted Canada’s call for Saudi Arabia to release some imprisoned activists, having the tweet translated to Arabic. For some bizarre reason the Saudi’s reacted by severing diplomatic and trade ties whilst telling all their citizens that Canada is mean to our indigenous people. One tweet crippled Saudi-CSIS intelligence sharing and cost Canada $billions in trade. Oops! But it wasn’t our fault. Maybe the tweet broke with diplomatic norms and protocol, but this was so obviously an over-reaction, and the optics were not all bad. Being attacked by a medieval, autocratic theocracy can be seen as an affirmation of our values – if only we had some. We should at least attempt to wear it as a badge of honour. However, no one had Canada’s back. None of our allies rushed to support us. We looked isolated, weak, and vulnerable. Valuable lessons have been learned. We now understand the dangers of conducting highly-sensitive diplomacy in 280 characters or less.
In the wake of the Saudi spat, Trudeau addressed the United Nations. In 2016, Trudeau was all “Canada is back” and “we’re here to help”. In 2017 Trudeau called Canada a “work in progress”, confirmed that we are mean to our indigenous people and that our water sucks, drilled home some feminist talking points, and linked Indigenous challenges to climate change – which garnered some globalist applause. Trudeau also touted his tax plan and his support for CETA. It was somber, introverted, and it basically ignored the dumpster-fire that was Canada’s department of Foreign Affairs. “We have to acknowledge what we’re doing at home,” Trudeau said afterward, because of course we do.
The tarmac is empty, but that’s no reason not to wave.
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