In 'The Prince', Stephen Maher explores the rise and fall of Justin Trudeau

Trudeau magic may have run its course but it may be foolish to write him off

CANADA-POLITICS/ Justin Trudeau | Reuters

When Justin Trudeau took over as the 23rd prime minister of Canada in November 2015, Vogue featured him on its cover as the new young face of Canadian politics. He was the prince charming who could do no wrong. He revived the nearly dormant Liberal Party, once dominated by his father Pierre Trudeau, infused an earnest optimism and a youthful enthusiasm into the staid, monochrome portals of Canadian politics. And he made governance fashionable.

Somewhere along the way, Trudeau lost his mojo. Multiple scandals took the sheen off the Trudeau brand of politics. His personal appeal is in free fall.

But all that seems in the distant past now. Somewhere along the way, Trudeau lost his mojo. Multiple scandals took the sheen off the Trudeau brand of politics. His personal appeal is in free fall. The economy is flirting with recession, housing and food prices have gone through the roof, inflation remains high and the foreign policy is a mess. A survey found him the worst prime minister in over 50 years.

If elections were to be held today, Trudeau’s conservative opponent Pierre Poilievre could wipe the floor with him. In fact, many Liberal MPs and party insiders feel the prime minister should step down and let someone else lead the party. In The Prince: The Turbulent Reign of Justin Trudeau, journalist Stephen Maher looks at Trudeau’s rise and fall and concludes that the Trudeau magic may have run its course, although it may be foolish to write him off.

Maher’s use of the word “prince” is illuminating. It shows two sides of Trudeau’s personality: a practical political operator, just like the one described in Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century treatise, The Prince, and at the same time a modern prince, who grew up with a sense of entitlement. When Trudeau was seven, his mother publicly referred to him as a prince. And that sense of entitlement never seems to have left him.

On December 31, 2016, the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, Trudeau was at the Aga Khan’s $100 million island in the Bahamas spending Christmas holidays, and he took a private aircraft to get to the island. Canada’s ethics commissioner conducted an inquiry and found that Trudeau had violated at least four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, the first prime minister to do so.

Maher’s book is not a chronicle of Trudeau’s failures, it also gives him credit where it is due. The way he dealt with Donald Trump’s protectionist tendencies while renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, his genuine concern about climate change and his steadfast belief in the primacy of democracy are adeptly woven into the narrative. However, as mentioned in the title of the book, its underlying theme is the turbulence that marked the unravelling of the Trudeau regime.

The way Trudeau operates with a cabal of close advisors, keeping everyone else out from his inner circle, and the propensity to hide behind a mask have all contributed to his downfall. Maher also identifies many other missteps, such as his flagrant attempt to influence his minister of justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to abandon the prosecution of Montreal-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin, deputing a rookie minister to deal with the critical issue of electoral reform, the unnecessary foreign policy faux pas involving India and his inability to act on intelligence inputs that China was meddling in Canadian affairs.

In conclusion, Maher feels that Trudeau’s future looks like a lost cause. Last December, the Trudeaus took yet another expensive vacation, staying at the Frankfort Villa at Ochos Rios, Jamaica, a stately two-storey manor located in a famously grand former slave plantation, which rents for $7,000 a night. “With so many Canadians counting their pennies in the grocery line, it seemed selfish,” wrote Maher. “The trip confirmed everything Poilievre and other critics were saying about Trudeau―that he is out of touch and disconnected from the struggles of ordinary Canadians.”

A prince, indeed.


By Stephen Maher

Published by Simon & Schuster Canada

Pages: 385; price Rs899