If you’ve read my takes on Donald Trump for any period of time, you’ll know that in a more civilized political climate, his bid to buy the presidency would have long since been over. Had this been Canada, the UK, or Australia, he would have been drummed out of the race as early as June. Well, we got confirmation of this from Canada’s recently elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau. He took a careful, but brilliant, dig at Trump’s ugly and divisive rhetoric.
Trudeau was speaking at an end-of-year town hall sponsored by Maclean’s magazine, the Canadian counterpart of Time. A viewer submitted a question on Twitter asking Trudeau to denounce Trump and his “hateful rhetoric.” Trudeau knew he had to tread extremely carefully. He couldn’t take too hard of a dig at Trump without risking charges that he was interfering in our election. But he found a way to let it be known he’s not too keen on Trump. Watch here.
Trudeau’s response seemed to be perfectly diplomatic. While he didn’t want to appear that he was “engaging in the electoral processes of another country,” he felt it was critical that Canada have “a positive relationship” with the next president. But then came the dig.
“However, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric.”
Trudeau drew parallels between recent events in Canada and Trump’s attacks on immigrants and Muslims. He recalled former uebec premier Pauline Marois’ attempt to push through a “Charter of Values” that would have barred provincial civil servants from wearing Sikh turbans, Islamic veils or Jewish skullcaps, but left the Christian cross exempt. He also recalled how his predecessor, Stephen Harper, played “dangerous games” with his proposals to ban federal civil servants from wearing veils and ban women from wearing veils when taking the Canadian citizenship oath. Diversity, Trudeau noted, should be “a source of strength” for a nation.
And then came the haymaker:
“If we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don’t actually end up any safer. Fear doesn’t make us safer. It makes us weaker.”
Wow. This is easily the sharpest criticism I’ve seen yet of Trump’s outrageous bigotry. No doubt Trudeau must have felt like he was back on the stump; he spent most of last fall’s campaign attacking Harper for his increasingly divisive way of running the country. Canadians have little tolerance for the kind of divisive rhetoric that is all too common in this country. One of my Canadian friends told me that by the time election day rolled around, many people were of the mind that “whatever we have to do, we will get this guy out of here.”
And they did, in resounding fashion. Trudeau’s Liberals went into the election as the third-largest party, behind Harper’s Conservatives and the New Democrats. However, Trudeau led them to one of the biggest majority governments in Canadian history, with 184 seats. In essence, Canadians grabbed the table and flipped it on top of Harper. It was a resounding endorsement of Trudeau’s “sunny ways” approach to bringing his diverse nation together. So it comes as little surprise that Trudeau had little time for the likes of Trump.
Watching this dig at Trump also serves as confirmation of what I’ve long suspected–had Trump played the same game in Canada as he’s playing here, it wouldn’t have been long before he would have been told, “You’re fired!”