I was pretty excited when I received my Justin Trudeau sweater on Christmas in 2015. It depicts Canada’s suit-clad prime minister riding horseback in a dreamy, pastel coloured forest. Each time I move—which due to a series of unfortunate income events has been four times in the past year—I make ruthless cuts to my wardrobe. Until my most recent move, I never questioned whether or not to keep my Justin Trudeau sweater. While I have a misplaced sense of pride that I don’t live in a Trump governed country, I find myself growing increasingly frustrated with how a lot of the international coverage of Canada suggests we’re run by a Disney prince. While Canadians were devastated by two big promises Trudeau recently broke—approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline and admitting defeat on an electoral reform—our international audience was laughing about ‘swooning’ Ivanka Trump and making memes of ‘Bambi’ Trudeau vs ‘Godzilla’ Trump. Our prime minister may have defended himself against The Handshake, but he’s got a lot of explaining to do to The First Nations communities he promised to reconcile and the citizens he promised to bring true democracy to.
Due to their proximity and history, America and Canada are easy to compare and contrast, especially in light of their contrary leaders. Trump and Trudeau are polar opposites in ways beyond their hair styles. While Trudeau, age 43, stands as the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history, Trump won America’s Oldest President Award at 70. Trudeau wants to work on easing the burdens of climate change, yet Trump won’t even acknowledge the fact that global warming exists, believing the whole concept was created by the Chinese in a capitalist based scheme. Our leader hugs Syrian Refugees while the U.S’s leader bans them. Trudeau identifies as a feminist, Trump sexually harasses women with no consequence.
Yet the two leaders have more in common than many would like to admit. Both Trudeau and Trump landed where they are today largely because of citizens’ exasperation with the old way of doing politics in their respective countries. Both politicians were deemed ‘not ready’ in one way or another by opposition. The pair held individual fame before entering politics and share the same white male privilege. Both men have also also blatantly lied to their citizens, but perhaps that just comes with the politician package. The most striking similarity between the two men, in my mind, is their strategic relationship with the media. They both have such calculated control over the viral space that traditional politics have fallen to the wayside.
Trump wants Americans to distrust the media. His early morning tweets and baseless accusations seem reckless, as though he is not aware of the joke he’s turning the title of president into. I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing and is using his voice to deflect from serious stories. After a hard to watch GOP primary debate, he did this by commenting on Megan Kelly’s potential menstruation. After the 2005 Access Hollywood video came out, he brought Bill Clinton’s former accusers to St. Louis as guests to his second debate. He focused on Hamilton cast member’s treatment of Mike Pence the day after he agreed to settle a fraud lawsuit against Trump University for $25 million. He rambled non-sense at his press conference post firing Michael Flynn..the list goes on. Trump viliainizes the media and uses them as a tool to confuse his naysayers and aid the arguments of his supporters. So far, there haven’t been any consequences for when he says something false—the media always covers it.
Trudeau on the other hand uses media to advance his country and support the Canadian image. He hugs pandas and shows up unexpectedly to beach weddings after a quick shirtless surf. He chose International Women’s Day to announce the government’s plan to spend $650 million on sexual and reproductive health initiatives around the globe by 2020. This plan is in line with the gender parity in his cabinet, but distracts from the fact that the government is still waiting until 2018 to bring in pay-equity legislation. For all we know, it might have been Trudeau’s influence that caused controversy when his wife, Sophie Grégoire, tweeted about celebrating male allies on International Women’s Day.
Other similarities between the two leaders include the election processes they got into office through. Neither country’s system is the fairest or most representative. Canada uses a ‘first past the post’ system that awards candidates with the highest number of votes in each riding a seat in the House of Commons. This is regardless of whether they have higher than 50% of the votes or absolute majority. This means the House of Common’s isn’t represented by how everyone voted, only by the majority who won in each riding. It’s a ridiculous legacy from the days of Britain’s colonial empire and forces many Canadians to ‘strategically vote’ instead of just vote for who they want to have power. Meanwhile, The U.S. presidential election consists of a peculiar system of state Electoral Colleges, which override the popular vote. The colleges are heavily influenced by the first-past-the-post system which determines the election of every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representative. How does it make sense that unpopular candidates still get to win, regardless of votes?
Trump’s lies are readily available on his Twitter feed, whereas I was shocked at how many Trudeau lies I found after pushing past the shirtless selfies and panda hugs. During Trudeau’s first summer in office, Canada shed 71,000 full time jobs. The justice minister informed the Assembly of First Nations that Canada wouldn’t be adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it had repeatedly promised. The Atlantic provinces also lost their traditional guaranteed appointment to the Supreme Court. How did I miss all of this? Oh yeah, it was all around the same time as the U.S. election campaigns when, even while listening to local radio, I learned more about U.S politics than Canadian ones.
Much like Trump, Trudeau was a symbol of change: He was our beacon of Liberal light after ten years of a Conservative majority. Now however, he’s been caught lying red handed and push back is inevitable—when one drastic change doesn’t produce the desired effect, the response is more change. We now have two Trump like conservative candidates running for Canada’s Conservative Party: Kellie Leitch, who has proposed to subject every single visitor to Canada to a one-on-one interview with border officials, and Kevin O’Leary, a misogynistic television personality who has repeatedly claimed more allegiance to Boston, MA, than Canada. O’Leary has criticized anyone that criticizes Trump during his first 100 days in office. He’s told Canadian press that “I’ve spent my whole life as an investor; I know what Trump does, he knows what I do,” and “I think we’ll be very good together getting deals done because that’s what matters.” I guess Canada and America are just contestants in Let’s Make a Deal now.