On January 20th, 2017, I distinctly recall anxiously watching Donald Trump become the newly elected president of the United States. Since his inauguration, left-leaning Americans have been comparing President Trump with our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Comparisons like these are not harmless, however, and the political consequences of social comparison on a grand scale need to be considered before Canadians begin shifting their own values or worse, following in the footsteps of our American neighbours.
As a concerned Canadian the first things that ran through my mind, when Donald Trump was officially elected as the new POTUS, were the possible repercussions a Trump presidency would have on Canadians directly via domestic and foreign policies. But more specifically what will be the indirect and less predictable political impact of a Trump presidency for Canadians. For American writer Stephen Rodrick, Justin Trudeau is the “Star of the North”, but many Canadians do not see Trudeau as such.
In the moment, it was shocking to see someone quite like Trump being inaugurated into the highest office in the United States. However, in retrospect, it makes all the sense in the world. Donald Trump promised that he would not act like a politician but would be more actionable than previous presidents. While this on its own was certainly appealing, the real catch was his promises to be an “America-first” president. Only time will tell how true this is, but the fact that this was a promise of his is very important to keep in mind and will be increasingly important in the Canadian context as well.
But for now, let us explore some of the main reasons Trudeau’s own base are frustrated with his work so far. Expectedly, the left-leaning base in Canada, liberals, and socialists, are discontent with Trudeau, the center-left candidate of the three who campaigned for the position in 2015. Canadian liberals are rightfully frustrated with Justin Trudeau for his lack of conviction when it comes to environmental issues. Furthermore, many of his constituents are frustrated with the lack of progress in social issues, especially those affecting women, as he is a self-proclaimed feminist. Many liberals and socialists have gone as far as to accuse Trudeau of being a “fake feminist” because his efforts in issues concerning women have been perceived as significantly lacking. Many argue Trudeau’s efforts in finding the many missing Indigenous girls and women and delivering justice to those who have been murdered, has been lackluster. These are the most significant of quite a lengthy list of complaints liberals and socialists have about their current party leader’s performance as Prime Minister, but liberals and socialists are not the only ones complaining.
The right side of the aisle is also harboring discontent with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Firstly and again expectedly, Canadian conservatives are greatly concerned with Justin Trudeau’s management of Canada’s economy. Especially since Trudeau recently proposed a new tax plan, which promises to increase taxes for the top 1% in order to redistribute funds to low and middle-income families, as well as to remove tax loopholes that aid the top 1%. Trudeau’s tax announcement has riled up many right-wingers in Canada. Many are arguing that the plan targets small businesses, doctors, farmers, and entrepreneurs. Despite these concerns, the most significant of the complaints about Trudeau from Canadian conservatives is because of comparisons to Donald Trump’s level of patriotism and prioritization of America. Many believe that Justin Trudeau’s loyalty to Canada is not quite up to par. This is when it becomes dangerous to make comparisons between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau. It is crucial to remember that these are two very different countries, with different cultures, and very different histories, all of which have an immense impact on ours and their political realities.
But even more important than remembering our Canadian values is that we need to do everything in our power to avoid voter desperation. Republican voters in America were alienated and made to feel left behind, causing voters to become desperate for anyone to come into the White House and return America to an era where they remember a great economy and abundant lives. When we hear attitudes similar “Make America Great Again” in Canada, it’s indicative of a problem, that some Canadians are feeling left behind and if they are not helped they may be desperate to vote a television star as Prime Minister.
By that same token, however, Canadians need to be careful not to be disillusioned by the extreme differences between our prime minister and the American president of the moment. We Canadians should continue to hold our leaders accountable in a way that stays true to our values, and we should not lessen or compromise our values because we see our southern neighbours doing the same. So should Canadian’s be thankful for our leadership or demand a higher standard? We should be doing both, but more importantly, we should look after our own in a way that will not leave anyone behind.
By Stephanie Yaacoub
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.