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This article was published 17/2/2012 (3263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Justin Trudeau betrays his political immaturity and narcissism in suggesting that his commitment to a united Canada is dependent on whether the Conservative government validates his personal values, say prominent political analysts.
"This guy is clearly self-indulgent; he really does think everything is about him and his feelings," Barry Cooper, a political theorist at the University of Calgary, said about statements Trudeau made in a recent French-language interview. "That's a measure of his lightweight status in the firmament of deep-thinking Liberals."
On Sunday, Trudeau, a Montreal MP, told his Radio-Canada host: "I always say, if at a certain point, I believe that Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper -- that we were going against abortion, and we were going against gay marriage, and we were going backwards in 10,000 different ways -- maybe I would think about making Quebec a country."
The remarks have generated a furor this week. The blogosphere and the twitterverse went into hyperdrive, with commentators stunned that the 40-year-old son of Pierre Trudeau could so readily offend his father's federalist vision. The politicians weren't far behind. Not surprisingly, the Bloc Québécois interpreted Trudeau's remarks as an endorsement for their own opposition to the Conservative government.
A Tory MP, Merv Tweed, taunted Trudeau, saying "while our Conservative government is committed to keeping Canada strong, united and free, the member opposite is contemplating reasons for Quebec to separate from Canada.''
Such remarks forced Trudeau to beat a hasty retreat, clearing the air with a three-minute address in front of a mob of reporters and cameras on Parliament Hill. "The question is not why does Justin Trudeau suddenly not love this country, because the question is ridiculous,'' Trudeau said. "I live this country in my bones every breath I take, and I'm not going to stand here and somehow defend that I actually do love Canada because we know I love Canada.''
Regardless of Trudeau's rhetorical retrenchment, some observers said his original remarks revealed a great deal about his character, as well as his incoherence as a politician.
"If I had read the quote and not known who said it, I would have attributed it to an adolescent," said Tom Darby, a political philosopher at Carleton University in Ottawa. "It does not matter what party or even what policies one favours, the quote is factually untrue, irresponsible, and even treasonous. He (Trudeau) says that his father was an intellectual and that he is not. About this he is correct, which his childish statement proves."
Robert Asselin, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who specializes in Canada-Quebec affairs, noted the inherent narcissism of Trudeau's attitude. "That's the first observation I would make. But also, government policy should not dictate one's preference for secession or not. Secession is a very grave action and you don't even suggest it (as a possibility) because you don't share certain beliefs or values of the government of the moment."
"Politics is not about personal feelings," said Cooper. "It's about the ethics of responsibility. He was elected as a member of Parliament from a particular constituency. He was not elected in his own right because he has these sensitive feelings about various things. Whether he likes it or not, he's supposed to be a responsible political leader, and he's clearly incapable of understanding what his job is."
Trudeau has, in fact, been stepping in it regularly of late. In December, he referred to Environment Minister Peter Kent as a "piece of sh--." He was taken to task for wrongly claiming that there would be no way to track firearms after the registry's disappearance when he tweeted his opposition to the Conservative government's plans to scrap the gun registry. And he was much criticized when he told a reporter he was "uncomfortable" with the use of the phrase "honour killings" because he thought it was "pejorative."
Political analysts such as Darby and Cooper question whether Trudeau has taken his dislike of Harper's policies to an imprudent extreme that says more about him than about the policies he supposedly opposes.
"Young Trudeau is living out the consequences of his father's vision of what the country should look like, that the state exists to compel us to like one another, to think alike, that we all have to have the same values," said Cooper. "You've got this kind of narcissistic response that the state only exists to reflect your values. There's nothing to be patriotic about (and) so you can indulge whatever idiosyncratic policy preferences you might have. Trudeau Junior reflects this attitude, and for a lot of people his age and younger, they probably think this is a perfectly legitimate way of looking at politics."
Trudeau's statement reflected the "incredible notion" that loyalty to one's country is predicated on whether that country lived up to your personal sentiments, said Darby. It is quite legitimate to oppose the policies of a particular government, he said, but Trudeau showed no sense of what Canadians have in common, no sense of shared citizenship and the responsibilities that come with citizenship. "The problem with that is he's not thinking beyond his own self-interest. He's like a kid who says, 'I don't like what's happening in this game, so I'm going to take my stuff and go home.'"
Asselin, meanwhile, speculated that Trudeau reflected the sentiments of many Quebecers who feel they don't share the values of the Conservative government. Nevertheless, that's no excuse to indulge in imprudent hints about supporting separatism. "That's the line he crossed. That's why it's dangerous."
Trudeau's behaviour raises questions about his political intelligence, and his potential as a future Liberal leader, Asselin said. "I'm always surprised to see his name as a potential candidate (for the Liberal leadership) because I've never seen anything substantive from him that would make me believe he would be a good leader. What is his vision of Canada? I would not be able to tell you what it is. I know what his father stood for, but I don't know what Justin Trudeau's is."
And what might Pierre Trudeau have thought of his son's statement? "I don't think his father would have been happy at all to read it. He would probably spank him on his behind, and say, 'What have you said? This is not right.' "
-- Postmedia News