Originally published at Convivium on February 2, 2021.
We can agree or disagree over policies, but the Prime Minister and other party leaders deserve the respect conveyed by the honorific preceding their names, Don Hutchison writes.
Some will have read the question as if it was written, “Why, Mr. Trudeau?
Why the multiple ethics violations, Mr. Trudeau? Why the departure of Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott, and others? Why make announcements about restricted borders without requiring adherence to the announced restrictions? Why is Canada the country Pfizer felt comfortable cutting off from its COVID-19 vaccine? Etc.
But, there is no comma in the question precisely because it is not written as a question to Mr. Trudeau. It is a question about him.
Why Mr. Trudeau?
Some may think it a question about why we have Justin Trudeau as our Prime Minister, i.e. why not someone else?
In that context, the question might evoke a guttural partisanship. Fiberals, Libtards and dictator are terms I’ve seen. They align with Cons, Conswervatives and hidden agenda to describe the Liberal Party’s primary contender for government, the Conservative Party.
But, I’m not here challenging Mr. Trudeau’s elected role as Prime Minister. And, I will get around to a few comments on the peril of polarized partisanship. So…
Why Mr. Trudeau?
The question is about him, but it’s directed to you and me. Why refer to our Prime Minister as Mr. Trudeau?
First, he’s earned it.
Mr. Trudeau secured the nomination, then campaigned and won the Papineau riding in 2008. He has held it since that time. That’s four elections. Members of Parliament are due respect.
Mr. Trudeau pursued and won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2013. He campaigned as Liberal Party leader in 2015 and 2019. Both times, through free and democratic election, his party secured enough seats in the House of Commons for him to be appointed Prime Minister by Canada’s head of State, Queen Elizabeth II. Prime Ministers are due respect.
Second, even if Mr. Trudeau had not earned the “Mr.” through political office, it would be his as a sign of respect for his person and age: He’ll be 50 this year.
It’s disappointing to see ad hominem tropes based on Mr. Trudeau’s surname: Trudope, Trou d’eau (hole of water), and others. In terms of disrespect, they align with O’Tool and O’Fool. Not that clever really. Sort of like a recent social media mock debate about hockey player nicknames, in which the question was asked whether Browner and Brownster were too similar sounding once Brownie was taken for the Ottawa Senators’ Connor Brown, Josh Brown, and Logan Brown.
I admit my own failure to consistently hold to this simple 1, 2, 3 standard.
During the 2019 election, I was unsettled by what I perceived as insincerity in the disconnection between the Liberal Party’s environmental posturing and its practices. Arguing taxpayers get more back in carbon price rebates than they pay in carbon taxes highlighted what a vehicle owner pays at the pump. It did not address additional costs for farms, food production, transportation for all goods, and the GST/HST charged on top of the carbon tax.
Flying two campaign planes and buying carbon offsets does not reduce emissions. It pays a financial penalty for them. The day Mr. Trudeau made a campaign announcement on environmental policy at a lakefront from behind a podium that had Green Party green signage instead of Liberal Party red was the day I started writing furiously about this apparent hypocrisy. I wrote a scathing article. Thankfully, my submission to Convivium was declined, with the explanation that it did not meet the benchmark for being balanced, factual, and respectful.
There’s a figure of speech used in politics that, lamentably, is drawn from a tragedy of religious extremism. Jim Jones was an American cult leader who led his followers to establish a commune in Guyana. There, in 1978, at Jones’ unquestionable decree 918 people – over 300 of them children – committed mass suicide by drinking a cyanide-laced powdered drink mix. Beware swallowing the Kool-Aid of personal or partisan passion that views political competitors as enemy combatants, evil and without potential for good in themselves or their policy proposals simply because they are in another camp. That’s poison to the mind and soul.
The candidate who applied for the nomination in Papineau did fail to disclose a history of wearing blackface and a publicly reported incident of groping a female journalist. He said he learned his lesson.
The first-term Prime Minister left unfulfilled four years later his promises of electoral reform, small deficits, a balanced budget, ending boil-water advisories on First Nations’ reserves, and transparency in government. Broken promises are part of the basis on which almost all elected politicians are evaluated in subsequent elections.
Shifting statements on SNC-Lavalin and his use of blackface, or using another party’s signature hue for an announcement vis-à-vis that other party’s raison d’être, don’t make Mr. Trudeau an evil person. They are questionable behaviour.
As a Christian, I am exhorted not to allow such behaviour to transform my mind, my attitude, or the character of my writing about Mr. Trudeau or others. I was reminded of that when beckoned back to balance, facts and respect. I’m grateful.
I hope this article pays it forward.
Yes, editorial policies at most publications permit or require respectful use of last name only after initial use of full name, positional identification, or an opening Mr. The key is respectful.
Over the last year, Prime Minister Trudeau has led a government dealing with life-threatening health situations for Canadians that has required an extraordinary degree of cooperation with provincial and territorial leaders. Mr. Trudeau has been at the federal helm, navigating the uncertainties of governing in a minority Parliament while being disconnected from the usual face-to-face gatherings with caucus members and constituents.
You or I might disagree with how he has handled policy commitments, Parliament, and pandemic measures over the last year, but Justin Trudeau is the person Canadians elected to high position. He bears the responsibility. Not you. Not me. Mr. Trudeau is due both my earned and unearned respect, whether commenting in support or criticism of his behaviour.
That’s why Mr. Trudeau. And Mr. O’Toole, Monsieur Blanchet and Mr. Singh as well.