Canadians need more than celebrity from Justin Trudeau

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

It was a night for nostalgia, the eighth and last White House Correspondents Dinner for U.S. President Barack Obama. The one-time Harvard Law Review editor and community organizer, a basketball-savvy president with worldwide appeal, was doing his final stand-up before the audience of media, political and Hollywood stars.

Obama opened his routine with reflections on how the office had changed him in eight years; he was no longer the young, impressive, bright light on the scene. Indeed, the president had recently been told to his face that this role was now being played by Justin Trudeau. Obama quipped, "I told Justin" that was simply not true.

Canada has a celebrity prime minister, one who makes much of the country feel better about itself. After Stephen Harper, a new departure was sorely needed, and it hardly needs saying, Trudeau represents a welcome change.

Even better would be the disappearance of remaining vestiges of "Harperism" such as hyper partisanship orchestrated from the Prime Minister's Office by high-profile aides.

In his first six months, the new prime minister has shown a capacity to act quickly and decisively. The long-form census was restored virtually immediately after the Trudeau cabinet was sworn in. Ending air strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria took a little longer.

Trudeau wasted no time naming his Quebec election campaign manager Ambassador to the United Nations, and his Ontario campaign manager Ambassador to Washington, making what parliamentary correspondent Karl Nerenberg aptly identified as dubious appointments.

A senior Liberal adviser told Maclean's political editor Paul Wells that Canada needed a "lobbyist" in Washington, not another "distinguished elder statesman." Really?

Washington is teeming with lobbyists. Each of them has a suitcase full of money to hand around to senators and congressional representatives, money needed for re-election campaigns.

What can a lobbyist without money accomplish as Canadian ambassador? Noises are being now being made that Canada has not ruled out buying the U.S.-designed F-35 first-strike fighter bomber, despite years of bad reports about the troubled aircraft, and the Trudeau campaign declaration that it would not be considered for purchase.

Astonishingly, the Trudeau government is considering new Canadian participation in the ludicrously expensive and wasteful anti-ballistic missile defence system, a.k.a., Star Wars.

Has a rookie Canadian ambassador decided to lobby Ottawa on behalf of Washington? There is not much more for them to get from Canada.

Under terms of the 1989 Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, Canada gave up its traditional subsidies to industry. The exception was for those arms, weapons and military equipment manufactures benefiting from a "national security" exemption, and able to grow alongside the U.S. military-industrial complex.

As a result, Canadian economic policy consists of making regional grants to support military equipment and arms suppliers; and these industrial benefits are now the main (poor) instrument for job creation.

In 1989, in return for giving up supporting new industry, Canadians were told they were getting access to the U.S. market, a market to which Canada already had access, as the average tariff on all Canadian exports was one per cent prior to the bilateral deal.

In effect, Canada was integrating itself into the American military model of economic development. In return for partial membership in the U.S. military-industrial complex, Canada gave up much of its sovereignty in foreign and defence policy.

Half of Canadian military exports go to the United States and an increasing number go to Third World nations.

The Trudeau government has gotten itself into a public-relations mess by supporting armoured vehicle exports to Saudi Arabia. In the past, the vehicles have been used to suppress popular revolt against the regime.

Canada is making military sales in violation of international human rights commitments because its Industrial Regional Benefits policy is built around military production. 

The Trudeau government should be re-thinking economic strategy, assessing how long Canada can continue to take direction from Washington, weighing the community economic renewal option, and rejecting the straitjacket imposed by international trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

In his first six months in office, Justin Trudeau has shown he handles the communications side of being prime minister with aplomb. But making the Canadian government work for all Canadians requires more than showing up with a smile and a shoeshine.

Duncan Cameron is former president of and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.