12.06.2016 08:55 AM

This week’s column: the Trudeau honeymoon isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Here’s why.

Do journalistic conventions rewire our brains?

It’s a serious question. In the fun new sci-fi movie ‘Arrival,’ the plot posits the theory that language changes the way we think, and not the other way around. The aliens keep telling everyone what they think – kind of like a racist and sexist Donald Trump did, over and over – and everyone on Earth keeps trying to find some other more-obscure meaning, instead of the one right in front of their eyes (ie., that he really is that racist and sexist).

The movie is about aliens, but it could be about politics. People are always looking for a meaning that isn’t the one in plain view.

A Twitter acquaintance, Toronto Star columnist Judith Timson, reminded me of this last week. I had retweeted a windy, stentorian Maclean’s editorial about how Justin Trudeau’s honeymoon was finally at an end. The honeymoon “is truly over,” insisted Maclean’s, sounding like they wanted to convince themselves as much as the rest of us.

Timson’s pithy response: “For the 45th time. Hey here’s an idea: maybe the ‘honeymoon’ metaphor in political journalism is over.”

Well put, and true enough, Ms. Timson. It’s a hackneyed cliché, that “political honeymoon” nonsense, and it’s yet another example of people letting language do their thinking for them.

Politics is a stew in which the ingredients are opportunism, timing and good luck. Justin Trudeau came along when folks were sick of the Tories, when he looked shiny and new, and when the fortunes were smiling upon him. Same with Donald Trump: he oozed out of a fetid, primordial reality TV swamp precisely at the moment that angry white Americans were in the mood to vote against their economic and social self-interest. That’s a victory more attributable to luck than skill.

So, Justin Trudeau has indeed been lucky. And, yes, as Maclean’s sniffed, a video of Trudeau got booed by some drunks at the Grey Cup. Yes, the “cash for access scandal” – they called it a “scandal,” they really did, when no normal person thinks that it is – has been attracting some unhelpful headlines. And, yes, some much-delayed pipeline decisions were causing some headaches in BC, mostly among people who would never vote Liberal anyway.

So what, we say. Getting introduced at sports events is always a really bad idea, per the political muse (cf., Tip ‘Neill). Fundraising isn’t ever pretty, either – but until the media offers political parties ad space for free, it needs to be done. And pipelines? They’re a Hell of a lot safer than the alternative (cf., Lac Megantic).

The fact is this: the punditocracy is bored. Justin Trudeau has been atop the polls for more than a year, and it’s kind of dull. The Tories (who have too many leadership candidates) and the NDP (who have none) aren’t being an effective Opposition, particularly.  They aren’t keeping the Liberal leader up at night.  So, as always, some media have assigned themselves the role of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. Gentlemen, per the timeless Val Sears quip, we have a government to defeat.

But Trudeau won’t be defeated, anytime soon. And his honeymoon – whether you call it that or not – isn’t ending, either.   It’s barely started. And you can thank Donald Trump for that.

Until Donald Trump is indicted at the State level by an ambitious Democratic Attorney General – or until a Republican Congress tires of his madness and his wars, and commences impeachment proceedings in the House – the U.S. President-to-be is going to remain the biggest story on Earth.  He is going to be the prism through which all political news is viewed, pretty much.

He won’t be President Trump.  He will be President Troll, firing off insults via his Twitter account in the middle of the night, raging as he stalks the marbled halls at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.  And the media – as they have always done – will be a-twitter about his Twitter.  They can’t stop paying attention to him, as much as they loathe him.

Up here in Canuckistan, Justin Trudeau can only benefit from that. When the (likely) next Conservative Party leader is doing her utmost to ape Trump, Trudeau will look pretty darn good to most Canadian voters, who deeply despise Trump.  And if Angela Merkel fails in winning a fourth term in Germany – and if the far-Right’s François Fillon or the neo-Nazi National Front achieve power in France next year – then Trudeau will be among the last progressives standing.

He may be imperfect, but compared to the alternatives to the South and the East, Trudeau’s popularity can only grow. Call it a honeymoon or not, but one thing is for certain: in the dark, dark days that lie ahead, Justin Trudeau will shine bright.

And you don’t need to subscribe to journalistic conventions to know that.


  1. Ron says:

    Funny that since Trump’s election, up here in the boondocks Kevin O’Leary seems to have fallen silent.

    Maybe its because he comes off as Trump Lite, and as such couldn’t get elected as Dogcatcher.

    • redraven says:

      kevin o’leary is a political photo bomber. he’s floats around in the background just enough to spoil everyone else’s pictures. the danger lies in when he decides to become the photographer instead of the photographed. follow the money cause that’s where you’ll find o’leary.

  2. Michael Bluth says:

    No mention of Justin’s ill-advised comments on Castro’s death as a potential honeymoon ender?

    • Scott MacLeod says:

      No. His comments weren’t ill-advised — just ill interpreted by Tory trolls n dirty dippers who wanted classy comments about a larger than life character to look ill-advised to serve their own purposes.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    IMHO, Trump will rise and then fall thanks to the inevitability of someone leaking his taxes.

  4. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Political witch hunts or fishing expeditions don’t sink the entitled class. In fact, they gain oxygen from them. So it was with the Clintons. So it will be with Trump if a Democratic state A-G foolishly goes after him.

  5. Peter says:

    My goodness, I know Trump has rocked you but that’s close to the screenplay for Captain Canada Saves the World.

  6. bluegreenblogger says:

    None other than George Orwell wrote the book (literally) on that concept. The consequences can range anywhere from plus-good (eliminating thoughtcrime) through double-plus un-good. Now if you will excuse me, I am late for the 10 minute hate.

  7. pat says:

    Same as Chretien. He became more popular in his opposition to the war in Iraq (maybe he was already as popular, but perception is that his opposition to lunacy was a defining moment). Their are pockets of backwardness in Canada, but the national conscience always seems to come to the fore when juxtaposed to the rigidity and propaganda of the right wing in the states – and Trudeau, while Conservative candidates speak to the worst of human instincts, becomes the spokesperson for reason, and humanity – the traditional and valuable Canadian brand that defines us not just here, but around the world.

  8. pat says:

    His Father’s brand is also defined in a large part due to his opposition to Regan and Thatcher – an intellectual counterweight to ideological purity that defined them –

  9. dave constable says:

    Past Washington regimes, especially the present one, have expanded NATO to the western borders of Russia, meddled in the elected government (albeit corrupt) in Kiev, has built up over 300 thou NATO troops in East Europe, has our navy in the Black Sea, has destroyed stability all along the south of Russia, planted warships and war planes off China’s shores, is expanding military bases around China, and is now adding considerably to their nukes, answering China’s business ventures in Africa with ever more military bases, has simply ignored international law in destroying bombing and terrorizing many Muslim countries, …but it is Trump who is the threat to world peace.

  10. redraven says:

    You’re wrong about public events because that depends on the crowd. A football crowd would boo Saint Theresa whereas the crowd at the Tragically Hip concert cheered Trudeau though he was basking in the Gord Downie call-out so you’re wrong on that one. As for me I prefer Trudeau to the Minister of Silly Slogans Kellie Leitch or the Minister in waiting for silly trolling Chris Alexander but I don’t really care anymore as long as someone comes up with a way of no longer paying them for their unseen agenda items. Aye there’s the rub.

  11. monkey says:

    Not totally disagreeing although a lot depends too on how the economy performs as generally economy and jobs is where elections are won and lost and Trudeau does have some vulnerability. Certainly if the Tories veer rightward he should have no trouble easily winning, but what if Raitt or Chong is the next CPC leader. The next Conservative leader likely won’t win on the first ballot so a lot will depend on where second choices go. If it is Leitch, then easy to compare to Trump, but if Chong or Raitt a bit harder. As for Europe, the far right is doing quite well in the polls, but they haven’t as of yet won any elections. With France having a run off vote while in the other countries the far right may come in first but they will fall well short of a majority and its unlikely any of the other parties will prop them up, they may not do as well as some think, that being said who knows. Certainly Trudeau does look good compared to the way the US and Europe are going, however weak performance on the economy and jobs as well as arrogance is what defeats governments. I don’t think he will likely lose in 2019, but the Liberals would be foolish to assume they have the next election in the bag. And by 2023, I suspect most of the more extreme leaders will be gone and we will be back to mostly mainstream centre-right and centre-left governments in most of the developed world meaning the idea of being sane vs. others won’t work by then.

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