, 01.18.2022 03:45 PM

My latest: forget Waldo – where’s Justin?

A long, long time ago, when the Earth was still young, and dinosaurs like me roamed Parliament Hill, I cornered my boss, The Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien.

He was the leader of the Opposition, back then, and I was his special assistant. I’m not sure why he kept me around, but I think I amused him.

Anyway, I was excited about something in the news, and saw it as a great opportunity for Chretien to get some media coverage. Others in the office agreed with me, as I recall.

Chretien listened to me, grinning, then shook his head.

“Young man,” he said, which is what he always said to me (and still does) when he was about to disagree with me, “I don’t need to be in the newspaper every day. I shouldn’t be. Mr. Mulroney is in the paper every day, and what has it done for him?”

It was true. With constitutional machinations, with battles about the GST, with windy pronouncements about everything and nothing, 24/7, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was then supported by 12% of Canadian voters. Twelve per cent!

Chretien was a big believer in less is more — undersell and overperform. So, after the election, he made me chief of staff at Public Works and Government Services, and instructed me to cut the living you-know-what out of the federal advertising budget, which I did.

Chretien: “The Tories polled and advertised all the time. It got them two seats. Cut.”

The moral of the tale, generally, is that Jean Chretien is always right. More specifically, the moral this: If you are in politics, and people are seeing and hearing you too much, they’ll get sick of your face.

Which brings us to another Right Honourable, Justin Trudeau. Seen him around, lately? Trust me: You haven’t.

He had one press conference in the first week of January, billed as a COVID-19 update, and let his assembled ministers do much of the talking. Same thing a week later. COVID talk, ministers present. Yawn.

Over on his web site, it’s the same. Two (2) press releases so far this year — one about Nova Scotia, one about changes in the federal bureaucracy. His office has issued statements on various things, like the sad passing of former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. But precious little else.

What does it mean? It means Justin Trudeau has rendered himself less visible, Virginia. And it’s paying dividends — because, nowadays, the federal Liberal leader is more popular than not. And his principal opponent, Erin O’Toole, is doing very badly, indeed.

Elsewhere, leaders who are too public aren’t too popular: U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to cite just two examples, are all over the front pages these days. And their approval numbers are basement-level.

It may be that there is no smart strategy at work here. It may simply be that Trudeau has been chastened by the election result, and is off at Harrington Lake, licking his wounds.

But it’s more likely that Trudeau’s brain trust has finally (thankfully) embraced the Chretien approach to visibility, and it’s decidedly working. And, given how Trudeau used to be, that’s a big, big change.

Because, back in the early days of his regime, Trudeau was the Kardashian of Canadian politics: He was everywhere, like a computer virus. Cover of Rolling Stone, flirting with Melania Trump, documenting every waking moment on Instagram, his medium of choice.

And now? Poof. He’s vanished.

And it’s working.

— Warren Kinsella is CEO of the Daisy Group, a public relations and crisis communications firm


  1. Very insightful. He has nothing to prove, and will coast through the next couple of years while the PC’s self-destruct (and the NDP continue to be irrelevant). I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins another election, should he decide to run.

  2. Sean says:

    He’s not in the news because:

    a) he doesn’t actually do anything in between elections. His existence in politics is for marketing / branding only.

    b) he’s done…everyone knows it…. and no one cares anymore.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Why should he ever leave Rideau Gate? O’Toole is moving heaven and earth each time he opens his mouth to get Trudeau that majority. Our leader is the greatest gift humankind has ever given to Justin Trudeau, the guy who plays a prime minister on TV and regrettably, everywhere else…

  4. Peter Williams says:

    The economy is tanking, groceries are more expensive, and there are supply shortages. Is it any wonder why Trudeau is hiding?

    The only good side? There’s no where for Justin to fly to on vacation.

  5. Gilbert says:

    It’s true that the PM is less visible, but if people think he’s lazy and doesn’t take his job seriously, there could be consequences. The Conservatives need to ask him about the missing virus samples from the lab in Winnipeg, his policies regarding China, the qualifications of Melanie Joly, his thoughts regarding interprovincial trade barriers and his goals regarding the formulation and implementation of the next budget.

  6. Arron Banks says:

    “It may be that there is no smart strategy at work here. It may simply be that Trudeau has been chastened by the election result, and is off at Harrington Lake, licking his wounds.”

    Or maybe somebody’s been reading Robert Greene’s notorious “48 Laws of Power” over the Winter break lol

    “Law 16: Use Absence To Increase Respect And Honor.

    Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, and more admired. You must learn when to leave.”

  7. Robert White says:

    Prime Minister Blackface Feminist-in-Chief is a drama teacher that cannot deliver a speech without saying ‘ah’ every three words. His welcome has worn out via his own speech pathology.

    I’m super sick and tired of the way he speaks, and he is a partisan racist towards the unvaccinated. He also engaged in name calling by referencing the ‘unvaccinated’ as ‘racist & misogynist’ as though unvaccinated Canadians are somehow analogous to U.S. ‘deplorables’ in terms of ignorance vis-a-vis education.

    PM Blackface has overstayed his hand and obviously has nothing substantive to add to the nation conversation primarily due to the fact that he is uneducated in the extreme whereas you boss wasn’t, young man.

    Chretien inherently knew your were passionate about politics, as do all of us.

    P.S. I’m even older than our host and have collected more dust too.


  8. PJH says:

    I wish Erin O’Toole would go “poof” and vanish…..

    We picked the wrong guy……

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