I love the passion of Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP for Papineau. I saw and heard that passion in the scrum yesterday in which he explained what he had meant in a weekend interview in French on Radio Canada. Even before I saw that video, I understood what he intended when he said that if Canada turned into Stephen Harper's vision for the country, he might think about making Quebec a separate country.
Quite frankly, if Stephen Harper steals my Canada from me, I would consider making British Columbia a separate country. Or maybe it would be time to make Cascadia a reality. The Canada Harper wants to create is not the beautiful country I immigrated to and not a place I want to live.
Do all these commentators really not understand what Trudeau was trying to convey, perhaps not as clearly as he might have? Or are they just being disingenuous? This was not about the desire for an independent Quebec. It was a very strongly expressed passion for the Canada that Harper is trying to change beyond all recognition. Perhaps too strongly expressed for those who wait to pounce on any politician who gives a slight opening.
Trudeau is not good at expressing it intellectually, but he sees the same thing that the rest of us in the current opposition parties see. This government is not the political descendant of Brian Mulroney or Joe Clark or even John Diefenbaker. This government is the radical vision of a control freak who has no respect for tradition, no attachment to Canadian values—those that were once held by his own party—and no love for the democratic process. Harper is smart enough not to appear overtly dictatorial, but more and more people see what he would like us not to pay attention to. Justin Trudeau sees it as well, and it makes his blood boil. As it should.
I once saw someone else express that kind of passion for this country. Many years back during the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada that eventually saw Stéphane Dion take the prize, I saw all the candidates at a reception in Vancouver. Each candidate spoke briefly to the crowd. Dion, whom I was supporting at the time, did not deliver well that day. He was always better one-on-one than he was making speeches. Michael Ignatieff was strangely flat, as though he didn't want to be there. Bob Rae was convivial. I actually met him briefly in the crowd. But the candidates who impressed me most that evening didn't have a prayer of winning, and more's the pity. One was Martha Hall-Findlay, who made a wonderful short speech. But the one who impressed me most was Ken Dryden, who expressed a passion for a fair and just Canada that people claimed he didn't have. He did and does. I saw it that day, and it was stirring.
Dryden's passion is balanced by his brilliant mind, which is what commentators tend to focus on. Trudeau, unfortunately, does not have that kind of balance and probably not that kind of brilliance either. He admits that he is not the intellectual his father Pierre was, but it's more than that. He really doesn't put his brain in gear before he speaks, and thus has to dig himself out of holes of his own making. He has the impetuousness of his mother, Margaret, rather than the cold calculation of his father. I remember the eulogy he gave at his father's funeral. A lot of people loved it, but I thought it was overwrought. I definitely saw his love for his father, but I would have believed him just as much if he had not gone way over the top as he did.
I love that Trudeau is willing to wear his heart on his sleeve for Canada, but we can see how easily that is misinterpreted. He gives ammunition to his enemies but not tempering that wonderful passion with some consideration for his words and how they will be viewed. At this point, his decision not to run for the leadership is a wise one. He's not ready. Not ready to be party leader, and not ready to be Prime Minister. We need a leader, and indeed a Prime Minister, with that kind of passion for Canada. But we can't have a leader who doesn't balance that with clear thought and careful consideration.
Trudeau is 40 years old, so it might be a stretch to attribute his demeanor to youth and immaturity. But as someone who herself took an embarrassingly long time to ripen, I think there is still hope. Passion is in his temperament, but he can still learn to channel it and thus make it more useful. A head without a heart gives us Stephen Harper's cold white north, but a heart without a head can't give us back our country. And we need our country back.