Before legendary Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens died on September 11 at the age of 91 he penned a farewell letter, to be shared after his death.
In it, this advice:
“Be humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, perched at the pinnacle of Canadian politics, has become that monkey, sadly.
When Mr. Trudeau first arrived on the political scene in 2008, I didn’t think too much of it. He seemed little more than an un-serious dandy with a famous name, all flash and little substance, and with a tendency to say stupefyingly stupid things. In 2010 for instance, in a French language interview on Tele-Quebec, Mr. Trudeau opined that “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our collective socio-democratic agenda”, that the only prime ministers who “really were any good were from Quebec”, and that Canada belongs to Quebeckers.
When a dispirited Liberal party, newly consigned to third party status, elected him as leader in 2013 it smacked of desperation. No chance he’ll ever become prime minister, I thought - the notion seemed laughable.
But then Stephen Harper stumbled through a bumbling re-election bid in 2015 and suddenly, unbelievably - despite Harper’s people incessantly shouting from campaign rooftops "He’s just not ready!” - Mr. Trudeau was PM.
That we would elect as leader a man comprised of all ego and no substance was shocking, but somewhat understandable, given the shallow selfie-addicted social-media society we’ve become.
Canadians seemed collectively unperturbed by his paper-thin resume. After all, the thinking went, it’s not as if the roster of Canadian prime ministers who came before him is stuffed with men and women who, before they became PM, demonstrated towering intellect and glittering accomplishment. Mr. Trudeau sounded good and looked good… and how much damage could he really do, anyway?
In 2019 the answer to that question is abundantly clear.
Mr. Trudeau surfed the waves of popularity for a stunningly long time. Canadians succumbed to his spell, as did much of the world: the Prince of Woke-ness became an international political rock star, helped along by the ascent of the uncouth Donald Trump to the American presidency.
But it was all a facade.
Many of us knew this instinctively to be true, that a man with his background couldn’t possibly be equipped to run our country. But it was far worse than we thought. Because behind the suave manner, good looks, fancy socks, and “progressive” pronouncements lives an egotistical, ignorant fraud.
The penny finally dropped for many Canadians during the uproar over proposed tax changes in 2017, in which Mr. Trudeau labeled farmers, entrepreneurs, small business people, and doctors as tax cheats.
He stood in the House of Commons and loudly demonized physicians concerned about their livelihoods as just a “bunch of doctors complaining about paying more taxes than the nurses who work with them.”
That comment bit deep, for me. As it did for most physicians, who reacted with outrage: thousands of letters and petitions flooded Ottawa in protest. I wrote my own missive, an open letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, in which I reminded him of the lengthy, arduous training physicians undergo in order to become doctors; a ten-to-fourteen year process, attended by the accumulation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, that must be completed before we can begin to retire that debt and to save for retirement. (Contrary to common public perception, the vast majority of doctors, like most hard-working Canadians, must provide for their own retirement – in stark contrast to federal politicians, whose platinum benefit packages include a fully-indexed pensions endowed after only six years of service.)
We weren’t complaining, in 2017, about our career choices or about the tough road we traveled to realize them. We aspire to achieve and to excel, but the prime impulse that drives us is dedication to our patients.
The blunt implication that physicians do what we do “for the money” was, and remains, profoundly insulting. That we had to point this out to the extravagantly-privileged Justin Trudeau was unsettling, to put it mildly, and proof of his alarming misunderstanding of how the world works.
That dispiriting episode was but the first major crack in his carefully constructed edifice, as a string of colossal blunders has subsequently revealed. He stands fully exposed, not only as “not ready”, but not likely ever to be ready – and worse, as a faker of the first degree.
Jason Kenney once said of this man, having served opposite of him in Parliament: “I know Justin. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. This guy is an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl.” Unkind, perhaps, but true.
The climate-warrior-in-chief’s employment of two carbon-spewing campaign planes has drawn well-deserved criticism (the second airliner needed for “equipment”, ostensibly - a.k.a. his socks, as one wag put it). I daresay his fleet is incomplete: add in a couple of planes to contain his ego and another dozen to accommodate his hypocrisy, and you’d have his full flotilla. Great are the clouds of hot air that emanate from his person: all the carbon “offsets” in the world and an entire planet frantically forested with freshly-planted trees would make scarcely a mitigating dent.
Observe the result of his four years in power, years that began with such “promise”. The country is divided and stressed like never before. Fifty-three percent of working Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, the national debt spirals dangerously skyward, and unprecedented levels of animosity have sprung up between the provinces. Fifty percent of Albertans are soberly entertaining the notion of seceding from Canada, while separatists enjoy a robust renaissance in Quebec.
Mr. Trudeau’s education as a schoolteacher left more than a few gaps, I think. He’s unaware, for example, of Robert Frost’s The Fear of God; or if aware, he’s chosen to ignore its timeless wisdom:
If you should rise from Nowhere up to Somewhere
From being No one up to being Someone
Be sure to keep repeating to yourself
You owe it to an arbitrary God
Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won’t bear too critical examination.
Mr. Trudeau doesn’t do unassuming.
Consider his infamous blackface turns: “In for a penny, in for a pound”, was his guiding motto, apparently. He emptied entire vats of shoe polish to darken every square inch of his body, from handsome head to privileged toe, pausing only - one imagines – to consider which attire would best complete his ensemble: toucan or not toucan, that was the question.
And who can forget his ridiculous India tour, wherein he rummaged through every wardrobe in that country in the process of making a proper fool of himself?
These sorts of things – the blackface, the costumery, the mindless utterances of “peoplekind” and “fisherfolk”, the epileptic blatherings about drinkbox-water-bottle-kind-of-things, and so on – are of little consequence, of course, stacked next to the rest of his record: the ethical violations, the misogynistic mistreatment of his female caucus, the economic incompetence, the disgusting gutter politics of his current campaign and so much more.
But such episodes - and how he handles them when they blow up in his face - speak volumes of his character. He’s the sort of man who, when he screws up – which he does with astounding frequency – arrogantly claims it as a learning experience - for the rest of us.
It’s this sanctimony that rankles the most. He’s akin to a righteous, charismatic preacher who holds his congregation to task for their sins while lining his pockets with parishioners’ money and banging the church secretary on the side.
“There’s nothing new under the sun,” Ecclesiastes declares correctly. Charlatans and fraudsters have always been with us. They’ve long contaminated the upper ranks of politics, fooling people (for a time) with their oratory, force of personality, good looks, or some combination of the three.
Justin Trudeau is such a man; a man who pretends, mightily, to be a friend to all Canadians.
But he’s no friend of doctors.
And he’s certainly no friend of yours.