Can you feel it? Something is different in the national mood, as if the air is lighter. Perhaps the end of a long (by Canadian standards) political campaign. Or perhaps the removal of a prime minister so universally reviled as to defy comparison to almost anyone else in Canadian history. The election is over. I’m proud of my party, despite our diminished fortunes, and remain loyal to Tom Mulcair, who ran a great campaign. But campaigns end and party loyalty is superseded by something higher.
We have a new Prime Minister.
I was pleasantly surprised Tuesday morning to tune into social media and see Justin Trudeau (excuse me – Prime Minister Trudeau) at the Jarry metro station, where I’ve switched cars a hundred times, taking selfies with Papineau constituents. (The number of dark faces and niqabs in that crowd was not lost on me – nor anyone else, I’m sure.) I laughed out loud, because all of his boyish, goofy charm seemed suddenly recast as personable grace, a real willingness to descend from Olympus to engage and that uncanny ability to bond with the nation via the trademark Trudeau charisma.
Trudeau’s feel for public relations is pitch perfect. It’s early days yet, but a hopeful sign after a decade of a Prime Minister indifferent to Canada’s longstanding need to feel something of its leaders. We are not a republic, not an autocracy. No layer of bureaucracy, no bulwark of corporate wealth insulates a prime minister from the people – nor should it. Ours is a nation that set people as its priority, and entered the present century fully equipped with the Charter and Constitution to expand the writ of that freedom to as wide a plurality as possible. Canada is governed by individuals. Parties, yes. But a Prime Minister’s temperament and style undoubtedly leaves a mark on the country. And Mr. Trudeau’s is personal, heartfelt and warm.
Mr. Trudeau’s ability to read the country’s need for connection, his immediate (and cost-saving) reduction of the prime minister’s security detail, his willingness to interact both in person and on social media with the citizens of his country reveal a keenly intuitive sense of Canada’s yearning for openness. At his father’s knee Justin Trudeau may have learned, in amidst the punditry and vicious realpoilitik of Seventies Ottawa, that most important lesson: how to sense the shifting needs of a nation and respond in a way that is deeply felt. Fellow Canadians, we may not just be witnessing the most perfect case of the right man at the right time in our nation’s history, but the dawn of a new era governed by a great prime minister.
I want to believe.