In the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a con man who flits around the world defrauding unsuspecting people of their money while impersonating an airline pilot.
Sound familiar? Like maybe Justin Trudeau who has been doing an inordinate amount of global flitting of late while impersonating a serious national leader.
In the last two weeks, Trudeau has been to England for the Queen’s funeral, then off to New York for the annual globefest of government leaders at the opening of the UN General Assembly.
Home for a couple of days. Maybe condescending to drop in on a session of the House of Commons.
It’s clear Liberal strategists believe all this flitting shows their man as a man of the world, someone respected by his international peers.
“Take that Pierre Poilievre,” the Liberal backroom seems to be saying. “Bet you can’t match our guy’s global reach.”
In that vein, the prime minister’s office issued a news release on Sept. 21 claiming that during his time out of the country so far, Trudeau “worked closely with our global partners to address the world’s biggest challenges and make life better for people.”
Well, Trudeau did get in to see the presidents of Moldova and Suriname (Ooo!), who were also in New York. The three agreed to a joint effort to fight forest loss.
As if reversing the “unregulated defalcation of hornbeam trees” in Moldova’s Codrii Plonini forest matters to a family in Hamilton or Grande Prairie struggling to pay for food and gasoline while Trudeau’s runaway inflation makes it difficult to balance rising mortgage-interest payments with putting dinner on the table and driving kids to school.
There are undoubtedly voters in the Liberals’ urban base who are impressed by the stamps on the PM’s passport, but I predict Liberal efforts to show their man as a sophisticated internationalist will backfire among ordinary Canadian voters who increasingly see Trudeau as an unserious, self-aggrandizing dilettante.
Statistics Canada this week released data from the 2021 census showing homeownership levels in Canada at 20-year lows. And poll after poll show a majority of Canadians under 40, who do not already own a home, have given up on that dream.
Instead of being in his office dealing with that, Trudeau was in New York tossing candies to the crowd from the Global Affairs float in the UN parade (not literally, of course): a billion in new funding for the fight against AIDS, $100 million (more) to fight COVID, $245 million for food security in the developing world and a little less than $2 million “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online,” plus $10 million for “affordable childcare in low and middle-income countries.”
I know it’s very important to Liberal voters that Canada be seen as an important player on the international scene. But, right or wrong, most Canadians don’t care much what the federal government does in multilateral institutions or international summits. So the domestic political value of Trudeau’s current galivanting is dubious.
Besides, the Trudeau government has proved itself abysmal at foreign affairs, and the PM himself has been embarrassing as often as not. (Think Bohemian Rhapsody at the Queen’s funeral and Bollywood costuming in India.)
After boasting he would restore what he saw as Canada’s tarnished reputation under the Harper government, Trudeau failed to win us a seat on the UN Security Council, failed to return us to international peacekeeping missions and undermined the trust of our closest allies so badly that the U.S., U.K. and Australia excluded us from a new alliance (AUKUS) to counter Chinese aggression in the Pacific Rim.
The Liberals are handing a win to new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.