In Kingston, Ont., last week, Trudeau was asked what to do if he got a spot on his tie — and he had a handy tip.
And, of course, in Peterborough, Ont., he forced his aides into some damage control when he blurted out that the oilsands ought to be phased out.
These are all part of what passes for the out-takes so far at the six town hall-style meetings Trudeau has held in Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on his national ‘listening’ tour.
They are also illustrations of the potential perils of letting a political leader go before a few hundred citizens for an hour-long unscripted and unplugged question-and-answer session. For the Liberal Party, these sessions are a sign that they trust their leader completely in these kinds of situations and that even if there are a few verbal hiccups, Trudeau wins more points than he loses just for doing what almost no other federal or provincial party leader would dare do.
On the other hand, Trudeau’s political opponents are almost certainly gleefully building a clip reel of some of the odd things he’s said on this tour for future use at the next general election.
The Immigrant Experience: In Dartmouth, a 25-year-old man who identified himself as an Italian citizen complained about the hoops he was going through to become a Canadian citizen. Trudeau started his reply this way: “I’m a 10th- or 11th-generation Canadian on one of my sides but my maternal grandfather was born in Scotland so I do have some idea of the challenges it takes to come to Canada and has took over the sweep of history of Canada.”
The grandfather in question was James Sinclair, born in Banff, Scotland, in 1908, who arrived in Canada with his family when he was three. He adjusted to life as an immigrant so well that he served as an MP from B.C. for 18 years, a career that had been over for 15 years before Trudeau was born.
The Trouble with Ties: Those who attend these town halls are not prescreened, no one from Trudeau’s office or the party asks what kinds of questions they have, and it is Trudeau who seems to randomly pick who gets a question.
Some have asked what it’s like to be the prime minister. One boy wanted to to know what it was like to be the son of a prime minister. And in Fredericton, he was asked what he thought his daughter Ella Grace, just about to turn eight, wants to be when she grows up.
But one of the oddest of these personal questions came in Kingston when he was asked by a small business owner named Paula, “What happens to your neckties when you accidentally spill something on them?”
His answer: “Not a question I was prepared for so I have no answer to give. Uh. It depends. Sometimes a little soda water and salt gets out the stains. Sometimes I send it to the dry cleaner and sometimes, as happens regularly, my wife goes through my closet and, all of a sudden, my favourite old ties and favourite old shirts are gone.”
To which Paula replied: “The reason why I asked is because I’m looking at your tie and thinking it would make a fabulous dog collar.”
This was all broadcast live on national television news networks and streamed to the Web.
Riling Alberta: In the six town halls so far — all in eastern Canada — there has not been one participant encouraging Trudeau to approve more pipelines or accelerate development of Canada’s energy resources. In fact, it’s been precisely the opposite. Trudeau has been attacked from his “green flank,” criticized for continuing fossil fuel subsidies, approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and not giving citizens enough information about the Energy East pipeline.
In the face of that criticism, Trudeau presented arguments he’s made several times, saying, for example, in Peterborough, in response to a question from a woman from a First Nation near the oilsands in northern Alberta, that “We have to move in a smart way off of fossil fuels. We can’t manage that transition overnight. There are too many jobs and too many economic benefits to families who are working hard (in the energy sector).”
OK. So far so good.
But then he was challenged on his government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which will take Alberta crude to the Port of Vancouver. Somewhere in the midst of the long six-minute defence of that decision he said this: “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy. We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out.”
And that’s where it went off the rails so far as the likes of Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and many other small-c conservatives were concerned.
“If you want to “phase out” the oilsands, you’ll have to go through me and 4 million Albertans first,” Jean said on Twitter.
All the goodwill he may have earned with his rather length defence of the Kinder Morgan pipeline or of oilsands production — you can listen to the whole thing above — went right out the window.
Federal Conservatives on Twitter quickly fired up a new hashtag: #PhaseOutTrudeau.
At the end of the month, Trudeau will take his listening tour to open town hall meetings in Alberta and B.C. Those promise to be a lot of fun.
I know the hardships of early explorers because I to have spent time on a remote island. #trudeaugetsit
— RetirementGone (@61boomer) January 18, 2017
Do you think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out of touch?
Toronto Sun by David Akin
Jan 18th 2017