You Talkin’ for Me?

An open letter to The (soon to be) Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.

Sir, I have, for your approval, the transcript of your remarks from your first press conference as Prime Minister-elect.

“For 10 years, Canadians have been forcibly prevented from living in the authentically Canadian way, held hostage by demons capriciously denying civil rights domestically, and callously working against human rights internationally. This week we have exorcised those demons. We are free at last, Lord, free at last!”

What? I’m misquoting you? Well, I agree that it sounds excessive, but it’s tough to see how else to understand your comments, given here word for word.

“I want to say this to this country’s friends around the world: Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years. Well, I have a simple message for you on behalf of 35 million Canadians. We’re back.”

Gosh. Where to start? Well, as all the writing guides suggest, I’ll start with myself.

As a general rule, I like to speak on my own behalf. When there is something of national significance to be said — condolences to victims of natural disasters, foreign or domestic, or congratulations to Canadians who have accomplished great things, or honour for those who have died in the service of our country (you know, when it’s a sentiment we like to think is so broadly held by all decent people whatever their politics that it really should go without saying, but common decency nonetheless compels us to, you know, say it) — then I happily delegate the speaking on my behalf to the Governor General or to the Prime Minister of the day. Within a few weeks that will be you, Sir, but not today.

But this isn’t a quibble about schedule: it’s a major objection about scope. I respectfully request to be excluded from partisan messages.

No, belay that, I bloody well insist on being excluded from partisan messages. And from smarmy political posturing, while we’re at it. Oh, sorry, Sir, that was my outside voice.

As all the party leaders were fond of saying throughout our late, great, election marathon, “Let me be clear.”

Let me be clear that the act of reassuring our “friends abroad” that we’re back on track after the last 10 years is presumptuous, embarrassing, and insulting. Who, exactly, has been so worried about us? Ukraine? Israel? Mothers and children who are alive today because of our maternal healthcare programs in the developing world? Afghani villagers who are rebuilding their communities because members of our Canadian Armed Forces fought and died there? Refugees from Iran who found new homes here? Developing countries around the Pacific Rim that will find new trade opportunities to fuel their climb out of poverty?

Let me be clear that I don’t think it’s all been good, not by a long shot. Not for the last 10 years, and not for the 10 years before that, under an, ahem, Liberal Government (led by Saint Jean of Shawinigan and Saint Paul of Montreal, I suppose?).

Let me be clear that the notion that the Liberal Party of Canada has a lock on authentic Canadianism is ludicrous. No party has that status: No party could. There are many ways to be Canadian, and we each find our own way to be compassionate and constructive people. Or, sometimes, jackasses.

The possibility that you or your speechwriters actually see yourselves as Canada’s One True Embodiment is beyond insulting and ludicrous: It’s appalling arrogance. You’re relatively new at this, so I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume (or hope) that it was just shameless political posturing, completely inappropriate though that may have been.

For your sake, when your inevitable successor holds their first press conference, I hope that they have the grace you so notably lacked: to thank you for your service to Canada, acknowledging your accomplishments and being silent on your mistakes. Like all leaders, you won’t be a saint or a demon either.

Just one other thing. The next time you launch into this sort of twaddle “on behalf of 35 million Canadians,” make that 35 million less one. Clear?


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8 Responses to You Talkin’ for Me?

  1. Jim Powers says:


    You could have written that on my behalf seven long years ago.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim P – Yes, well, seeing oneself and one’s friends as being “all and only” in the right isn’t a new sin under the sun.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Well, as you know, I love the editorial “we”. Which means, really, those who agree with me. Or sometimes, when I’m being a difficult child, those who disagree with me. It’s so nice to have a generic term that means whatever I want it to mean. Which is, I would suggest in his defence, what Justin was doing in those post-election (my typing fingers erroneously wrote “post-erection”; they might have been more accurate than my conscious thoughts) speeches was an editorial we that simultaneously included and excluded.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I’d be more inclined to accept your explanation/defence if he hadn’t so deliberately included everyone. I’d prefer it if he learns to separate partisan blather (a redundancy, I expect) from his occasional role as country spokesperoffspring. Not that he’s the first PM to have this difficulty. Nor yet the last, I fear.

  3. Glen Sustrik says:

    Well said. I thought we were doing pretty well.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Glen – This is why I’m not in politics, I guess. That it can always be better (at least in theory) doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value in how it is now.

  4. John Whitman says:

    I too was offended by the PM-elect presuming to speak on my behalf. Then I realised thanks to Google that the population of Canada was estimated to be in the order of 35.75 million as of 01 April 2015. Therefore I take solace in the assumption that I am part of the .75 million Canadians in excess of the 35 million the PM-elect presumes to speak for.

    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – That’s an upbeat way to look at it. I hear that Mr. Trudeau has good emotional intelligence. Maybe if he gets some constructive feedback he will choose to change his ways.

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