Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with The Canadian Press during a year end interview in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday December 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

VIDEO: Trudeau to be lower profile, more business-like in second mandate

While he does not plan to stop talking about values entirely, Trudeau wants to focus on ‘concrete things’

Justin Trudeau says he’s taking a lower-profile, more businesslike approach to being prime minister, having concluded that the focus on him and his lofty talk of values during his first mandate obscured his government’s concrete achievements on bread-and-butter issues.

Trudeau’s new approach is a big departure for a leader who vaulted the Liberal party from its apparent deathbed into government in 2015, largely on the strength of his celebrity status and “sunny ways” appeal.

It’s likely a tacit admission he is no longer the unalloyed asset for the Liberals he once was, his image tarnished by ethical lapses, misadventures on the world stage and the embarrassing revelation during this fall’s federal election campaign that he had repeatedly donned blackface in his younger days.

Canadians ultimately re-elected the Liberals but handed them a minority government that will have to work with opposition parties in order to survive.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said the message he takes from the election is that Canadians “agree with the general direction” his government is taking but want him to take a “more respectful and collaborative” approach.

He’s also concluded the focus on him meant Canadians didn’t hear enough about his government’s accomplishments.

“Even though we did a lot of really big things, it was often hard to get that message out there,” Trudeau said.

“The place that the visuals or the role that I took on in leading this government sometimes interfered with our ability to actually talk about the really substantive things we were able to get done,” and that he thinks Canadians want the Liberals to show them more clearly what they are doing for them.

Asked if the visuals he was referring to were the photos of him in blackface or the elaborate clothing he wore during the India trip, Trudeau said there are “all sorts of different aspects to it,” but he cast the problem more broadly.

“I think a lot of the time, politics has become very leader-centric in terms of the visuals,” he said. “This has been the case in Canada for a long time, where people, yes, vote to a certain extent on their local MP but the leader of the political party takes up an awful lot of space.”

Throughout his first mandate, there was private grumbling among some Liberal MPs who felt Trudeau spent too much time talking about his high-minded pursuit of things like diversity, inclusion and gender equality — derided as “virtue signalling” by his critics — and not enough on pocketbook issues.

Trudeau, it seems, now agrees with them.

“I think the values and the themes that I was putting forward were very strong and very compelling but when you’re talking about values and themes at a high level, you’re not necessarily talking directly about, well, this community centre we just put specific money into building, or this program that helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians be lifted out of poverty,” he said.

While he does not plan to stop talking about values entirely, Trudeau said he wants to make sure they are talking more about the “concrete things” his government is doing to “make life better for Canadians.”

He also wants to share the spotlight with the ”extraordinary team of ministers who weren’t always given the attention or visibility that we would all have benefited from.”

Refocusing on the team and on “tangible deliverables” is a way to counter populism, he added, ”where people no longer feel that their institutions or their government are actually there to deliver for them.”

During the campaign, Trudeau said his biggest regret was that he’d become a polarizing figure. He got a graphic demonstration of that on election night, when voters shut out the Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the oil-producing provinces most impacted by Trudeau’s climate change and environmental policies.

In the interview, Trudeau said he believes that polarization is caused by anxiety over the transformation of the global economy due to climate change and advances in artificial intelligence and technology. He’s become a lightning rod for some of that anxiety, he posited, because he’s been “unabashed” in arguing that Canada needs to accept the transformation and invest in things like science to get in front of it and help shape it.

“I think I have become, in some ways because I am very much focused on positioning Canada for the long term, an easy element for people who say, ‘No, no, no, we can just keep the way we’ve been for a little while longer and we don’t need to disrupt everything yet and we can hunker down and hope that all this will blow over,’” he said.

“For people for whom the future is fraught with anxiety, it becomes easy to sort of point to me and say I’m trying to accelerate things rather than trying to make sure that we are going to be successful over the coming century and not just over the coming couple of years.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council opts for Greensand Filtration water treatment plant

Williams Lake city council has opted to apply for grant funding to… Continue reading

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Emergency crews respond to MVI on Horsefly Road

One person was extricated from his pickup truck and transported to hospital

Kind-hearted road worker takes home discarded bin of pet rats at Highway 20 rest stop

Maddy McCarthy said she will find the nine pets loving homes

PHOTOS: Robbie Burns Night celebrates lakecity’s Scottish heritage

It was a night for Drambuie, the pipes and good company

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

Off-duty B.C. Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

RCMP to review fatal B.C. train derailment investigation after evidence points to ‘cover up’

The derailment, which occurred on Feb. 4, 2019, killed three men from Calgary

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Family hopes Britain can get pregnant B.C. woman out of China’s coronavirus epicentre

Lauren Williams, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, has been stuck in Wuhan

Caregiver, society charged in death of developmentally disabled B.C. woman

The victim was not given the ‘necessities of life,’ police said

B.C. councillor runs afoul of Coastal GasLink protester

Northern pipeline not a Maple Ridge issue, insists Coun. Gordy Robson

Most Read