Trump vs Trudeau
Two Sides of a Flawed Political Coin

Brian Campbell

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For some reason lately, when discussing politics, people seem to be determined to compare Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to United States (US) President, Donald Trump. This is something that I have been hesitant to do for a couple of reasons. One is that they are two completely different people, from different governments, in quite different countries. The second is that, the way Trudeau has been handling government affairs lately, sometimes the only positive thing I can say about him is that he is not President Trump. I don’t know that I am ready to give that little bit of consolation yet.

But it seems that every time I decide to comment on President Trump, I get Trudeau’s head thrown in my lap, so ready or not, I might as well deal with it.

To start with, they are very different types of politicians. In many ways, Trudeau is almost the anti-Trump. Trump wants to close down borders and stop immigration; Trudeau wants to open borders and increase immigration. Trump wants to cut taxes for big business; Trudeau wants to increase taxes on wealthy business people. Trump wants to impose restrictions and tariffs on US trading partners; Trudeau wants to make trade smoother and easier. And that’s just scratching the surface.

There is an obvious difference in the way they present themselves. Trudeau is well-educated and articulate and commands the type of vocabulary that you would expect from a well-educated person, yet he often tends to stumble and stutter, peppering his speeches with numerous ums and ahs. His confidence in front of a microphone is clearly lacking, and it is almost painful to watch. Not something you would expect from a former teacher, never mind the Prime Minister of a country.

Trump, on the other hand, handles a speech with all the confidence and style of an expert orator, rarely stumbling or hesitating, fully at home in front of an audience. It is the place where Trump is most comfortable. But his use of the English language leaves much to be desired. He speaks at an elementary school level and often mixes up words, or even makes up his own words.

The differences between Trudeau’s and Trump’s public speaking styles actually epitomizes their style of leadership. Trudeau’s biggest flaw tends to be one of hesitation and lack of follow through. He may start out with a plan of action, but when faced with an obstacle or disagreement, he hesitates and waffles on what to do about it. Not only does this delay getting things done, it makes us look indecisive to current and potential trading partners.

Trump, on the other hand, is very decisive. He gets an idea in his head and pushes forward with it, regardless of any facts or information he may get to the contrary. If, by some miracle, he is somehow convinced of the unfeasibility of his chosen course of action, he is very decisive about that as well.  He decides that he never said it in the first place, that it was somebody else’s stupid idea and that he stepped in and reversed the decision.

He is equally decisive when it comes to taking advice from the people he hired to help him do his job. If they disagree with something he is doing, he quickly fires them and replaces them with people who will back him up and agree with what he wants to do. Now, if some of you think that this sounds like what Trudeau just did with Jody Wilson-Raybould, the answer is not quite. But I’ll explain that a bit later.

Now I have the basics laid out, let’s get on to matters of policy. This time I will start with President Trump.  Trump is quick to point out how well the US is doing financially since he became President, and if that was the only measurement you went by, he would be absolutely right. On the stock market, the United States is looking very good. However, there are a couple of things to take into account. First, in spite of what Trump likes to say, the economy was already on the upswing by the end of Obama’s term in office, and it has continued to rise. The next thing is that Trump’s tax cuts on big business, as well as removing environmental and health and safety restrictions, has given them incentive to invest in their businesses.

Trump’s trade restrictions and tariffs have also helped in some areas. For instance, lumber, steel and aluminum are all doing well since Trump imposed his tariffs. On the other hand, the tariffs have hurt the construction, agriculture and automobile industries. In fact, a General Motors plant in Ohio has had a very high profile closure, costing a large number of jobs, and leaving some former employees unable to retrain for other work. The trade war with China is costing the US in lost agriculture revenue, as well. Fortunately for Trump, Prime Minister Trudeau has opted to take some of the pressure off the US and put it on Canada, but I’ll talk about that later.

But although both the economy and jobs are on the increase, something that Trump is quite proud of, that can be deceiving. The increase in employment is mostly in highly skilled, higher paid jobs, which, when combined with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, resulted in an increased gap between higher and lower socioeconomic groups. And, even though the economy is steadily increasing, so is the deficit, something Trump promised to eliminate. Instead of eliminating it, he has increased the US budget debt by more than four trillion dollars or 46%, the highest it has ever been. This is while the economy is on an upswing. What would happen if Trump had to deal with a recession?

Another thing to consider is Trump’s ability to get along and be respected by others (cue laughter), which is seriously damaged by his insistence on picking fights with the United States’ trading partners. Then there is his penchant for making outrageous comments, such as his father was born in Germany (he wasn’t, he was born in New York), that he and Kim Jong Un “fell in love” (What?), that he met with the President of the Virgin Islands (he is the President of the Virgin Islands) and that his golf course furthers US – UK relationship (it doesn’t, in fact they want him to pay legal expenses over a failed lawsuit to prevent wind turbines from being built.) Speaking of outrageous claims, Trump also recently said that wind turbines cause cancer. To be fair to President Trump, there is actually no evidence that they don’t, since no one before Trump ever considered it.

In fact, Trump is well known for inventing facts to suit his needs. To quote Winston Churchill, “He occasionally stumbles over the truth, but he quickly picks himself up and carries on as if nothing happened.” This quote by a former British Prime Minister is quite appropriate, considering that Britain created a giant balloon made to look like Trump as an angry baby to fly over London in honour of his visit. The balloon currently travelling the globe, showing how much respect the world has for him. He is the only world leader to have virtually the entire United Nations laugh at him on international television. Let’s face it, Trump’s shaky relationship with the entire rest of the world (with the possible exception of Russia) is going to have financial repercussions for the US eventually.

As opposed to Trump’s rising economy in the United States, Canada under Prime Minister (PM) Trudeau doesn’t look so good. Much of this can be blamed on our Prime Minister’s indecisiveness and desire to make everyone happy. One thing that Trudeau and Trump do have in common is the desire to be liked. But while Trump simply does and says whatever he wants, and just assumes everyone likes him, Trudeau actually changes plans and projects in order to be liked by those who oppose him, and as a result, makes those who supported him disappointed and angry. Sorry Mister Prime Minister, but in your job, being liked by everyone just isn’t going to happen. Rick Nelson said it best when he said, “You can’t please everyone.” But instead of trying to please himself, or even the people, for that matter, the Prime Minister’s job is to decide what he thinks is best for the country, then follow through with it. And that’s where our PM is sadly lacking. Follow through is not his strong suit.

That doesn’t mean that lack of follow through is Trudeau’s only flaw. There have been times when his idealism got the better of him. For example, when Trump decided to close the US border to refugees, Trudeau magnanimously decided that Canada could take their share, including refugees fleeing the war torn country of…The United States of America. Yes! Really! Now I’m not against bringing in refugees. After all, with the exception of First Nations people, we are a country made up of refugees and immigrants. It is also our responsibility as a Have country, to help the Have Not countries. But you can’t do this without a solid plan of action. There is a plan to bring in a certain number of immigrants each year, and a plan to help out refugees looking to escape persecution in their country. You can’t arbitrarily increase the numbers without consequences. No, Mr. Prime Minister, these things do not work themselves out.

I am going to go out on a limb here, and explain a situation that got Trudeau in a huge amount of trouble, and which really wasn’t his fault. That is, of course, the case of Omar Khadr. Please watch your language, I am trying to keep this rant G rated. I know you are angry, and I don’t want you to stop being angry. I just want to redirect your anger because, you see, in many ways I agree with you. Giving him money feels wrong, no matter how you look at it. The fact is, Omar Khadr was in Afghanistan in 2002, fighting on the side of the al-Qaeda, and was involved in a firefight that killed a US soldier. Did Khadr kill him? Don’t know, don’t care. He was there, good enough.

Khadr was wounded and taken prisoner to Guantanamo Bay. There he was subjected to a variety of interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation. Canadian officials came to Guantanamo Bay, where they should have simply checked up on his condition, but instead, they assisted the US military in interrogating him.

Sometime later, a Canadian lawyer succeeding in getting Khadr released and took him into his home while they took his case to the Supreme Court.   On May 23, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian officials had violated Khadr’s human rights (that means the human rights of all Canadians not just the nice ones) and that reparation had to be made. From there on in the only question was, how long will it take, how much will he get (he wanted $30 million), and how much will it cost to drag this out?

The Harper government spent millions dragging it out in court. All Trudeau did was get the inevitable out of the way while it was still possible to negotiate. Of course it sucks, but if you want to blame someone, don’t blame Trudeau, blame either the Canadian officials who overstepped their job at Guantanamo Bay, or better yet, the ambulance chaser who housed Khadr in his basement while he fought for him in the Supreme Court. Think he did it out of the goodness of his heart? Think again. He wanted to be Canada’s Johnnie Cochran. I have a pretty good idea of where a good portion of that ten million dollars went.

Of course, with this case hanging over his head, justified or not, plus the criticism over bringing in so many additional refugees, what does Trudeau do next? The boy genius decides that he should bring all Canadian born terrorists back to Canada and reform them. Heavy sigh… Could you please excuse me for just one moment?

Mr. Prime Minister, could you come here for a second? A little closer please. Now show me that winning profile. Perfect.  [SLAP!]  Thank you.

Okay, I feel better now. Sorry about that, but it was necessary. Now where was I?

First, I should mention that Trudeau, if not the whole Canadian government, should have learned something from this experience. But the fact that we became embroiled in the dispute between the US and the Chinese corporation, Huawei, tells me that we have learned nothing at all. We end up holding Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, and ruining our trade relationship with China, while the US comes out smelling like a rose. Again. The lesson here is that if we keep digging around the United States’ garden, we end up covered in their manure.

Okay, back to the subject of Trudeau’s indecisiveness. Moving right along to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline dispute. Here is another example of bad planning and poor follow through. We all understand that to survive as a country, we need to have an income. We also know that our US trading partner has become…well…difficult. Therefore we need other revenue streams. Alberta has oil and natural gas, but being in the middle of the country, we need a safe method of transporting them. A pipeline is agreed to be the safest possible method and much research and discussion has gone into where to build that pipeline. All i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, supposedly, before construction began. But when construction began, it is suddenly halted by a protest. A true leader would be on top of this, dealing with complaints and issues, showing the appropriate legal documents (you do have them, don’t you?) and move forward with business as usual. Not our boy. Mr. Decisive has no idea on how to deal with conflict and everything is stalled. Did he learn nothing from his father?

On that subject, I am getting very tired of people saying that our current PM is “just like his father.” Justin is nothing like his dad! I remember Pierre, and one thing you cannot accuse him of is indecisiveness. When he made a decision, it was final. Pierre Trudeau would have eaten Donald Trump for breakfast, with a side of Mike Pence as dessert. Let’s use SNC Lavalin as an example. First, Pierre would never have let it get as far as it has, because he would have anticipated the problem in advance and dealt with it, with a solid plan of action, not by sending lackeys to intimidate the Attorney General. But, just for a moment, let’s assume that it escaped his notice and got into the public eye. The first press conference would have gone something like this.

“I understand you have questions regarding our relationship with the corporation SNC Lavalin. I am here to tell you that, yes, we have made efforts to absolve the company from prosecution. Some of you may not agree with our decision, but we did it to preserve 9,000 Canadian jobs, which, as a government, is our number one priority. If some of you bleeding hearts don’t agree, all I can say is go ahead and bleed. This government has a duty to preserve Canadian jobs and we have no time for weak kneed people who want to complain about our actions. Oh, and by the way, Ms Wilson-Raybould, you’re fired. Please clean out your desk immediately. Any further questions?”

And that’s how Trudeau, the senior, would have handled it. However, as I also said, it would likely have never got that far, because Pierre would have been proactive and dealt with the problem before it became a public scandal.  Now, there are some who suggest that Pierre was not Justin’s father, some who even suggest that it may have been Fidel Castro. Ridiculous! But just for fun, let’s go with that, because Castro would have had his own way of handling SNC Lavalin. Something like this, I believe.

“Okay everyone, first order of business is a concern by a Ms Wilson-Raybould over the way this government has chosen to handle the SNC Lavalin situation. Mr. Guevara, could you please take Ms Wilson-Raybould behind the building and discuss the finer points of government with her? Thank you. Now are there any other concerns over the way I run my government? None? Okay, next order of business.”

No, our Justin is certainly not Castro’s son. But unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to take after Pierre either. As mentioned earlier, the situation with SNC Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould is not the same as Trump firing people who disagree with him, because Trump doesn’t hesitate. He usually dumps people at the first sign of disagreement, and you often find out why he did it afterwards. Trudeau’s issue is entirely one of hesitation. SNC Lavalin, much like Omar Khadr, was something Trudeau inherited.  He knew in advance this was something that needed to be dealt with, so he should have brought his team together and come up with a solid plan, a plan that all his team was on board with, on how to deal with it.

In case you are unaware, left alone, the SNC Lavalin investigation is a no-win situation for any standing government. SNC Lavalin is an international construction company with many branches around the world. They also hold a number of Canadian government contracts, and are bidding on more. If convicted of the crimes they are accused, the heads of the corporation will not really suffer, they will simply not be allowed to bid or work on Canadian government contracts. At that point, all they do is pack up their operation here in Canada and move elsewhere. I’m sure Trump will welcome them with open arms. The real losers are the Canadian workers. How would that look to the voting public?

As I said, a difficult problem that requires careful planning. But instead of making a plan, our PM tried to make the problem quietly go away, and it blew up in his face. I could go on, but this has been the story of Trudeau’s time in office, a story of hesitating, avoiding, delaying, then going in half-cocked, without a solid plan. But, in spite of that, Canadian unemployment is at its lowest in decades and the economy is growing, although much lower than hoped. So, by some miracle, Trudeau seems to have done a few things right. Now if he could just start making some decisions.

But, when it comes down to it, one thing both Trudeau and Trump have in common, is that they are both symptoms of a much larger problem. Trump does obviously what every political party, both in Canada and the United States, usually does subtly. That is to completely undo what the previous government did before, simply because the other guy did it.

In my opinion, quite often, both (in Canada, all three) parties have a piece of the puzzle needed to get their respective countries in order. Unfortunately, they are so busy dismantling whatever their opposition does, they don’t even consider that some of their opposition’s ideas may actually be beneficial.

Until we get over all the party infighting and start thinking about what the country and the people really need, I predict we are going to see a lot more Trumps and Trudeaus, and, dare I say, even worse. Think about it.