Tuesday 5 November 2013

Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau: separated at birth?

Canada’s political Gong Show is ramping up the ratings, with Toronto mayor Rob Ford admitting to crack cocaine use on the same day that the Senate voted to suspend Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau.

Meanwhile the lower-key comedy – consistent and rock-solid in its insistence on vacuous platitudes – known as Justin Trudeau continues to deliver numbing bromides on the “middle class”, all without delivering a single idea on how to assist this aggrieved constituency.

For Ford, the target audience is the “taxpayer”. As mayor, he does not feel the need to represent children or those who contribute modestly to the public coffers. There is little evidence that Ford has done such a bang up job as a fiscal conservative. No matter, Ford Nation stands behind him, just as the new wave of Trudeaumania embraces the shallow, deeply cynical approach to politics presented by young Justin.

Both Ford and Trudeau are representatives of that contradictory breed often so successful in politics: the populist “everyman” who is in fact a product of extreme privilege, and who thinks that power is owed him. Rob Ford is not qualified to be the mayor of Toronto. He is, after all, a lying, abusive, hard-drinking drug user and bully. And Justin Trudeau is not qualified to be Prime Minister of Canada, either. He is, after all, well...not much of anything.

For fiscal conservatives there are other choices among Toronto’s politicians, most notably Karen Stintz. And for federal voters there are other leaders, such as Thomas Mulcair, who represents a liberal democratic ideology not that much different from the Liberal Party of the 1970s.

But to the die-hard believers none of that really matters. To them, Rob Ford is a man of the people. In much the same way, Justin Trudeau is seen as fresh and new, despite the obvious fact that his only credential is being his father’s son.

Both Ford and Trudeau are spoiled elites who scorn the hard work required of a governing politician. By his own admittance, Trudeau dislikes parliament and prefers glad-handing his admirers. Ford frequently arrives late for work, is ignorant of much of what goes on at city hall, and spends a disproportionate amount of time either intoxicated or dealing with the consequences of being intoxicated.

These individuals may truly believe they are serious in their desire to hold the public’s trust. Fair enough. But, clearly, neither of them are deserving of it. They may not be identical twins, but they could pass as a fraternal pair on their own strange voyages, riding waves of noxious entitlement. 

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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