How would the Canadian election have turned out if the terrorist attacks in Paris had happened before the vote? My dentist put that question to me today when, fortunately, he had so many implements in my mouth that speech was impossible. I say “fortunately” because I could not have mustered a response even if my mouth was available. By the time his work was done, my lips were frozen and the moment had passed.
I’ve been wrestling with the question ever since. Watching the televised clip of Justin Trudeau at the G20 summit in Turkey was like looking at a man who’d been gobsmacked. As he reiterated his pledge to bring home Canada’s CF-18s Trudeau seemed somehow smaller than when last I saw him. His speech was hesitant, his composure deflated. Imagine how he must have felt in the midst of the other world leaders. Not just the new boy, but the naive boy, the only one pulling out when the rest were pulling together in common cause.
Was Trudeau right to say that was my pledge, that’s what people voted for? Or should he have followed another pronouncement of John Maynard Keynes, the economist who urged the kind of deficit financing Trudeau embraced to gain his victory? After all, in addition to that famous economic theory, Keynes also said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
In this case, Trudeau was damned either way. He could not so quickly dump a promise even if keeping it was grievously wrong. When his father, Pierre, defeated Joe Clark and won back the office he’d lost only nine months earlier, he went on stage to the applause of the Chateau Laurier crowd and said with a smile, “Well, welcome to the 1980s.”
Well, welcome to the real world. The honeymoon is over after less than a month of sunny days.