Justin Trudeau has taken up the family business.
While Canada has had strong political families acting as premiers and prime ministers, we have yet to have relatives lead the country.
It’s not a shock that Justin Trudeau is prime minister elect of Canada. The seed was planted in the Canadian public’s conscience on October 3, 2000 when we watched him eulogize his father, former prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
Much will be written on the family business that Trudeau now inherits as he leads Canada in government, but I want to look back on what it means to follow in your father’s footsteps. The words Justin has said about his dad, the lessons Pierre taught his son, and to see if there is inspiration for fathers.
As the son of a prime minister, Trudeau was careful, even as a busy MP, to make family priority. He knows how encompassing public service can be.
When he took the stage for his acceptance speech after the results had been counted, he took time to address his family first.
As for taking up the business, it wasn’t always in the cards for Justin, and wasn’t necessarily a wish for him from his father, as he revealed in his memoir last year.
Also in his memoir, Justin Trudeau recalled a moment when he was teaching in Vancouver and was having lunch with his father. He was used to people rushing up and asking “Mr Trudeau!!” for an autograph or a photo. This time it was someone speaking to him, not his father, and Pierre beamed.
“After many years of receiving recognition and gratitude for so much that he had done, he hardly needed one more gesture of acknowledgement from a young Canadian,” Justin wrote. “Instead, he had taken fatherly pride in seeing his son maintaining our family’s legacy of service to Canada, this time as a teacher of young people. “
From Justin’s eulogy, we learn of the time 6 yr old Justin followed dad to Alert in Canada’s Arctic when he spied a local hard at work.
But it’s the lesson that Pierre handed his young son when he followed him to work one day that stands out the most to me. It stands out because of the way this campaign was handled. Trudeau pledged to ‘not go negative’ when he became leader, and he kept that promise. He didn’t shy away from attacking the record of his counterparts, but he never attacked the man.
Harper tossed ‘just not ready’ and ‘nice hair’ into the Canadian lexicon while Mulcair attacked the family name (on the anniversary of the elder Trudeau’s death no less). Justin, through it all, championed messages of hope and change. It was a lesson he learned when he was just 8 and was taken by his dad to go and meet Joe Clark.
As I guess it is for most kids, in Grade 3, it was always a real treat to visit my dad at work.
As on previous visits this particular occasion included a lunch at the parliamentary restaurant which always seemed to be terribly important and full of serious people that I didn’t recognize.
But at eight, I was becoming politically aware. And I recognized one whom I knew to be one of my father’s chief rivals. Thinking of pleasing my father, I told a joke about him – a generic, silly little grade school thing.
My father looked at me sternly with that look I would learn to know so well, and said: ‘Justin, Never attack the individual. We can be in total disagreement with someone without denigrating them as a consequence.’
Saying that, he stood up and took me by the hand and brought me over to introduce me to this man. He was a nice man who was eating there with his daughter, a nice-looking blonde girl a little younger than I was.
He spoke to me in a friendly manner for a bit and it was at that point that I understood that having opinions that are different from those of another does not preclude one being deserving of respect as an individual.
This simple tolerance and (recognition of) the real and profound dimensions of each human being, regardless of beliefs, origins, or values – that’s what he expected of his children and that’s what he expected of our country.
My oldest son is 8, and in Grade 3. Both of my boys are now starting to pay attention to the political landscape and are aware of who Justin is, who his dad was, and what it means to be prime minister of Canada.
The day before the election, I brought Charlie to a rally where Justin would pump up the crowds for the finale. It was a brief moment where we had a front row seat on history, but when the results came in, Charlie was engaged and interested and cheering for Justin just as he would the Calgary Flames.
I hope I can be as good a teacher as Pierre was a father, guiding his sons with relevant lessons, instilling them with ambition and confidence, and sharing with them the respect for all.
In the end, the elder Trudeau gave his sons the tools, but it was up to them to shape their own future with them.