In The Media

A growing number of Liberals are coming out of the woodwork to criticize Trudeau

by Anthony Furey (feat. Jocelyn Coulon)

London Free Press
April 12, 2018

Looked at from afar, it seemed that the world was Justin Trudeau’s oyster. Loved by the selfie-seeking public. The international media gushing over him. The voters handing him a whopping majority.

(And, to be clear, we’re talking about before “peoplekind” and the India fiasco. The time before the fall.)

Given all this, it’s only logical to assume that up close, within the family, an even stronger love then emanated from Liberal circles towards Trudeau, right? Perhaps not.

A growing chorus of Liberals are coming out of the woodwork, both on and off the record, to engage in criticism of Canada’ prime minister.

The latest is prominent Quebec journalist and political adviser Jocelyn Coulon. A long-standing close confidante of Stephane Dion’s, Coulon worked for Dion during his tenure as Trudeau’s first foreign affairs minister.

He’s now written a book about that experience with a focus on Trudeau’s foreign policy approach (which is Coulon’s journalistic beat). You don’t need to look far to find damning quotes. The title and cover image say it all.

“Un Selfie Avec Justin Trudeau” is the title of the book that’s taking French Canada by storm. And, yes, “selfie” in French means the same thing in English. This is no complimentary work.

The picture? A cartoon of a goofy Trudeau posing for one of his signature selfies. The caricature draws Trudeau with an eagerness and manic energy, showing him desperate to look great for the cameras.

“Perhaps the PM is not comfortable with foreign affairs,” Coulon told me Thursday morning. “Up until he became the leader of the party in 2013 he had not had a great interest in foreign affairs.”

An advisory committee was set up in the lead-up to the 2015 election, which Coulon sat on. The plan was to bring Trudeau up to speed on what was happening around the world. But in Coulon’s estimation, the PM has fallen short.

“I think the world was enthralled by Trudeau at the beginning,” notes Coulon. But that’s changed. “If you look around, you start wondering: where is Canada on the international scene?”

The book has flown off the shelves in Quebec, where it’s now in its third printing and a best-seller online. It’s not yet available in English, but the author is hopeful it will soon be translated.

It’s interesting that this stinging rebuke comes from someone who until recently was a prominent Liberal. (Although it should be noted that Coulon has a history with the PM. Trudeau wanted the Liberal nomination in 2007 in the riding of Outremont, but Dion who was leader at the time instead sided with Coulon, who went on to lose to Tom Mulcair.)

He’s not the first. Just this year, former Liberal finance minister John Manley, in his capacity as CEO of the Business Council of Canada, called the budget “disappointingly thin.” And former longstanding Liberal MP Dan McTeague, currently a petroleum sector analyst, has applauded Andrew Scheer for pledging to scrap the carbon tax.

These are just three speaking out publicly. Many more Liberal insiders who don’t want to go on the record speak on background with reporters and columnists, such as yours truly. And while a little bit of this is to be expected no matter who is PM, this feels different.

When Conservative MPs like Michael Chong and Brent Rathgeber went up against their own government during the Harper years, the murmurs from the inside generally weren’t that these guys were secretly adored as heroes. They were offside from consensus.

But when it comes to Trudeau, most Liberals you speak to in confidence will nod in agreement with critics from within the Liberal family.

It all seems to come down to respect. As one senior Liberal recently described it to me, the infighting during the Chretien-Martin era was about power. No one ever doubted the credentials of either man. That’s not the case with today’s grumblings. There’s a serious respect issue brewing, one that’s no doubt getting worse after the India mess.

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