Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with The Canadian Press during a year end interview in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday December 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with The Canadian Press during a year end interview in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday December 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

VIDEO: Trudeau to be lower profile, more business-like in second mandate

While he does not plan to stop talking about values entirely, Trudeau wants to focus on ‘concrete things’

Justin Trudeau says he’s taking a lower-profile, more businesslike approach to being prime minister, having concluded that the focus on him and his lofty talk of values during his first mandate obscured his government’s concrete achievements on bread-and-butter issues.

Trudeau’s new approach is a big departure for a leader who vaulted the Liberal party from its apparent deathbed into government in 2015, largely on the strength of his celebrity status and “sunny ways” appeal.

It’s likely a tacit admission he is no longer the unalloyed asset for the Liberals he once was, his image tarnished by ethical lapses, misadventures on the world stage and the embarrassing revelation during this fall’s federal election campaign that he had repeatedly donned blackface in his younger days.

Canadians ultimately re-elected the Liberals but handed them a minority government that will have to work with opposition parties in order to survive.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said the message he takes from the election is that Canadians “agree with the general direction” his government is taking but want him to take a “more respectful and collaborative” approach.

He’s also concluded the focus on him meant Canadians didn’t hear enough about his government’s accomplishments.

“Even though we did a lot of really big things, it was often hard to get that message out there,” Trudeau said.

“The place that the visuals or the role that I took on in leading this government sometimes interfered with our ability to actually talk about the really substantive things we were able to get done,” and that he thinks Canadians want the Liberals to show them more clearly what they are doing for them.

Asked if the visuals he was referring to were the photos of him in blackface or the elaborate clothing he wore during the India trip, Trudeau said there are “all sorts of different aspects to it,” but he cast the problem more broadly.

“I think a lot of the time, politics has become very leader-centric in terms of the visuals,” he said. “This has been the case in Canada for a long time, where people, yes, vote to a certain extent on their local MP but the leader of the political party takes up an awful lot of space.”

Throughout his first mandate, there was private grumbling among some Liberal MPs who felt Trudeau spent too much time talking about his high-minded pursuit of things like diversity, inclusion and gender equality — derided as “virtue signalling” by his critics — and not enough on pocketbook issues.

Trudeau, it seems, now agrees with them.

“I think the values and the themes that I was putting forward were very strong and very compelling but when you’re talking about values and themes at a high level, you’re not necessarily talking directly about, well, this community centre we just put specific money into building, or this program that helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians be lifted out of poverty,” he said.

While he does not plan to stop talking about values entirely, Trudeau said he wants to make sure they are talking more about the “concrete things” his government is doing to “make life better for Canadians.”

He also wants to share the spotlight with the ”extraordinary team of ministers who weren’t always given the attention or visibility that we would all have benefited from.”

Refocusing on the team and on “tangible deliverables” is a way to counter populism, he added, ”where people no longer feel that their institutions or their government are actually there to deliver for them.”

During the campaign, Trudeau said his biggest regret was that he’d become a polarizing figure. He got a graphic demonstration of that on election night, when voters shut out the Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the oil-producing provinces most impacted by Trudeau’s climate change and environmental policies.

In the interview, Trudeau said he believes that polarization is caused by anxiety over the transformation of the global economy due to climate change and advances in artificial intelligence and technology. He’s become a lightning rod for some of that anxiety, he posited, because he’s been “unabashed” in arguing that Canada needs to accept the transformation and invest in things like science to get in front of it and help shape it.

“I think I have become, in some ways because I am very much focused on positioning Canada for the long term, an easy element for people who say, ‘No, no, no, we can just keep the way we’ve been for a little while longer and we don’t need to disrupt everything yet and we can hunker down and hope that all this will blow over,’” he said.

“For people for whom the future is fraught with anxiety, it becomes easy to sort of point to me and say I’m trying to accelerate things rather than trying to make sure that we are going to be successful over the coming century and not just over the coming couple of years.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

John Rustad, MLA Nechako Lakes. (Submitted photo)
Nechako Lakes MLA questions vaccine supply shift

John Rustad wonders why elderly aren’t being vaccinated while younger people are

Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief Aileen Prince provides an overview of past and future projects in a Facebook video Friday, Jan. 22. (Nak’azdli Whut’en Facebook image)
Anxiety and grief, Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief looks beyond COVID-19

“One day it will be over,” says Aileen Prince

Operating Room nurse Tammy Solecki, Clinical Practice Leader Joanne George, and Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Van Zyl, stand alongside new equipment G.R. Baker’s shoulder surgery extension. (Submitted photo)
New shoulder surgery program at G.R. Baker Hospital in Quesnel already getting rave reviews

The $200,000 program could support nearly 100 surgeries a year at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read