Don Martin: On a national day of Indigenous reflection, the prime minister sees only his own
OTTAWA -- The way a government pilot tells it, there’s always a complication when Justin Trudeau is flying to Tofino aboard the government Challenger jet.
His surfboard is a very difficult fit into a tight luggage compartment already crammed with the family’s special food supply, the pilot confided.
But the prime minister was carrying far heavier and more awkward political baggage when he took off for Tofino to surf on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, leaving behind his communications office to release a misleading itinerary showing him remaining in Ottawa.
On a day dedicated to Indigenous reflection, Justin Trudeau showed he was only infatuated with his own.
Consider the stark post-election contrast from just six years ago.
Trudeau’s first public event in 2015 was to joyfully welcome the first wave of Syrians to Canada, producing priceless optics seen around the world as the signal of a new beginning by Canada’s fresh-faced prime minister.
His first big headline post-election 2021? Going through the motions of acknowledging the profound holiday HE created the day BEFORE it happened, the better to slip out of town because the surf was up.
You could not have created a loftier aura of upper-crust entitlement if Trudeau had jumped on a pony for a polo match before heading off with the hounds for a little fox hunting.
Such a jaw-dropping vacuum of common political sense at the top of this government’s sprawling-staff pyramid can only be caused by one of three things.
Either his advisers have all come down with a third-term case of scheduling blindness and communications incompetence.
Or the prime minister was warned about the brutal optics of flying directly over residential school burial sites to reach some prime surfing beaches – and opted to ignore them anyway.
Or his staff are too scared to red flag even the most jarring oversight on a super-sensitive file that already requires every word in every statement to be vetted by a dozen bureaucrats.
None of the above bodes well for a prime minister setting the stage for his third and what is becoming an increasingly obvious final term in office.
Now, to be fair, the Tofino attraction is understandable. The weather forecast for the western coast of Vancouver Island today is fair with enough wind to kick up some nice waves.
If Trudeau could squeeze a few surfboards into the jet for the kids, his family would enjoy a well-deserved break following an emotionally-difficult campaign which endured nutbar protests and gravel-throwing idiots.
But picking this one day to start a vacation was the political version of a wipeout on a tidal wave, a churning, crashing, bottom-raking tumble that should shake him and shame him far longer than one 24-hour news cycle.
After all, it was challenging enough to motivate people out there in the real world to mark a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as anything more than another federal holiday most Canadians didn’t get.
To many Canadians, it seemed like something to shrug off – just like their prime minister. What’s worse, though, is that Trudeau doesn’t go anywhere that’s not planned weeks in advance by an army of staff paid to do his bidding.
In other words, it was a carefully crafted pre-meditated snub.
If we weren’t in the age of flight-tracking apps, where his Challenger jet is flagged with the CanForce One call sign when he’s aboard, Trudeau could’ve and probably would’ve slipped into Tofino without being detected.
And so, we’re back to more of Trudeau’s blurt of forced apologies, motivated mostly by retroactive regret at being caught.
But the truth is that Justin Trudeau’s behaviour on what should have been a solemn day of healing cannot be reconciled with conduct becoming of Canada’s prime minister.
That’s the bottom line.