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

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

The City Park dock in Kelowna was underwater due to rising Okanagan Lake flooding in 2017. (OBWB photo)
Okanagan facing extreme flooding risk

Water board calls for updated Okanagan Lake level management

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read