“Because it’s 2015”
When a reporter asked the new Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Pierre James Trudeau, why he had decided to form a gender-equal cabinet, he replied, under the tone of evidence, “Because it’s 2015”. Those words represent very well the philosophy of a man who campaigned under the slogan “Real Change”. Justin, as everyone simply calls him, besides his policies, exudes a youthful aura, an impression of avant-gardism. Like his mythical father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who led Canada from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1984, Justin conveys the charisma of a cool superstar. Rumor has it that his father had once had an affair with Barbra Streisand. His mother, the stunning Margaret Sinclair, had been caught partying with the Rolling Stones the night Pierre Trudeau lost his majority government in the 1979 election.
However, at the same time, Justin, at the opposite of his father, has always demonstrated a natural proximity with people, sometimes at his own expense, as the media, during his first years in politics, had portrayed him as “not as bright as his father, but as sensitive (and good-looking) as his mother”. Today, after the longest campaign in modern Canadian history (I know, 78 days is still ridiculously short in American standards!), the one who was once viewed as shallow prove that he was a fighter who could do his homework. Respect, man.
While, during the campaign, other leaders were afraid of scaring off voters with their economic policies, Justin riskily showed that he trusted the Canadian people by declaring that he would run modest deficits for three years to invest in infrastructure instead of promising costly policies on one side and claiming to balance the budget on the other side. This bold statement paid off: this is when the Liberal Party, which had begun the campaign in third position in the polls, started the uninterrupted rise that would result in an unexpected and astonishing majority government of 184 seats, after winning just 34 seats in the last parliamentary elections in 2011.
In a political atmosphere where successful negative ads after negative ads had been creating a race to the bottom towards cynicism for far too long, Justin stood out from the crowd despite professional political advice against it, by betting on a consistently positive campaign. It is not a coincidence that this election generated the highest voter turnout in Canada since 1993, with early numbers suggesting that millennials and first-time voters played a role in the outcome of this campaign.
And while some boomers are still implying that deciding to put forward diversity in politics could pose a threat to competence, last week, Justin named the most diverse government in Canada’s history. In a country where aboriginal people still atrociously struggle to achieve the same life standards as other Canadians, he named Jody Wilson-Raybould, an aboriginal woman, justice minister and attorney general, the first aboriginal person to hold this position. While former Prime Minister Stephen Harper used religious symbols and the wearing of the niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies as a wedge issue to frighten the electorate, Justin offered the defense ministry to a Sikh man, Harjit Sajjan. And in a privileged world where we tend to forget that diversity is a matter that goes beyond race and gender, he appointed Carla Qualtrough, a legally blind paralympian and lawyer, minister of sport and people with disabilities.
Yes, Justin’s stubborn idealism inspired a generation and drove it to the ballots in masses. Yet, beyond that, he showed that our generation’s idea of “executive presence” has evolved. The statesman of the generation X shows dignity and strength in moments of solemnity, but can reveal that he cries without everyone questioning his manhood. The leader who grew up in the 1980s has to take tough decisions on a daily basis, but also plays with his small children, cooks, and takes selfies.
At 43, Justin is the epitome of this generation. This year, for Halloween, he dressed up as Han Solo and tricked or treated with his wife and kids near the official residence of the Prime Minister. Justin practices yoga with his wife Sophie Grégoire, openly claims to be a feminist, is tattooed and boxes for charity. Through Justin, the leader of the generation X embodies the relieving fact that a statesman can be, after all, a man. That a statesman can be, after all, a human being. #nofilter
Of course, this is just the beginning and this man still has everything to prove to the world. However, so far, from his personality to the composition of his cabinet, beyond gender equality, everything about Justin’s leadership roars “Because it’s 2015”.
Madwa-Nika Cadet (MPP ’17) is a member of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service student advisory board.
Originally published at medium.com on November 10, 2015.