As the Canadian election draws near, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has undergone criticism as racist images unsurfaced.
On Oct. 21, 2019, Canada will vote on its next prime minister, and what would have been an easy Trudeau win two years ago is now a fiercely competitive race in light of recent scandals involving Trudeau. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd on Nov. 4, 2015, and he is eligible for reelection. Among an otherwise highly approved term, two recent controversies might impact his chance to remain Canada’s prime minister.
Trudeau succeeded Justin Harper as Prime Minister in 2015, running on a platform of infrastructure investment, environmentalism and a revision of Canadian primary and secondary education.
Canada’s method for electing prime minister is similar to how the U.S. elects a president, but with a few key differences. Similar to the Electoral College used in the U.S., Canada does not directly elect their prime ministers. Instead, the prime minister election is tied to the election of members of parliament; every four years, each electoral district elects a representative Member of Parliament, or MP, all of whom must be registered with a party.
The party which garners the most representatives has its leader become the prime minister and the second largest becomes the ‘official’ opposition party. In this sense, Canada technically does not directly elect its prime minister; instead, the nation elects the party they want to see in power.
In terms of foreign policy, Trudeau has attempted free trade negotiations with China and attempted to promote gender equality, environmental protection and labor standards within China; this notion was flatly rejected by Chinese leadership. Canada’s relationship with the U.S. has somewhat weakened as the U.S. government has sought to reduce dependence on globalization in recent years. Trudeau did, however, become the first Canadian Prime Minister visit to the White House in 19 years.
In terms of domestic policy during his term, Trudeau lowered taxes on the middle class while raising them on the upper class, legalized recreational cannabis, imposed a carbon emission tax and pushed for a trans-mountain oil pipeline (which, if built, would transport oil from refineries in Alberta to British Columbia).
He has, however, had two major domestic controversies — the SNC-Lavalin Affair and a more recent black and brownface scandal.
The former, which arose in February 2019 after Trudeau demoted one of his cabinet members for refusing to help cover up bribery charges against major Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin, saw a revival of interest in August 2019 after Canada’s federal ethics commissioner determined that he had unduly influenced his cabinet member.
The brownface scandal, which emerged in September 2019, is centered upon multiple photos from 2001 which depict Trudeau wearing brownface to a party at the private school where he taught at the time. He apologized for this incident, stating that he “did not believe it was racist at the time.”
Shortly after, another incident of blackface surfaced. This time, the photo was of Trudeau wearing an afro wig and singing “The Banana Boat Song (Day O)” by Harry Belafonte in a phony Jamaican accent at a high school talent show.
After this incident resurfaced, Trudeau stated that he did not know how many times he had worn blackface. Almost immediately after this response, video footage of Trudeau in blackface resurfaced. This footage saw the return of Trudeau’s afro wig, but it has been confirmed by the Liberal Party to be a separate incident which took place some time in the 1990s.
Trudeau stated that he did not remember any of these incidents and admitted that “there could be more.” After four years of advocating racial and ethnic acceptance, these incidents have many members of Trudeau’s own party questioning his commitment to these ideals.
Trudeau has generally maintained relatively high approval ratings (around 65 percent in most polls), excepting a steep decrease to about 33 percent approval after the SNC-Lavalin Affair and more recent brownface scandal came to light.
Only time will tell whether Trudeau will recover from his recent scandals in time to be re-elected.