Dear Justin Trudeau,
Congratulations on sweeping the country. I can’t deny that it was pretty exciting to witness something new, and rather surprising, happening on Monday night.
It’s hard to describe what a relief it is to be rid of Stephen Harper’s government, but I think you already get it. You know – and successfully campaigned on the fact – that large numbers of Canadians (even certain Conservatives) have felt demoralized, betrayed, beleaguered, and in some cases personally attacked by Harper’s actions over the last ten years. You say we are tired of cynicism and negativity, and speaking for myself, I can say you’re right. I am. I’m also tired of alienation, corruption, disdain, underhandedness, suppression, discrimination, degradation, secrecy, and embarrassment.
The problem is, we’ve gotten so used to it all. You can see it in the post-election journalism, as well as social media: even now, with Harper gone, many Canadians seem unable to comment with true optimism. There’s this knee-jerk tone of condescension in the discussions of your “hopey-changey” promises – people would rather speak sardonically from a place of disillusionment than be so gullible as to believe the promises of a politician.
I do not vote automatically for a particular party. I do my best to know what the platforms are and what the leaders have to say, looking for progressive and holistic ideas, knowing that party positions on issues can change with the times.
During the last few months, I received campaign emails from Liberal, NDP, and Green parties, and I’ll be honest: your team was the one asking for the most input. Over and over, you said, “Tell me what matters to you.” You made it very easy for voters to express their wishes and needs.
And ultimately, you became the rallying point for the anti-Harper movement. I think it was relatively easy for people to rally around you, for many reasons. I remember talking with my husband about you when you first became leader of the party, and how you had the je ne sais quoi of the Trudeau factor. Although you have not banked on your father’s legacy, there is something kinda epic about electing the son of one of the most famous and controversial Prime Ministers – and Canadians – in history. (As much as we don’t want to be caught getting excited here, people do love a dash of the epic in life.)
Also – and I mean this positively – you’re brand-new. Despite the implications of your name, you are young enough to have been legitimately uninvolved in the scandals that plagued the last Liberal government when it went down.
I also think Harper did the opposite of what he intended when he kept saying, “He’s just not ready.” Young people heard that patronizing tone, no doubt familiar to them, said, “Too young? HA,” and went out to vote in record numbers. I can’t deny that you have a lot of relatable traits for a voter like me, and your youth is one of them.
Justin, here’s the thing. I like a great many of the things you’ve said.
I like the way you talk about investing in clean energy, and finally getting us on the international bandwagon regarding climate change.
I like the respect and compassion you use when speaking to and about all Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, franco-Canadians, Muslims, women, low-income families, new Canadians, and many others who have been maligned and/or marginalized for the last decade – or longer.
I like that you seem determined to prioritize communication, cooperation, and transparency for and between all levels of government.
I like that you realize there are many Canadians who care about more than budgets and taxes. (Seriously, I tried listening to Harper’s concession speech, and I couldn’t even finish; I’m so damn sick of hearing him talk about money, to the exclusion of everything that makes Canada what it is.)
I like what you have to say about the importance and power of Canada’s arts community.
I like your support toward CBC/Radio-Canada.
I really, really like that you promise electoral reform. Wouldn’t it be great if you were the Prime Minister who finally made every vote actually count?
But I do also worry. Your task, when I look at it, seems insurmountable. It’s well-known that you can’t please everyone, but politicians have fallen down trying in the past. Your goals in particular, given the mess you’ve inherited, sound very lofty. It’s hard to move past years of citizens and sectors being pitted against each other.
And I worry a bit about your status. Obviously, you know that many Liberal votes came from the anti-Harper camp, meaning that people are counting on you to be Not Harper. When I think about Bill C-51, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the TPP, and Big Oil lobbying, it makes me worry that you might be A Little Bit Harper. And you have a majority, so if you were at all Harperish, you could run with it. (And then all the people who say “Liberals are just Conservatives in disguise” would have a valid point.)
See? I’m doing it too. A habit of jadedness. I hope I’m wrong about all of that. You did say REAL CHANGE. Canadians have agreed with your mandate, and they’ve sent you in to fix things.
After such a long slog, I just want to be excited and hopeful about Canada. I want to be proud of my country, and inspired by its leader. Therefore, I have decided to believe you. I hereby believe that you really have been, and will be, listening to Canadians, that you sincerely want to make the changes you say, and that your earnest talk of hope and togetherness and caring and diversity and beauty and progress is for real.
Because in all honesty… I love that stuff. Those are the words and ideas that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that make me teary-eyed when I see them in action, especially in my children and students. If this is naïveté, I’m going to embrace it. Pessimism never did get much done. Underneath the disenfranchisement, I am an optimist, and I know Canada is special. It’s an amazing place filled with great people who do great and amazing things. You can enable us to do more of those things. We can be a thrilling example of a wide, sprawling nation, characterized by multiplicity at every level, that not only functions peacefully but leads.
Good luck, Justin. It won’t be easy, and we can’t expect sweeping political changes to go smoothly. Canada isn’t perfect, but it’s awesome. As you say: better is always possible.
5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau”
Thank you, Diana! This says eloquently what many, many Canadians would say if they had the forum. I feel exactly the same — if it all comes true then we’ll have a much better country, but so many forces exist to keep it from coming true. But if we all BELIEVE, and hold our elected leader to his promises, then, as Justin himself said to the rest of the world, “We’re back!”
I think there are a lot of people willing to help Mr. Trudeau be accountable, in case he ever forgets… 🙂
I also think Harper and his cabinet’s and pundits constant use of “Justin” instead of “Mr. Trudeau”, as a form of disrespect and to indicate youth had the opposite effect. It endeared him to us even more and it’s funny how everyone refers to and addresses him as “Justin”. He’s got a lot on his plate and a big mess to sort, but also a phenomenal team. I suspect 2 terms will set us on a much better path but we have to realize that the oil sands aren’t going to just be shut down, etc. There will be disappointments. But nothing, I truly hope, will ever compare to the Harper nightmare.
Andrea, I agree completely. He has worked hard to meet and speak with Canadians and I think it shows – people took to calling him Justin right away, it seems. And you’re right, it’s good to keep in mind that he and his team can’t magically right all the wrongs, especially not immediately… But I’m looking forward to seeing what positive effect they can have. I think it’s started already, with hopefulness.