Last week, we spoke with SUNY Plattsburgh’s Director of Canadian Studies about the Canadian national elections, which had just launched. A few days later, Time published exclusive pictures of current Liberal leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in “brown-face” at a 2001 party at a private school where he was then teaching. WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley followed up with Dr. Christopher Kirkey about the revelations.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for wearing blackface. “This is something that obviously I deeply regret and I never should have done.”
So far three pictures or videos of Trudeau in blackface have emerged. But there hasn’t been a large shift in the polls as a result. Canada’s Angus Reid Institute found while Trudeau support diminished slightly, the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, did not gain support. CBC polling shows the Conservatives leading Liberals by only 1.8 percent. SUNY Plattsburgh Director of Canadian Studies Dr. Christopher Kirkey believes the lack of movement may be because the Liberal Party was vulnerable even before Trudeau’s blackface revelations. “The progressive agenda that the Liberal Party had pushed was decidedly left of center and I think that was rubbing a lot of Canadians in parts of the country and particularly in rural ridings the wrong way. And then you bring on top of that these revelations on the part of the Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party I think that only further exacerbates the concerns the Liberal Party has. They’ve tried very hard over the last few days to try to get back on message. They’ve announced big a tax cut for the middle class of Canada. They’ve talked about lowering pharmaceutical drug prices for average Canadians. They’re trying to re-establish the focus of the campaign to be more policy oriented but they’re struggling right now because invariably Mr. Trudeau still hasn’t addressed whether these three incidents of brownface or blackface are the only incidents”
Bradley: “What about the other party leaders, are they keeping this at arm’s length?”
Kirkey: “You know privately I think both party leaders, Jagmeet Singh from the NDP and Andrew Scheer the Conservatives, they’re not happy necessarily with the tone and the circumstances of what Mr. Trudeau did but they’re happy to have anything that will elevate their leadership and their party more forward in the polls. I think it’s also fair to say that if either Mr. Scheer or Mr. Singh was more popular with the average Canadian both of those parties would have shot up considerably over the last few days in the public opinion polls. They haven’t. Which is demonstrating that this election, especially with the brownface blackface episodes, is really a plebiscite on the Trudeau government’s performance and on Mr. Trudeau himself. And I must say that for the NDP and the Conservatives they don’t want to simply be seen as playing for political advantage.”
Bradley: “Do you think that people are surprised that this didn’t come out when Trudeau was elected in his first run for Prime Minister?”
Kirkey: “I think so. I think they’re absolutely surprised. And I think they were also absolutely surprised by the fact that it’s clear from the Prime Minister’s press conference he gave in Winnipeg last week that he’s been fully aware that these pictures have been in the public realm. But he is you know purposely chosen not to disclose the fact that they exist. And when he was asked why he didn’t disclose them he simply said that he was embarrassed. He was ashamed. And that’s probably well and true. But it’s a little discouraging I think for the average Canadian to think that their Prime Minister who had many opportunities long long ago, long before he became Prime Minister to publically disclose this and to try and make amends to the extent that he is able to do so. But he hasn’t done that. So that’s why I think everybody’s keeping an eye on if another shoe will drop or not.”
Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015. Canada’s federal election is October 21st.