Sep 19, 2019

Justin Trudeau's political star fades ahead of Canada's election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's popularity was already deflating under the disillusionment that hampers many incumbents, particularly on the idealistic left, before 2 controversies that seemed almost unimaginable given his high-principled public image: first an ethics breach and now a racism scandal.

Driving the news: Since a 2001 photo of Trudeau in brownface at an Arabian Nights party was published Wednesday by TIME magazine, 2 prior instances in which he wore blackface have come to light. Speaking today, Trudeau apologized repeatedly but admitted, when pressed, that he was "wary of being definitive" about whether other images might surface.

The big picture: Trudeau’s Liberals had been neck and neck with the Conservatives ahead of the Oct. 21 election.

  • “But the Liberals were running a very specific campaign,” says Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs. They “demonized" Conservative candidates by surfacing past indiscretions as evidence the Conservatives were "intolerant and out of touch with where Canada is going.”
  • The blackface scandal "takes this well-crafted weapon the Liberals had created over a long period of time out of their hands," Bricker says.
  • "They've also opened up the opportunity for the New Democrats," he adds. That party's leader, Jagmeet Singh, is a turban-wearing Sikh who has spoken passionately about the difficulties facing minority communities.
  • As for Trudeau, Bricker says, "Part of his appeal was his international rock star status. When you expose those pictures to people in the United States, to political leaders, how do they feel?"

What to watch: If 1–2% of Liberal-leaning voters in swing districts switch to the left-wing New Democrats that could tilt the election toward the Conservatives. So could low turnout. Trudeau won in 2015 by bringing in new voters, many of whom were young or from minority backgrounds.

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Third instance of Justin Trudeau in blackface surfaces

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Photo: Arindam Shivaani/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Global News published a video on Thursday showing Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau smiling and gesturing with dark makeup covering his face, arms and legs. It is not clear when or where the video was taken.

Why it matters: The video is the 3rd instance of Trudeau wearing racist dress to surface in 12 hours and a month before he faces an Oct. 21 general election and a referendum on his first term.

Go deeperArrowSep 19, 2019

Photo of Justin Trudeau in brownface surfaces ahead of Canada election

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Wednesday night that a photo TIME magazine published of him wearing brownface at an "Arabian Nights" party in 2001 was racist, as he apologized for his actions.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 19, 2019

Obama endorses Justin Trudeau ahead of Canada's election

Obama and Trudeau in 2016. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Barack Obama made an unusual endorsement of a foreign leader on Wednesday, tweeting that "the world needs" the "progressive leadership" of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Why it matters: Trudeau is in a tight race ahead of Monday's election. His rock-star image has been battered by an ethics scandal and newly surfaced images of him in blackface. Obama is lending a helping hand to a leader he said he was "proud to work with" while in office.

Go deeper: Justin Trudeau's political star fades ahead of Canada's election

Keep ReadingArrowOct 16, 2019