Tasha Kheiriddin: Weak leadership leads Trudeau to Tofino and O’Toole into trouble

, Tasha Kheiriddin: Weak leadership leads Trudeau to Tofino and O’Toole into trouble, Nzuchi Times National News

The lesson in both cases is that leadership demands authenticity. A real leader practises what he preaches

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It’s shaping up to be a tough week for the leaders of both Canada’s new government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Knives have been flying both inside and outside their parties, albeit over very different issues. After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jetted off to Tofino last Thursday for a family holiday on Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (a trip his staff initially tried to cover up), he is being justifiably excoriated for his lack of judgment. And on Tuesday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole faced his first caucus meeting since the election and received an earful over a perceived “betrayal” of right-of centre voters. In both cases, the central question is: where’s the leadership?

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With Trudeau, almost no one can seem to figure out what on earth he was thinking. As the rest of the country donned orange shirts, participated in ceremonies to honour children who lost childhoods or even their lives in residential schools, and reflected on how Canada can do better in its relationship with Indigenous peoples, Trudeau was caught on camera hitting the beach.

But not just any beach: a beach in B.C., across the country from Ottawa. Trudeau didn’t just cram the kids and the cooler in the car for a spur-of-the-moment day trip. This was a vacation that required planning. Meaning there were plenty of moments along the way where someone — most notably the PM himself — should have stopped and said “WAIT! THIS. IS. NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA.” And done something else instead.

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No one can seem to figure out what on earth he was thinking

That something could have taken many forms, from not going to B.C. at all and respecting the official holiday in Ottawa, to going out West and respecting it there. B.C. elders said they invited Trudeau to do just that and got radio silence in response.

Reconciliation Day is like Remembrance Day: it’s an official holiday, but not a “holiday.” It’s meant to be a day to show respect, not party like it’s 1999. And given that Trudeau created this holiday, purports to care about reconciliation, and has sought the support of Indigenous voters, the hypocrisy is mind-boggling. You could practically hear Jody Wilson-Raybould screaming “I told you so” as this new scandal scrolled across her Twitter feed.

Then, there’s O’Toole. The Tory leader was taken to task for a different but similar sin. That of appearing to be what he is not: the right-wing leadership candidate from back in 2020. Talk to people who know the guy and they will tell you that the real O’Toole was the one who showed up for the recent election — more moderate and centrist than the fellow who beat Peter MacKay for Tory leader two years ago. But that other O’Toole was created by necessity, to court the social conservative Tory base that thought MacKay was too progressive.

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  1. , Tasha Kheiriddin: Weak leadership leads Trudeau to Tofino and O’Toole into trouble, Nzuchi Times National News

    Chris Selley: After Tofino, it’s worth considering that maybe Trudeau really doesn’t give a damn

  2. , Tasha Kheiriddin: Weak leadership leads Trudeau to Tofino and O’Toole into trouble, Nzuchi Times National News

    Rupa Subramanya: Yes, Tofino Trudeau is entitled, but he’s not clueless

In other words, O’Toole had to pretend to be someone he isn’t to win the Conservative crown — and he went along for the ride. It was a far longer journey than Trudeau’s Tofino trip, with even more places to stop and say “THIS. IS. NOT. WHO. I. AM.” But O’Toole did not say that; indeed, no one said that, because the goal was to win and then figure things out after that. That left those who voted for O’Toole 1.0 feeling betrayed by the emergence of O’Toole 2.0

, Tasha Kheiriddin: Weak leadership leads Trudeau to Tofino and O’Toole into trouble, Nzuchi Times National News

The lesson in both cases is that leadership demands authenticity. A real leader practises what he preaches, and asks others to do as he does, not as he says. A real leader doesn’t change his spots to get support; he uses the power of persuasion to bring the support to him. Fail to do either and eventually you will end up falling on your sword.

Perhaps Trudeau intends to do just that; there is speculation this latest fail is a sign that he will not run again. O’Toole, in contrast, is fighting for his political life, and needs to figure out who he is and where he will take his party. But whether they stay or go, they both owe it to their supporters — and Canadians — to give them the honest goods.

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