I remember the first time I met a young person who was really enthused with Canadian politics. I was on a field trip to Ottawa with my Grade 8 class with our tour guide, who was a young, enthusiastic university student. She had an irresistible ability to make you get excited about anything. To say she was a huge fan of Pierre Elliot Trudeau would be an understatement. We visited museums and she proudly pointed out photos of him. She said he was “ballin’” (this was a choice slang word at the time), and that he—hands down, without a doubt—was the best prime minister Canada has ever had. She was completely enamoured with a romantic, idealized image of him. The way she talked about him made him seem as though he was more myth than man.
At the time, I didn’t understand why he was so special, but from what I could see, he seemed like a good guy. Trudeau senior was popular with the youth of his time, so it makes sense that his charisma has carried over to create fans in the millennial generation. My father once loosely compared Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s rock star status to John F. Kennedy’s Hollywood star level of allure. Pierre Trudeau was arguably the closest Canada ever came to boasting an internationally charismatic leader.
The Trudeaus were popular, especially with young people, because they were grounded. Pierre and Margaret hung out with musicians like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and made silly faces at the cameras. Justin displays a similar accessibility—he has been filmed performing his party trick of falling down a set of stairs and is often seen hamming it up in public just as his father used to. It makes sense that we are having a resurgence of Trudeaumania now that Justin Trudeau has been elected to the same position his father once held.
The comparisons between Pierre and Justin have been going on since Justin first stepped into the political arena and will surely continue indefinitely. It’s even more tempting to point out Justin’s inadequacies compared to Pierre, or to belittle Justin due to his lack of “experience,” or to mock him on the basis of physical features (as Harper attempted to do with his “nice hair, though” comments). But Justin wanted young people to vote. In interviews, he admitted that as much as he would appreciate support for the Liberal Party, he was happy to see more youth becoming politically conscious and engaged.
It seems that Justin is sincere when he says he cares about young people in Canada and the need to accurately represent those living in our country—in fact, he’s pledging to do more for young people than his father did. After selecting the most diverse cabinet in Canada’s history and taking on the unprecedented responsibilities of Minister of Youth and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, he also hosted a Google Chat hangout answering questions from children from five different Canadian elementary and middle schools.
Like Pierre, Justin Trudeau is for the people. Pierre is remembered for his sharp wit and his readiness to put you in your place, which he did with a certain air of arrogance and a dash of elitism. Justin is also making headlines for his snappy one-liners (“Because it’s 2015”), but there is a subtle difference in how he delivers his words. Justin is firm, but there is never any pretense or snobbery beneath his voice, which is something I can sometimes sense when I watch old videos of Pierre speaking to journalists and interviewers. Justin does not act or speak as though he is intellectually above others, which Pierre was often guilty of doing. Justin is warm. He invites us in. Hopefully, as Justin Trudeau’s term as prime minister continues, he does not lose these qualities that have already made him so admired.