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JOHN IVISON: Will the real Justin Trudeau please speak up?

TROIS RIVI È RES, QUE. – You might think it’s high time Justin Trudeau got real, in the dying days of a general election campaign when he is fighting for his political life. You’d be wrong.

The two leading parties appear to be losing support as the campaign goes on, which is not the norm.

The hurricane of spin and disinformation has so disillusioned voters that they appear to have abandoned the belief that political leaders will live up to the commitments they are making.

Trudeau was at an indoor kids play centre on Thursday and pulled a number of the youngsters out of the labyrinth of fun to stand as a backdrop to his talking points. They’ve probably been scarred for the rest of their voting lives.

It was a performance that mirrored the weather outside – bloody miserable.

The travelling media, local reporters and even the BBC asked the Liberal leader 20 pertinent questions and there wasn’t an answer at the end of any of them.

The two leading parties appear to be losing support as the campaign goes on, which is not the norm

I asked if he agreed there has been a breakdown of trust and what he might do to restore integrity in government, if re-elected?

“We are going to continue to invest in people, in things like the Canada Child Benefit that provides hundreds of dollars tax free to help with raising their kids, giving them the brightest future we possibly can,” he replied.

Lyse Doucet from the BBC asked Trudeau what went wrong, after such a resounding victory four years ago.

The response at least referenced the same time period, if it did not offer any substance. “Over the past four years, we have taken the decision to invest in opportunities for families to get ahead and to fight climate change, putting in place the only plan Canada has ever had. Right now, we are looking for the opportunity to continue with those initiatives. Contrast that with the opportunity to return to the failed approach of 2015.”

Eh? It’s possible that there was a disruption in the time/space continuum and he was answering an earlier question. Maybe it was an attempt at a humorous W.C. Fields style non-sequitur: “If I had to live my life over, I’d live over a saloon.”

More likely, this apparent contempt is calculated. He has decided he is just going to repeat several stock phrases over and over again in English and French so that anything he says become ambient noise.

It is the kind of tactic usually employed by front-runners who want to lull the media into insensibility so they don’t notice any screw-ups.

But Trudeau is hitting two dozen seats he doesn’t currently hold, in the hope they can be moved into the red column. Having talked to people in and around the campaign, the expectation seems to be that the Liberals will land around 150 seats next Monday. Adding the seats Trudeau is visiting would mean majority remains within reach.

It seems extraordinary that he thinks he can still avoid legitimate inquiry by diving into a sea of platitudes and heading for the far shore. Almost by definition, the people he still has to convince are the most skeptical, or they’d be voting Liberal already.

Nothing that Trudeau does is left to chance. When he went jogging with former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto in Ottawa in 2016, he wore Rugby Canada shorts and a Saskatchewan Jazz Festival tee-shirt. His office tweeted directly at both organizations to endear him to rugby players and jazz fans.

For many people, the fact that every step is premeditated makes him slippery – too slick to trust. Such is the suspicion that many, many Canadians assumed a genuine security scare on Saturday night was a campaign stunt cooked up by the Liberals.

The missteps of the past four years have validated the Conservative accusation that he is not who he says he is. Chief among them, of course, was the ethics commissioner’s findings on the SNC-Lavalin case. The illusion that he was a noble, principled leader was exploded by the revelation that his counsel sought to portray former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould as overwrought, irrational and incompetent. The submission also said that if anyone did anything wrong, Trudeau could not be held “vicariously liable” for the actions of his staff.

Such grubby tactics from someone purporting to be a champion of Indigenous women did not stop Mario Dion from finding him guilty of contravening the Conflict of Interest Act. Nobody could read Dion’s report and feel inspired that Trudeau is the person they trust to run the country.

Yet rather than address genuine concerns about his fitness for the job, Trudeau offered buzzwords, bromides and boiler-plate. It would be nice to hear from the real Justin Trudeau, if he has not been lost beneath the public face and the talking points.

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