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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rise to the top of Canada has been something out of an unpleasant Disney or Hallmark made-for-TV movie. A drama teacher who wears colorful socks and does yoga accidentally becomes head of state and takes the opportunity to teach citizens and leaders alike valuable life lessons: “It’s 2015,” “the budget will balance itself,” and “we like to say Peoplekind.”
Last week, the prime minister, his family, and a delegation of cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament were in India to sign a trade agreement, strengthen relations, and snap plenty of photos. It was meant to be a straightforward visit, but it quickly metastasized into a public relations nightmare.
The prime minister returned to Ottawa over the weekend, and there may be only one apt description for his family vacation disguised as a trade mission: embarrassing.
From going overboard in the cultural attire to inviting a convicted terrorist to dinner, it was a week filled with blunders, boondoggles, and bungles.
Let’s take a gander at what went wrong:
Celebrity Chef Cooks Indian Food
Indian cuisine is one of the greatest culinary achievements the world has ever known. The country is engulfed in celebrated, decorated, and talented chefs. Have you ever tasted vindaloo or saag? Yum!
But Trudeau thought it would be wise to fly in an ultra-successful celebrity chef from Vancouver to prepare him and a group of diplomats a meal.
Vikram Vij, a Liberal Party supporter and celebrity chef, was flown to India on the taxpayers’ loonies to cook for a reception at the residence of the Canadian High Commissioner. Vij’s out of pocket expenses, like airfare and hotel, were covered by Canadian taxpayers.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) defended the move, issuing a statement to CTV News:
“Mr. Vij generously offered a week of his time, away from his Canadian business, to assist with the menu and food preparation for the Canada Reception. (Global Affairs Canada) is undertaking to cover his out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. airfare and accommodation). Mr. Vij’s involvement will contribute to make the event a memorable celebration of the Canada-India friendship.”
Trudeau could not find any professional chef in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, or Kolkata? Perhaps he is merely paying Vij back for the public endorsement in 2015.
Guess Which Terrorist is Coming to Dinner
Not even the domestic and foreign press, which have fawned over Trudeau since he arrived on the political scene, could not give him a free pass on this one.
Jaspal Atwal, a British Columbia-based businessman, is a convicted terrorist who was found guilty for attempting to assassinate a Punjabi cabinet minister in 1986. He was also charged with viciously beating current MP Ujjal Dosanjh in 1985 – the charges were dismissed. At a time when the Indian government is concerned that Canada is fostering a rise of extremist Sikh terrorism, the PMO would be unwise to have this man seen anywhere near Trudeau or government officials.
It turned out that Atwal was invited to a diplomatic event where he was photographed with Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire. Atwal, who was previously involved in the International Sikh Youth Federation, was invited to separate events on the Trudeau tour.
Once the reports went public, Atwal returned to Surrey, telling the media that he did not want to embarrass his friend.
Atwal told The Canadian Press:
“We know each other. He knows my name. He’ll come and say, ‘Hey Jas, how you doing?’ We have a good relationship. I never see any problem. But now he says, ‘Oh, Jaspal’s not supposed to be here, this and that.’ It surprised me.”
Trudeau aides are in full damage control.
Cameron Ahmad, the PM’s spokesperson, denied that Trudeau and Atwal are friends. MP Randeep Sarai confirmed that it was his decision alone to add Atwal’s name to the guest list, conceding that he made a mistake – though, Atwal notes that his invitation was verified by the High Commissioner, CSIS, and the RCMP.
Justin Trudeau Goes Bollywood
Imagine this: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to Canada. To celebrate local customs, Modi sports RCMP gear (red coat, a Mountie hat, and brown boots), eats poutine, carries a hockey stick, and asks where the nearest Tim Hortons location is. Canadians would be flabbergasted, and Indians would hang their collective heads in shame.
This is exactly what Prime Minister Trudeau and his family did when they toured India.With their over-the-top fashion displays, the Trudeaus posed for photos in front of historical landmarks, with national icons, and alongside public officials.
To fathom just how flamboyant they were, the Trudeaus had a photo opportunity with the nation’s biggest star: Shah Rukh Khan. The actor was wearing a black suit, while the Trudeaus were covered from head to toe in Indian garb.
Indian politician Omar Abdullah may have had the best response:
“The PM perhaps watched too many TLC programs that featured Indian weddings and thought it would be neat to dress in a similar manner during a diplomatic trip. Who knows?”
A Bad Start to 2018
It looks like the Trudeau honeymoon is finally over – what took the media so long?
We are only in a couple of months into 2018, and it has already been a terrible time for Trudeau. The cost of living is rising, 88,000 jobs were lost in January, NAFTA talks have slowed, and, of course, we can’t forget the numerous Trudeau gaffes.
President Donald Trump may get a lot of flack for being the reality television president. But Justin Trudeau is someone who belongs hosting The Bachelor or American Idol with Ryan Seacrest, not running a country while routinely appearing on daytime talk shows.
What do you think of Justin Trudeau’s trip to India? Let us know in the comments section!