With an approval rating in the mid-sixties, Justin Trudeau, then 43, made his first impression on the international political stage; his appearance spelling – as the papers described it – “a sea of change” for “positive politics.”
Headlines for newly inaugurated French President Emmanuel Macron read, not dissimilarly, “a new hope” and savior of the EU.”
While Trudeau may not have had the “turning point of Europe” and the fate of modern liberalism in the European Union in his hands, for Canadians, victory over the stagnant right-wing Harper Conservatives was also crucial.
Both leaders won with large centre-left-wing movements (a French centrist is basically a Canadian liberal), promising change and international involvement.
When Trudeau and Macron met in the Italian tourist town of Taormina on May 25th for the annual Group of Seven (G7) summit, the internet swooned over the apparent new “bromance” between the two.
Both had similar starts, but where they differentiate is their international approaches.
While Trudeau has been arguably efficient in getting his policy through at home, his international objectives have been thrown off course by the unpredictability of the Trump administration.
This has meant that the international reflection of the Canadian government’s voice has been more bark than bite, and a quiet bark at that.
Meanwhile, Macron has gone after the evils of the world with a bite and a snarl, starting with US President Donald Trump. After Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, Macron invited “all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision” to “come here with us to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment.”
Shortly after, he posted on Twitter saying countries need to “make our planet great again” in an obvious smear of Trump’s decision.
Trudeau, on the other hand, was more deliberating in his approach, saying he was only “deeply disappointed” with the Trump decision.
With NAFTA, and the whole trade dispute that Trump has incorrectly dramatized for his eager American fans in the US, Trudeau has had a similar, some would say diplomatic, approach to the man in the White House.
Macron, however, knows he has the power of France, much like Trudeau has the power of Canada, to back him up. Sometimes a leader needs to shed the diplomatic leash and let loose a bit.
The need for caution is always important on the world stage, especially with Trump around and 75 per cent of Canadian trade is tied to the US, but if Trudeau really wants to take Canada to the big leagues, he’s going to have to learn to swing a bat.
With files from the CBC and the Associated Press.
Image of Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron at the G7 Summit from CNN.
Published in The Ribbon on June 6, 2017.