How Trudeau will Scare and Inspire


Now that the long-anticipated Throne Speech is at last out of the way, we now have a better understanding of what we can expect from a new and improved Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Indeed, Throne Speeches are to governments what theatrical trailers are to movies; they give us a glimpse and a tease, showing us what thrills, chills and spills are awaiting us once the final product is released to the public. 

So, what did we learn about Trudeau?  What did his Throne speech “trailer” tell us?  What can we deduce about the tactics he will employ once he steps upon the electoral battleground? 

Well, from what I can gather, the prime minister is getting ready to wield two powerful emotional weapons: hope and fear. 

As a matter of fact, hope and fear were littered all throughout the Throne Speech. 

Consider the slogan the speech introduced — “Build Back Better.” 

Not only is that a catchy alliteration, (which no mistake is powerfully persuasive in politics) it also neatly and concisely conveys the idea that, even in these dark times of COVID, we can all look forward to our country rising Phoenix-like from the ashes to achieve a glorious Trudeaunian future, a future where clean, green energy will (somehow) power our economy, a future where a million jobs will (somehow) be created, a future where hate and racism will be (somehow) replaced by love and joy. 

As a side note, I suspect the Liberals put a lot more work into coming up with that “Build Back Better” slogan than they did on actually figuring out how much all their grandiose promises would ultimately cost taxpayers. 

At any rate, if I’m right about Trudeau’s “hope and fear” approach, it’d be a pretty good plan. 

After all, hope is a powerful emotion; people are naturally drawn to optimism, they want to be inspired, they want to believe they’ll have a better future, which totally explains the psychology of loyal Toronto Maple Leaf fans. 

Certainly, many successful politicians have played the hope card.

Ronald Reagan, for instance, successfully offered Americans hope in the 1984 presidential election race with his famous “Morning in America” campaign theme and, of course, in 2008, Barack Obama was even more blatantly optimistic, as he explicitly embraced “hope and change.”

So yes, during a time when anxiety is hanging over our collective heads like a dark cloud, Trudeau linking himself and his government to rays of sunshine is a smart strategic communication move. 

However, since his government has been burdened with scandals and the economy might be seriously tanking in the near future and Canadians might even be getting somewhat tired of his style, Trudeau probably can’t win by simply stirring up the emotion of hope alone.  

This is where the fear part comes into play. 

In addition to pushing himself as the hope-filled savior, Trudeau also needs to tear down his chief rival, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, by making him seem scary. 

Hence the Throne Speech’s most important line, a line that figured prominently on the front page of the Toronto Star was, “This is no time for austerity.” 

What’s happening here, needless to say, is the Liberals are laying the groundwork to define O’Toole and his Conservatives as mean and nasty austere guys, you know, the kind of people who, on a hot steamy summer day, would gleefully disconnect grandma’s air conditioner, just to save a few cents on their electricity bill. 

The Liberal line will go something like this: “If O’Toole wins, he’ll sacrifice all our hopes and dreams on the dark altar of his evil and callous Conservative deity, the god of Austerity!”

No one will be safe!  Orphans will be tossed onto the street; the aged will be interned into COVID infested senior homes; Trudeau’s brother and mother will be denied speaking fees! 

The horror! 

Also, expect this frightening message to be dutifully amplified by Trudeau’s friends in the media. 

This likely explains why O’Toole is currently running videos on YouTube to basically say, “Look at me, I’m dripping with compassion!” 

So yep, that’s what Trudeau has in store for us – lots of hope, mixed with a big heaping of fear. 

This tricky part for Trudeau in all this will be the need to carefully balance these two contradictory emotions. 

Too much hope can lead to disillusionment; too much fear, to paralyzing pessimism. 

We saw such a juggling act in Trudeau’s televised address following the Throne speech, when he stated, “It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.” 

So, having the chance to visit your in-laws at Christmas is the hope, having to stay in your own home for Thanksgiving is the fear. 

Wait a minute… maybe it’s the other way around.

Photo Credit: CBC News

More from Gerry Nicholls.     @GerryNic

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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