Even as a baby, great things were expected of Justin Trudeau, who was elected Canada’s prime minister this week, ending a decade of conservative rule.
In 1972, Richard Nixon, then president of the United States, predicted Trudeau’s rise to high office during a state visit to Ottawa, when the winner of Canada’s 2015 federal election was just four months old. “Tonight we’ll dispense with the formalities. I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada, to Justin Pierre Trudeau,” said Nixon, who may have just been buttering up Trudeau’s father.
Pierre Trudeau, then Canada’s prime minister, responded that, should his eldest son ever assume the role, he hoped he would have “the grace and skill of the president”. Nixon resigned two years later, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, whereas Trudeau served as prime minister for 16 years.
Justin Trudeau was born on Christmas Day 1971 and spent part of his childhood in 24 Sussex, the official residence of Canadian prime ministers. He described several happy memories of living there in his memoir, Common Ground.
A highlight for Trudeau, who was given the code name Maple 3 by the prime minister’s security detail, was seeing Diana, Princess of Wales. “I was 11 years old and playing on the driveway … with my friend … A car pulled up, the door opened, and an elegant young woman stepped out carrying a gym bag. “It was Diana, Princess of Wales. She and Prince Charles were touring Canada at the time and I had been told she was discreetly coming over to swim some laps in the pool.”
It was also a difficult time, however, as his parents’ marriage was unravelling and his mother, Margaret, was struggling with bipolar disorder. “I remember the bad times as a succession of painful emotional snapshots. Me walking into the library at 24 Sussex, seeing my mother in tears and hearing her talk about leaving while my father stood facing her, stern and ashen.”
Trudeau said the family name was initially a reason to shun the political limelight: “The association with my father was never a reason for me to get into politics. It was, rather, a reason for me to avoid entering the political arena,” he wrote. But Nixon’s remarks more than four decades ago turned out to be prescient. – © Guardian News & Media 2015