For the past few months, writer C. Ellsworth Stubbins has been granted unrestricted access to the inner workings of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office. Although not as explosive as Fire and Fury, whereby a reporter had unrestricted access to the Donald Trump White House, this new book is a revealing look at the inner-workings of the Trudeau cabinet. This week, I am proud to present a blog exclusive, a first look at “How’s My Hair? Inside the Trudeau Government.”
Cabinet meetings begin promptly at 10 a.m., as “J.T.” as intimates call him, likes to begin the day leisurely. He is, however, often late, sometimes laying the blame on the demands of selfie-taking Canadians.
“Sorry I’m late … just can’t say no to a selfie,” Trudeau says as he strides into a cabinet meeting at 10:45 a.m. Feeling badly about his tardiness, Trudeau hand writes a fulsome apology, then insists on reading the teary-eyed statement to his restless cabinet members.
A source close to the prime minister says that Trudeau’s tardiness is not always attributed to the demands of a selfie-snapping public.
“I swear one day I saw him coming into the building well before meeting time, and he just stood outside for a few minutes until somebody recognized him,” the source says. Another source says Trudeau often carries a personal cellphone with him in case fans don’t have a phone with them.
Once Trudeau has his chi tea, the meeting begins, but not before an acknowledgement to the Indigenous community.
“We will begin this cabinet meeting by acknowledging that we are meeting on aboriginal land that has been inhabited by Indigenous peoples from the beginning,” Trudeau says, his voice quivering slightly. “As settlers, we’re grateful for the opportunity to meet here and we thank all the generations of people who have taken care of this land for thousands of years. Long before today, as we gather here, there have been aboriginal peoples who have been the stewards of this place.”
Trudeau then takes off his jacket, rolls up his sleeves to precisely six inches above the wrist, and begins the meeting. The male cabinet members take that as their cue to take off their jackets and roll up their sleeves, somewhat of a bone of contention to the female cabinet ministers, who have no similar way to curry favour with J.T.
“It’s a power move,” one female cabinet minister told me. “It illustrates that there is still an imbalance of power in this government. Until we, as women, can roll up our sleeves, we will never be fully equal.”
Other female cabinet ministers privately gripe that several male cabinet ministers like to wear colourful, goofy socks in the Trudeau style. In lighter moments, the ministers and the prime minister like to compare sock choices like the women stew quietly.
“Not very inclusive,” one minister sniffed.
During cabinet meetings, each minister has a few moments to speak about their issues. Trudeau sits ramrod straight, his penetrating gaze seeming to say, “Yes, I’m listening.” Trudeau rarely asks questions, although when he does the questions tend to focus on “inclusion” and “transparency”.
“J.T. loves transparency”, one insider told me. “To be honest, nobody is exactly sure what it means, but we always tell him that transparency is at its maximum.”
The meetings don’t go on for long – the prime minister is not into details – but once they return to their offices, the prime minister shifts gears to more personal matters.
Every day for 45 minutes he exercises, concentrating on his abs in preparation for the summer shirtless season. The prime minister’s staff is fully aware that Trudeau “photo bombing” wedding parties and other events while shirtless frequently go viral, much to the PM’s delight.
“We all know that nobody wants to see (Conservative leader) Andrew Scheer shirtless, not even Mrs. Scheer,” an insider says with a snicker.
The strategy can backfire, however. In one incident that went unreported thanks to the dwindling membership in the parliamentary press corps, Trudeau “spontaneously” appeared shirtless during a gather that he realized, too late, was a funeral.
“Man, that was a close call,” one confidant says. “J.T. has to attend a lot of birthday parties to make up for that one.”
His cabinet and backbench MPs admire Trudeau, but they’re realistic.
“Hey, he’s a nice guy, don’t get me wrong,” a close confidant says. “But right now, it seems like the best thing he has going for him is that he’s not Donald Trump.
“And that hair … it’s gorgeous.”