Worthwhile Canadian Gaffe

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 13 2013 4:19 PM

Worthwhile Canadian Gaffe

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Wouldn't it be nice?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Before we pull on our waders again, and sink back into the muck of Obamacare fallout, let us turn our attention to Ottawa.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Here I wait for half the audience to fall asleep.

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Still with us? OK: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not the only charismatic Canadian politician struggling with scandal right now. Justin Trudeau, the young dynastic leader of the Liberal Party, appeared at a frothy town hall event and mused about how much better the Chinese dictatorship is at managing government, without fuss, than democracies are.

There's a level of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime. I mean there is a flexibility that I know Stephen Harper must dream about, of having a dictatorship that he can do everything he wanted, that I find quite interesting.

Elements of the Canadian press, which are always on the lookout for evidence that Trudeau (a theater teacher before he got into politics) is a bantamweight, have covered this like a gaffe that reveals how unready the leader is. But I hear the echo of a popular line of technocratic thinking, most often expressed by Tom Friedman. China, which can literally bulldoze anything in the way of five-year economic plans, is obviously more efficient than a democracy that has to abide by laws and local regulations. I also hear the echo of Trudeau's father, who visited China when Mao ruled it, and was given a grand tour of the place. (It was, on the surface, an effective dictatorship. We know better now.)

Is this the sort of gaffe that can undo Trudeau? He's presided over a surge of new support for the Liberals after three election wins for Harper's Conservatives. If Bill de Blasio can endure a "reds" scandal, surely he can. And, well, whatever. Rob Ford still wins the scandal prize.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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