OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau is being lampooned in a new video by the anti-poverty organization led by his friend and U2 frontman Bono for not having a concrete plan to advance his feminist agenda at the G7.
The one-minute video, released Thursday by the One Campaign, pokes fun at the prime minister, citing his many photo-ops, his “cool socks” and even dressing up as Superman for Halloween.
“We like your style, prime minister, like how you play with pandas, photobomb a prom pic, dress up as Superman or show off your cool socks,” intones the voiceover, accompanied by various still photos of Trudeau in the aforementioned scenarios.
“You talk a good talk, prime minister. But where’s your plan?”
Trudeau’s time is running out, with the Charlevoix G7 leaders’ summit on the horizon on June 8, the video says.
“You’ve made gender equality and women’s empowerment a theme but so far, those are just words,” it says. “Now it’s time to act. Show the G7 leaders the way.”
Stuart Hickox, One’s Canada director, said the decision to “poke” Trudeau wasn’t taken lightly. But One and other organizations are worried that Trudeau’s gender agenda will fail because his government isn’t coming up with a firm plan that he can sell to his fellow G7 leaders in time for their meeting.
“It’s a missed opportunity if we get through the G7 with a just mere declaration or more framing language or more aspiration,” Hickox said in an interview.
The group presented Trudeau with its own finished plan in December to advance women’s economic empowerment that included leveraging the private sector for support, and that had a firm price tag, said Hickox.
“This is a fully costed, specific policy approach … that leverages private capital, that engages civil society, and that can be a legacy.”
Jamie Drummond, the entrepreneur who co-founded One with Bono, met with Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the teenaged Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January to sell the plan.
Also in attendance were several high-level business leaders who had been tapped by One to help finance their multi-year, multibillion-dollar plan, said Hickox.
Other non-governmental organizations have given the government similar plans, he added, but all it seems to want to do is “talk,” which includes this week’s meeting of ‘W7’ summit of dozens of female activists to hash out a plan for the G7.
Katja Iversen, a member of the G7 gender advisory council that met Thursday, bristled at the criticism.
“Canada is a light tower,” she said. “You don’t want to put out a light just because it doesn’t shine bright enough — which I’m not saying that it doesn’t.”
One joins all groups in wanting Trudeau to succeed, Hickox said.
“This kind of poking, gently, at him and his government is not done lightly,” he said.
“We worked really hard, as well as other sector organizations, to put some legs under this aspirational language to make it real with specific ideas.”
Bono has heaped praise on Trudeau in the past, most recently for his modest increase in foreign aid. He also agreed to make a guest appearance at Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill last July 1.
“I don’t speak for Bono, but he has said before we applaud the government for your leadership. We pat you on the back when you do the right thing. But we’re also ready to push,” said Hickox.
“So this is a moment of pushing.”
Liam Swiss, a development expert at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., said One’s criticism doesn’t account for the fact that the Liberal government announced an ambitious feminist international development policy last year for which they deserve some credit.
The political landscape has changed since the former Conservative government championed the Muskoka Initiative in 2010, when Canada last hosted what was then the G8, Swiss said. Former prime minister Stephen Harper was able to secure financial support from G8 countries towards a multi-year commitment to improving maternal, newborn child health in developing countries that would ultimately cost billions of dollars.
Getting that kind of buy-in during the current G7, especially with the Trump administration in the U.S. threatening foreign aid cuts, would be a tougher sell for Trudeau, said Swiss.
“It would be great if Canada put a really ambitious gender equality plan in front of the G7 and got them to sign on and make the sort of commitments that we saw under the Muskoka Initiative,” said Swiss.
“I honestly can’t see the U.S. signing on to something like that.”