Surrey’s Liberal MPs clearly would like nothing better than to turn the page on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brown-and-black-face crisis. Time will tell how much damage they’ll sustain on the campaign trail as a result of their leader’s latest troubles.
On Thursday morning Ken Hardie, the incumbent seeking re-election in Fleetwood-Port Kells, said the repercussions for him personally had, to that point, been “not much.”
“People were asking me if I was going to defend him,” Hardie said, “and my answer is no. What he did was, and would be today, inappropriate. The question is, is this somebody who was just goofing around or is this somebody who is a racist, and I think the more thoughtful people will look at what he’s presented himself over especially the last four years, and his time as an MP, and come to their own conclusion on that, but I’m very comfortable in saying no, he’s not – that’s the last thing he could be accused of.
“I’ve always valued a quote from the Roman emperor Cicero, and he said ‘When people speak ill of you, live so that none would believe them,” Hardie said. “I think the test of reasonable people –how has, in this case, Justin Trudeau lived, and would they believe that he’s racist, or perhaps just in a moment of youthful whatever, did something that he regrets because of course he should have known, 20 years ago, that he was going to be prime minister.”
On Wednesday Time Magazine revealed that Trudeau wore brown face-paint at a 2001 Arabian Nights party when he was teaching at West Point Grey Academy, a private school on Wednesday. In the hours that followed, other face-painting episodes emerged, with Trudeau’s face painted black at a high school talent show in the 1990s, performing Day O. Trudeau has apologized and expressed regret as accusations of racist behaviour mount against him.
“I think he’s truly upset with himself,” Hardie said. “And so be it, OK. All of this doesn’t do anything to help a senior that’s short at the end of the month, get somebody retrained, it doesn’t build a better roadway to a port. It doesn’t really reflect on the things that are truly important in the macro.”
“I wonder how many people tonight are poring through or sweating over old year books.”
Randeep Sarai, who is seeking re-election in Surrey Centre, wrote a statement prepared for the Now-Leader on Thursday morning that he was “saddened to see those photos come out yesterday.
“For me, it’s difficult to understand. The person in those photos from 20 years ago isn’t the person that I’ve worked with the last four years. He has an impeccable record of promoting diversity, calling out intolerance and breaking down the barriers in this country for people who look like me,” Sarai wrote. “His apology speaks for itself, I believe it was genuine, sincere and I accept it. Leadership is a accepting responsibility and more importantly learning from our mistakes. I’m with Trudeau and he has my full support.”
Sukh Dhaliwal, seeking re-election in Surrey-Newton, has not yet responded to request for comment.
He tweeted this on Thursday afternoon: “Racism is a serious issue and has a painful impact on many of our lives. After hearing from Justin, I wholeheartedly accept his sincere apology. These past four years, our government has made enormous efforts to ensure Canada is a just and welcoming country, where our diversity is honoured. I have worked alongside Justin Trudeau for many years now. I know in my heart he is a champion for all of us.”
John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, says he’s focussing on people in his riding.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized without reservation,” Aldag wrote in a statement prepared for the Now-Leader on Thursday morning. “He has taken responsibility for his wrong and hurtful actions. As the representative of Cloverdale-Langley, my focus is on the people in our riding. It’s clear from my conversations out in the community that affordability, transit, and the environment are the issues that matter most and that’s what I’m focusing on, as I have been these past four years.”
Gordon Hogg, seeking re-election in South Surrey-White Rock, said he is noticing repercussions.
“Are we getting blow-back? Yeah, I’ve had a number of conversations with people, people from right across the whole spectrum, from ‘It’s not an issue and this happened a long time ago, and it’s a different culture’ to people who are very distressed with it,” Hogg said Thursday. “I think clearly that it was a terrible mistake. No one is perfect and it’s part of being human to do that and part of being human to forgive, I think. He’s apologized to the people of Canada.”
“Obviously I think we’ve got to work our way through it,” he said of the Liberal Party. “I think people who are making comments, and doing that, recognize that they’ve made mistakes as well. Something we’re good as Canadians at doing is understanding and moving on, and accepting apologies when they come.”