Dinner with Justin Trudeau: Gimmick or Doing Politics Differently?

“Have dinner with me, Susan.”  What a charming invitation.  Too bad it’s part of a fundraising campaign directed at 300,000 supporters of the federal Liberal party.

But wait…let’s think about this for a moment.  For a $5.00 donation, Ms Soapbox and four of her closest friends and relatives get a one in 6,000* shot at tackling Justin Trudeau on the issues near and dear to their hearts.  Cool!

The contest

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

Make no mistake, “Dinner with Justin” is a real contest with Justin as the prize.  Typical lottery rules apply including the dreaded skill testing question before the winner, who’ll be selected on Oct 4, can claim her prize (it’s probably a multiplication question and if I win I’ll freeze and Mr Soapbox will have to whisper the answer to me sotto voce from the sidelines)  

The target  

Every contest has a target.  This one is no different.  The purpose of the contest is to raise $300,000 in the month of September.  This would put the Liberals within spitting distance of their Q3 fundraising target of $2.2 million—a target that’s $1 million less than what the Conservatives are expected to raise over the same time period.

A good chunk of this funding is earmarked to respond to Harper’s vitriolic US-style media attacks.  The “Justin sprinkled with fairy dust” video was a shot across the bow.  It’s going to get a whole lot worse in the next 700 days leading up to the federal election.  Oh joy. 

The teaser – the Hamilton video

Trudeau’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman (yes, of the Seagram’s liquor empire) is determined to beef up the party’s traditional donor base.  He’s targeting younger donors where they live—on line.

Stephen Bronfman

He created the “BBQ with Doug Hamilton” video that accompanies the donation request.  The 4:23 minute clip shows Mr Hamilton, a fisherman from Gabriola Island, his sisters Mariah and Jane, and Jane’s husband and son enjoying a salmon BBQ with Justin Trudeau.  It’s a pleasant Vancouver afternoon, everyone is relaxed and Justin stays “on message” without appearing too scripted.

And what’s the message?  Justin Trudeau is a hard working, middle class, family man (I didn’t say it was an easy message, just that he stayed on point) who sees a need to “do politics differently” and is only too happy to be the “vehicle” (surely there’s a better word) for that political transformation.

The Hamilton clan responded positively.  They found Justin to be personable, genuine and optimistic about the future.  Clearly they enjoyed themselves.  Mr Hamilton paid Justin the ultimate compliment when he said “I’d love to take him out fishing”. 

Bottom line:  The video was a success and thousands of people, including Ms Soapbox, pried open their wallets and made a small donation.

The Conservatives’ reaction

But not everyone enjoyed the video.   The National Post, that bastion of conservatism, described the video as an “arty short” in the style of My Dinner with Andre (surely one of the most boring movies ever made) and printed a “recap” of the video.**

Leaving aside the pot shots at the background music (“mournful acoustic guitar”) and the BC landscape (“too pretty to be realistic”) the most telling criticism was the NP’s reaction to Trudeau’s comment that “People are cynical about politics, but we’re Canadian, so it doesn’t sit right for us to be cynical.”   

The NP took issue with this statement, calling it “…a dagger straight to the place where a political reporter’s heart should be.”   Hmmm…sounds witty but what the heck does it mean?

Stephen Harper

Is the NP saying people are not cynical?  I doubt it.  More likely the NP and its conservative masters are trying to figure out how to respond to a politician who, unlike their own Mr Harper, is both engaging and candid.  Note to NP:  Ridiculing the Trudeau video and in the process the Hamilton family is not the way to address your problem.  May I suggest ditching Mr Harper instead.

Gimmick or doing politics differently?

The “Dinner with Justin” contest would have been just another gimmick if the “prize” was a ticket to a rubber-chicken fundraiser.  But it’s more than that.  It actually gives a few Canadians an opportunity to have an unhurried conversation with a politician.

Whether the contest winners have any impact at the end of the day remains to be seen, but they’ll certainly have an opportunity to change the direction of communication.  Instead of the usual one-way blast coming at us from our elected representatives we have a chance for a two-way dialogue with the man who wants to be our prime minister.

The fact that it’s a perfect Youtube moment that got under the skin of the Harperites is an added bonus!

A really tough question

What happens if I win the prize?  Who do I take with me?  Mr Soapbox and the mini-soapboxes of course, but I’m still one guest short.  I could run a contest on the Soapbox, the commentator with the most comments on this post wins…or I could take my mother, one of the most politically astute people I know, although I’m sure that somewhere over the course of the evening she’d tell Justin he needs a haircut…

I’ll keep you posted.

*The donor count was up to 4,287 on Sept 26, I’ve bumped it up to allow for the last 4 days in Sept.

** http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/25/justin-trudeaus-arty-short-film-win-dinner-with-justin-donate-now-a-rollercoaster-of-emotions/

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14 Responses to Dinner with Justin Trudeau: Gimmick or Doing Politics Differently?

  1. Well, Ms. Soapbox, I also entered the contest. 🙂

    I remember when Harper had a re-election and I was so ticked for having to go vote again and the cost of that re-election. That was the time when I voted for NDP leader Jack Layton. Why? Because the late Jack Layton spoke of issues which I could relate to. He spoke a message that grabbed my attention.

    Come March 2014, it will be 30 years since I cast my first vote for any election. Am I an emotional voter? Maybe. I couldn`t stand the leader who was head of the liberal party 4 years ago–I can`t even remember his name … Ignatieff? Yes, he left that much of an impression. The question is raised as to why people are lethargic when it comes to voting in elections? Maybe because people have the feeling that it`s only the leaders who have the big $$, big corporations in their pockets, who speak above their heads, who are going to get in, so why bother? Harper gets on his “soapbox“ and I feel this man doesn`t care anything about me and my concerns, his message isn`t addressed to me. Justin Trudeau is identifying himself as a man who values being a good father as much as he values being a good leader. He speaks and meets with common people, and you know what, it`s working. If he gets elected, yes, he`s going to make mistakes, and it will be blamed on his “youth“ and “inexperience“ and for “not understanding the issues,“ but you can`t tell me that his more seasoned predecessors haven`t made mistakes?

    I despise the political commercials, I despise the placards that are stuck in the ground littering our city. Do I really need to see 50 placards in a row in the grass medium advertising a candidate? Seriously? Overkill. I searched out Trudeau`s video and I spent 5 minutes and watched. I donated. So Harper and all the other old politicians keep dishing the same old TV ad, slamming and attacking each other … I mean when else am I going to take my dog out for a pee break!

    • I agree with you Joanna, people have become apathetic because they’re convinced that the politicians, hence the government, care more for their corporate benefactors than the public they’re supposed to represent. The proof is in the pudding. Here in Alberta a corporation can get a meeting with a minister relatively quickly, however a citizen or a citizen’s group is pushed off for as long as possible. it is not uncommon to be forced to wait 9 months to a year for a meeting that is held to a 30 minute maximum (the minister is busy don’t you know). The meeting when it finally takes place is usually a one way dialogue with the minister transmitting the party line on the matter in issue and the citizens vainly trying to get a word in edgewise. That’s why the “Dinner with Justin” contest is so appealing. Even if Justin wanted to turn it into a one way conversation, there are so many guests at the table that they can swing the conversation any way they want.
      So here’s the really important question–if you win will you take me as your guest????

  2. Way to go Susan, there is nothing as refreshing as being in a position to rub shoulders with a very personable new politician on the scene and a little insight from some up and comers is comendable. I would probably still be a liberal myself if Chretien had not come along and turned me of there crooked ways but my wife is still liberal till the bitter end on a/c of being shirt tail relatives to the McCains of spud renown from n.b. altho I think a lot of them have even turned P.C. Myself I support Danielle because she is a people person and doesnt turn on members of the animal kingdom for perceived slights like when she was shoeing a horse at a ranch and the horse not being able to say move deposited some freshly digested oats on her back. Now she could have taken revenge on the poor animal but she retained her composure and cont’d on. Anyway say hi to Justin for me.

    • Tom what a delightful story, sounds like Danielle maintained her composure under very difficult circumstances. It’s instances like that, that show the measure of a man or woman. I’ve been watching Justin for a while, trying to determine if he’s all fluff and no substance or whether there’s more beneath the surface. And while I don’t agree with everything he’s said to date, I’m prepared to give him the time to demonstrate what he’s really made of. As Joanna (Champs) said, he’ll make mistakes but show me a more seasoned politician who hasn’t. The important thing is this–what are his values and do they align with mine? Time will tell.

  3. Carlos Beca says:

    I am glad that like you so many people are excited about Justin Trudeau. I have to confess that I am not. I recognize he seems to be a nice person a good family man, but I see little else. This idea that politicians can be any cute man or woman is a bit strange in my opinion. Furthermore the Liberal party did very well in financial terms but what else? They allowed the beginning of the destruction of our health care system, they did nothing for a better environment. In terms of justice, abortion or euthanasia were avoided like the plague and so they did just enough to not get them in hot water. I think they wil just continue the same old. The objective is to stay in power. I wish him luck as to me anything other than scientist muzzlers is a breath of fresh air.

    • Carlos, we’ll see the true measure of Justin and his party in the run-up to the election. I’m sure Harper will throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at the guy. In fact I think that’s one reason why Trudeau admitted he’d smoked pot while an MP. Frankly that was not his finest moment, but it was a shrewd political move to get that potentially damaging bit of information out into the public domain well before the campaigning starts. Trudeau says he wants to do politics differently. That’s a big promise and one that will come back to bite him if he fails to live up to it. Obama made the same promise when he first ran for president but failed to deliver. It would have hurt him in his run for a second term but for the fact that he was up against Mitt Romney.
      PS I agree with your view of the science muzzlers!

  4. david swann says:

    Too many people I meet are angry and cynical with politics and politicians. The only solution I know for a dying democracy is inspiring engagement, one person at a time..
    I’ve been using this ‘share-a-meal’ approach at Alberta Liberal fundraisers for years – and it’s been satisfying both ways i think!
    Many citizens have given up but many are hungry for hope and connection as we all watch the demise of democracy and a thoughtful, planned future in this great land. I’m all for anything that brings politicians into contact with people of passion and good will.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      David it is not a surprise that I and most of us agree with you. I would say that angry is an understatement. We have a full blown democratic crisis in Canada and especially in Alberta and we see almost nothing done by politicians and political parties to fight back. A coalition between progressive parties is fundamental and still people just right out refuse to even consider it. Why? A lot of egos involved but how can that be more important than the future of our province and country? How can people totally ignore completely a situation that is for sure taking us nowhere? We need Proportional Representation in order to avoid this winner gets all and the full control by one party and still no one talks about it. Absolutely nothing is being done and to be honest to you I do not think the political class cares. Some individuals do for sure, but in general they just continue their merry ways and ignore the consequences. I personally have been completely radicalized by this situation and I can tell you that if it comes to a point where radical measures are needed to end the present pseudo democratic system I will be ready. It is sad and to me unthinkable that we can get this far. Just another example yesterday it took a judge to stop our provincial government from not allowing the Pembina Institute to be in the hearings of a tar sands project. How does a premier thinks that some like that is approriate? How does a lawyer born and educated in Alberta take that kind of atittude towards other citizens? This is an absurd – all of it, from the Federal to provincial governments and as far as I am concerned, totally unacceptable and in a way dangerous. It is naive to think that the consequences of all of what is going on is going to be in any way positive.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    Our serene premier says that only people directed affected, in her view, should be at the meeting for the oil sands project. Alison we are all directed affected. What world are you still living in? The gases, pollution and water contamination of that plant affects all of us. Furthermore the Pembina Institute and the other Environmental Association represent many of those directly affected. Wake up and smell the roses this is 2013 not the 1400s, we know better. The truth is that the oil companies told you that you have to figure out a way to exclude anyone with brains from the meeting or the bonuses will not be forthcoming. There is no end to this disgrace.

  6. Thanks for raising this case Carlos. It is a stunning example of a breach of natural justice. It will be the topic of this Sunday’s blog. Stay tuned.

  7. Susan Kopecky says:


  8. Susan, I have high hopes for Trudeau the Younger.

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