LILLEY: Trudeau caps off disastrous 2019 with a beach vacay

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a year-end roundtable interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa on Wednesday Dec. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press)

As he finishes off the year hiding away in Costa Rica, Justin Trudeau must be thinking how glad he is that 2019 is finally over.

Sure, he won the election in October — barely — but let’s be honest, 2019 was a rough year for Trudeau. He had to deal with the SNC-Lavalin affair, losing cabinet ministers and top advisors, faced an ethics probe that found he broke the law, became a Twitter target of Donald Trump, confused Japan for China twice and lost a war over garbage with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds Maia McGarry during a visit to Sudbury on Feb. 13, 2019. (Postmedia Network photo)

Trudeau started out the year with some polls putting him three to four points ahead of the Conservatives. His January cabinet shuffle was seen as putting a new face on a government confident of winning another majority government.

For the most part, the PM and his Liberals had recovered from the troubles of 2018 like his disastrous trip to India, the Punjabi Pratfall that had him mocked around the world. As voters were looking towards October, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had yet to connect with voters and Trudeau seemed a sure thing.

Then Feb. 7 came along.

That was the day the Globe and Mail broke the story of Trudeau and his staff pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to give SNC-Lavalin a sweetheart deal to avoid bribery and corruption charges.

“The allegations in the Globe story are false,” Trudeau said that morning.

I was watching him closely that day, standing mere feet away as he made a transit funding announcement at a commuter station north of Toronto. When he was speaking on any other issue, Trudeau was his usual loose and confident self. Each time he was asked about the Globe story he became tense and robotic.

Of course, we eventually found out that the allegations in the Globe were true and just before Christmas, SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty to one of the fraud charges facing the company. Along the way though, Trudeau lost two cabinet ministers and eventually two MPs, he lost principal secretary Gerry Butts and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

His reputation as a feminist took a hit as did the public’s trust in his government.

I’d have to guess that this, alongside having to fess up to wearing blackface more times than he could recall, had to be one of the darkest times in Trudeau’s political career. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said it was monitoring Canada’s government over what happened and the RCMP started an investigation that was shut down, at least temporarily, by the election.

Screwing up that badly takes effort.

We of course saw the PM refer to Japan as China at a news conference and then do it again while sitting next to Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe. More Canadians would remember though his inability to describe how his family drinks water.

“We uh, we have uh recently switched to drinking water bottles out of uh, water out of uh, when we have water bottles out of uh plastic, sorry, away from plastic towards paper umm, like drink box water bottles sort of things,” Trudeau said when asked how his family reduces plastic use.

Yes, I can hear the Liberal supporters calling out that Trudeau won the election and the Liberals were victorious.

That’s true but with the smallest percentage of the popular vote in Canadian history and while losing seats in every part of the country.

As Trudeau enters 2020, he’s in a much different position than he was a year ago and I’m betting he is wishing 2019 had never happened at all.

blilley@postmedia.com

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