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domingo, 15 de mayo de 2016
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau should have help she needs to fill her role
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau should have help she needs to fill her role as wife of a very popular prime minister.
It may well have been politically unwise for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to publicly raise her need for more staff to help organize her public engagements in an interview with a Quebec City newspaper this past week.
A high-profile woman seen to be asking for more help clearly leaves herself open to criticism. But the instant, often spiteful reaction from both social media and other politicians who should know better smacks of ignorance about the requirements of the role the prime minister’s wife has taken on.
This should not be a debate about Grégoire Trudeau’s privileged position. Comparing her problems to those of day-to-day working women amounts to a kind of faux populism that ducks the real questions.
Instead, the focus should be on what we expect of the spouse of our prime minister, and the opportunities her role affords to represent Canada and promote important causes.
Seen like that, the answer is clear: she should have the help she needs to carry out the work that Canadians want her to do. If that means an extra staff member to organize her appearances and correspondence, then she should have it.
It should come as no surprise that the demands on her are greater than those on previous PMs’ wives. Justin Trudeau is riding a wave of popularity that extends to his entire family, especially his wife. The Prime Minister’s Office says she’s been deluged with requests to appear at events and lend her support to all kinds of causes.
That’s why she made the plea for extra help, in addition to the single assistant the PMO now employs on her behalf. “I’d like to be everywhere but I can’t,” she told Le Soleil. “I have three children and a husband who is Prime Minister. I need help.”
The Conservatives say she should just suck it up, and asking for help amounts to wanting to do more “self-promotion” at taxpayers’ expense. That kind of rhetoric may play well with people who just don’t like the Trudeaus, but the opposition parties are taking the low road when they make the role of the prime minister’s wife a partisan issue.
It should be noted that Grégoire Trudeau is not asking for another employee to lessen her workload, but to increase it. She lamented that because she doesn’t have enough staff she is forced to make difficult choices about who she can help. In other words, she wants to do more in a role that is, after all, unpaid.
There are many precedents for this. PM’s wives have taken on various roles, depending on their personalities and popularity. All had at least one assistant to help with public duties. Mila Mulroney had three staffers and an office in the Langevin Block across from Parliament Hill. Is it any surprise that someone in as much demand as Grégoire Trudeau should find that one aide is not enough?
She has taken on a high-profile role, partly because she wants to and partly because Canadians want her to. She draws attention and donations when she speaks on behalf of aboriginal and girls education, and to raise awareness about bulimia and anorexia. Her work raises the profile of Canadian arts and fashion around the world.
Nor is Grégoire Trudeau taking on all this simply to polish her husband’s reputation. Even in 2005, when she joined the entertainment program eTalk as a Quebec correspondent, she said she was looking forward to “reporting on Canada’s French and English stars who support social causes and bring about positive change.” Now that she’s in a high-profile position herself, she’s making it her work to bring about change.
It’s quite true that the prime minister’s wife does not have a formal role, as the First Lady does in the United States. But the reality is that Canadians increasingly expect the PM’s spouse to play a significant public role. Ignoring that would be disrespectful to those seeking her help, and would squander an opportunity to do good work.
Opposition politicians should watch to make sure all this doesn’t get out of control. But they should stop playing politics with this issue and support Grégoire Trudeau’s modest request for more help to do a job on behalf of all Canadians.