Canadians head to the polls on September 20 in an early parliamentary election. In this week’s episode of The Conversation Weekly, two experts on Canadian politics profile the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and explore why he’s so much more popular abroad than at home. And we talk to a researcher who’s trying to understand why mosquitoes bite some people more than others.
Trudeau is about to find out whether the ratings boost he got during the pandemic will translate into a majority in the Canadian parliament. First elected with a majority in 2015, Trudeau and his Liberal Party were reduced to a minority government in 2019. Now, after calling a snap election that has frustrated many Canadians, Trudeau is in a close race against the Conservative leader, Erin O'Toole.
Outside Canada, Trudeau remains one of the world’s most popular global leaders. According to a recent survey by the polling company YouGov America, of those respondents who had a positive view of any foreign leader, 39% said they liked Trudeau the most.
In this episode, we unpack Trudeau’s story to find out more about his political brand at home and abroad, and what his real foreign-policy record has been.
“Justin Trudeau doesn’t know what it’s like not to be a celebrity,” explains Alex Marland, a professor of political science at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Marland tracks Trudeau’s life growing up in the public eye as the son of prime minister Pierre Trudeau, through to his career as Canada’s leader and the various scandals that have accompanied it. Meanwhile, Marland says, as well as his charisma, a lot of Trudeau’s international stardom had to do with being a “real contrast to Donald Trump”.
Jeremy Wildeman, a research fellow at the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa, says that, although Trudeau’s international popularity was meteoric, his foreign policy has been “shambolic”. When Trudeau won the election in 2015, it was with a promise that “Canada is back”. For many Canadians, Wildeman says this was a “breath of fresh air” that represented a return to a form of liberal internationalism that had been largely missing during the premiership of Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper. But Wildeman says there “actually wasn’t much difference” between them, and he walks us through some of the foreign-policy challenges faced by the Trudeau administration.
We’re also joined in this episode (at 25m50) by Clea Chakraverty, politics editor at The Conversation in France, to hear about a new podcast called Moi président·e. Ahead of elections in April 2022, the show guides listeners through what it takes to be president of France.
And in our second story (28m55), we hear about new research that’s helping to explain the mystery of why mosquitoes bite some people more than others. Madelien Wooding, a researcher in the department of chemistry at the University of Pretoria, tells us how her team pinpointed some of the chemical compounds that make our skin more attractive – and unattractive – to mosquitoes. The next step: to use this knowledge to prevent mosquitoes from biting and hopefully reduce malaria.
And Moina Spooner, assistant editor at The Conversation in Nairobi, recommends some recent analysis of two major events in Guinea (39m38).
This episode of The Conversation Weekly was produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email on email@example.com. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here.