Justin Trudeau did not do any year-end interviews with Canadian newspapers as 2019 was drawing to a close, opting instead to concentrate mostly on TV and radio.
One of those radio interviews, though, was a little different from the rest — far more personal than it was political.
This year, as part of a continuing Christmas tradition dating back to 2003, Trudeau sat down again with Terry DiMonte, a Montreal radio host who is also a close friend. What started as a guest turn as a DJ on the show for Trudeau nearly two decades ago has turned into a rare opportunity for the prime minister to talk candidly and personally about what it’s like to live his life.
Here are 10 things that Trudeau revealed in this year’s encounter, looking back on a year he repeatedly used the word “tough” to describe:
1. Trudeau’s three children, Xavier, 12, Ella-Grace, 10, and Hadrien, 5, were worried he might lose the election — because for them, it would mean moving house. DiMonte and Trudeau talked about how on election night in Montreal, Margaret Trudeau rushed to reassure the children that they were staying put. It was the first thing the PM’s mother wanted to do when she saw the TV forecasting Liberal victory. “They knew it was a tough one,” Trudeau said of his kids and their relocation fears surrounding the election. “That reassurance and that stability does make a difference.”
2. Most important moment of 2019? For Trudeau, it was the morning after the blackface/brownface revelations exploded into the news and all that he had to pour into his news conference in Winnipeg. “It was a moment of very public but very real introspection for me,” he said. “As I look back on what was a tough year, that was a moment that was both tough and very real for me.”
3. Happiest moment of 2019? Bringing his children to celebrate the Raptors victory in Toronto. Trudeau’s son, Xavier, is a major fan, and his enthusiasm has rubbed off on his father, who likes professional sports, but hadn’t followed any all that closely until Raptors fever hit his household. “Xav got me into watching the Raptors in a way that I discovered basketball as an incredible game.”
4. Holiday plans: the Trudeau family will be spending this Christmas in Costa Rica, where the PM will also turn 48 on Christmas Day. Beach time and a little bit of surfing are on the agenda. No birthday cake, though. No ethical conflicts either: Trudeau assured DiMonte that the trip had been cleared in advance by the ethics commissioner.
5. Overspending: Critics of the Liberal government’s fiscal policies might not be surprised to hear that Trudeau feels he buys too much for his children at Christmas.
6. No Western alienation here: Alberta and Trudeau aren’t exactly in harmony at the moment, but his current favourite band is from Calgary — Reuben and the Dark. This came as a surprise to the band, which posted on its official Facebook page: “Life is strange and beautiful. Waking up and hearing our PM talk about RATD being his favourite band…talking through our discography with such familiarity… so cool. I know many Canadians have opposing political views… but music is common ground.”
7. Favourite musical instrument: Trudeau says he’s very fond of the cello right now, to the point where he’s working out in the gym to Yo-Yo Ma. “I’ve been absolutely obsessed with the cello lately. There’s something about the sound of a cello that just resonates so deeply into me,” he said. His wife, Sophie Grégoire, finds this odd, he adds, especially because her tastes run to “whatever gangster rap she listens to on her way to yoga.”
8. What will Trudeau do if you say he’s not that smart? He might dazzle you with his knowledge of ancient Greek history which was one of the many topics discussed around the dinner table with his father, where nightly attendance was mandatory. As Trudeau recalled, he once stunned a tough high school teacher with his familiarity with Thermopylae, scene of a Spartan battle around 480 B.C. “Listen, I had debates and discussions with my dad all my life. I have no insecurities when it comes to ‘Oh, is he smart?’”
9. Who’s the toughest negotiator: Pierre Trudeau or Donald Trump? “Negotiating with my father was somewhat different than negotiating with Donald Trump,” Trudeau said, dodging the question, though he also revealed: “Asking for that extra half-hour of TV a week was a big thing.”
10. Which world leader has the worst breath? Sorry. That remains a mystery, though Trudeau does try to make sure it isn’t him. The speculation was prompted by discussion of the PM’s favourite restaurant in Montreal. “Just about every time I come, someone has to go to Boustan on the Crescent and bring me back a couple of shawarmas. No onions. I love the onions, but I’m working in the middle of the day and you don’t want to inflict that on other people.”
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None of this is hard-hitting news, but after a nasty political year, it may be a relief to many to hear a politician talking about the more human side of life in the business. The full audio of the interview is posted on CHOM 97.7 web page at www.iheartradio.ca
The Star, meanwhile, awaits its interview in the New Year.