By Tristin Hopper
The United States has the Kennedys and Bushes, Bangladesh has the Sheikh-Wazeds and India has the Nehru-Gandhis. Until now, and the election of Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada has not had a federal dynasty. So here’s a rundown of what Canadians can expect buzzing about 24 Sussex Drive.
To be sure, Laureen Harper was more comfortable in the spotlight than her husband, but between the Just for Cats festival and the occasional motorcycle ride, the former Alberta farm girl wasn’t seen all that often. By contrast, Sophie Grégoire, the wife of Justin Trudeau, is a former broadcaster and celebrity reporter who seems to share her husband’s love for public affection. She blew kisses during Trudeau’s acceptance speech, she’s posed for magazine covers, she’s given interviews about the “hardship” of a political marriage and the couple always seems to be dipping in for a kiss before the cameras. As a certified yoga instructor and occasional spokeswoman for women’s charities, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Trudeau’s wife to use her newfound notice to roll out some kind of Michelle Obama-esque “wellness” initiative.
Justin’s mom, the former Mrs. Trudeau, could be forgiven for not having the fondest memories of her son’s new home. The prime ministerial residence, of course, was where her relationship to Pierre steadily deteriorated into the couple’s 1984 divorce. As a lifelong sufferer of bipolar disorder, the public eye hasn’t always been good to her. But on Election Night, the 67-year-old grandmother was all pride. “[Justin’s] always won whatever he took on … but this one he took on with such passion,” she told CTV cameras.
Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau
Just like his older brother, Alexandre has endured the subtle annoyances of being Pierre Trudeau’s son. Namely, showing up to Liberal events and having a bunch of Old Spice-wearing oldtimers asking him “when are you going to run?” But while Alexander has eschewed partisan politics, he has been known to champion lefty causes: opposing Canadian intervention in Afghanistan, decrying the Israeli blockage of Gaza and, in 2006, penning a glowing Toronto Star editorial for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. “He is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets. On everything … he is somewhat of a Superman,” wrote Trudeau. But Alexandre also keeps a low profile. Unless he suddenly starts publishing paeans to Kim Jong-un, the younger Trudeau may eke out the new Trudeau era in relative obscurity.
In his Monday night acceptance speech, Trudeau addressed his children Hadrien, Xavier and Ella-Grace, who were all asleep. “There will be some tough times for you as children of a prime minister, but daddy will be there for you,” he said. Trudeau has been quite candid about how abnormal it is to grow up in 24 Sussex. In a 2010 interview on CPAC, he remembered misinterpreting the text on a box of Alpen cereal claiming it was perfect for “the men around the house.” Said Trudeau, “for me, the ‘men around the house’ were the night watchmen that wandered through the halls of 24 Sussex.”
The mother of Pierre Trudeau’s fourth child is Deborah Coyne, the Constitutional lawyer who unsuccessfully challenged Justin for the Liberal leadership in 2013. In fact, she just wrapped up an unsuccessful campaign for the Green Party in the Ottawa riding of Carleton. But Justin has been almost completely estranged from Deborah and his 23-year-old half-sister Sarah Coyne. And in this latest election, when a reporter inevitably asked Sarah about her own political ambitions, she replied “it’s not something I’ve thought about.”