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Why Justin Trudeau prefers Ivanka to Donald Trump: Delacourt

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2017-10-06 Susan Delacourt - Parliament Hill

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau in a roundtable discussion with female executives in February. The PM is headed to a Fortune gathering billed as a summit of the "world's most powerful women." © Sean Kilpatrick Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau in a roundtable discussion with female executives in February. The PM is headed to a Fortune gathering billed as a summit of the "world's most powerful women." Justin Trudeau is off to Washington next week for what might well be called adventures with the rich and powerful.

Or, as his critics might say, another day at the office for this prime minister.

Wisecracks aside, Trudeau really is paying a call on Tuesday at a Fortune magazine gathering billed as the summit of the “world’s most powerful women.” While in Washington, Trudeau is also setting aside time to meet President Donald Trump, who wields some considerable fortune and power himself.

The Trump meeting, according to Trudeau’s office, is supposedly a while-he’s-in-the-neighbourhood kind of thing. The main purpose of going to Washington, according to the PMO, is to be at the women’s summit. Odd as it sounds, that’s likely true.

That decision can probably be traced to one person in Trudeau’s inner circle — Katie Telford, the prime minister’s chief of staff, who spoke at last year’s most powerful women summit in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. election.

Telford’s appearance there was significant — in that it foretold how Canada was going to deal with the then-new Trump administration.

First of all, Telford told the summit, there were important similarities between the election victories of Trump and Trudeau.

“We saw indications of what was to come,” she says. “There was a debate about voting rights and whether or not it was a positive thing for a woman to be allowed to wear a hijab. But at the end of the day, Canadians wanted to talk about the plight of the middle class.”

Not surprisingly, that’s reportedly what Trudeau told Trump when they first chatted after the election — that despite their obvious differences, they shared a common campaign pitch to the middle class. (A pitch that’s been a bit frayed recently by the controversy over tax-change proposals for small business.)

Another important development came from that Telford appearance at the Fortune summit — it was where the No. 1 woman in the Trudeau hierarchy made contact with the No. 1 woman in Trump’s circle, Ivanka Trump. Here was where Telford got the idea to use the president’s daughter as a bridge between Trump and Trudeau.

That brainwave was chronicled in a very interesting Chatelaine magazine profile of Telford, by writer Sarah Boesveld, which appeared over the summer.

As that story tells it, Telford was aware of Ivanka Trump’s long-standing desire to be seen as a feminist advocate — a goal neatly dovetailing with the feminist stance of the Trudeau government.

“And she (Telford) nearly missed her plane home in order to witness firsthand how Ivanka would handle questions about the alleged sexual indiscretions that dogged her father’s campaign,” the Chatelaine profile states. Telford told Boesveld that she was glad she stayed to see what Ivanka would say.

“She was impressive — she handled it with a lot of poise and grace,” Telford is quoted as saying.

In the months ahead, the Trudeau government’s relationship with Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, would help smooth over what could have been a collision of opposites in these two leaders. Telford, who likes to keep a low profile, is not given enough credit for what was arguably the government’s biggest success last year: managing the new Canada-U.S. reality under Trump.

When politicians are going through rough times, their advisers often send them to their happy places; venues where they feel most comfortable. Trump’s team sends him off to campaign-style rallies, for instance, when the president is getting beleaguered.

Trudeau has been having a rough time lately too, especially because of the uproar over those tax-change proposals.

The Prime Minister called new NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh this week to congratulate him, and while he was on the line slipped in some advice. Singh recounted that advice to reporters this way: “Make sure you stay in touch with the people that brought you where you are; the grassroots.”

Women were a huge part of Trudeau’s win in the 2015 election, especially the large increase in turnout among young, female voters. Elections Canada reported that turnout among women 18 to 24 jumped from 40.9 per cent in 2011 to 60.5 per cent in 2015 — an increase of 19.6 points.

These are the real, powerful women for Trudeau, especially as the next election looms. It’s an open question whether their heads will be turned by seeing the prime minister rubbing shoulders at a Fortune magazine summit.

Then again, though, Trudeau may be going to this meeting for the same reason that his chief of staff did a year ago — to navigate the next steps in his dealings with Trump.

So which rich and powerful people should we be watching most closely in Washington next week when Trudeau visits? Most likely it’s the women at the Fortune summit.

sdelacourt@bell.net

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