King Lear and Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau

A Canadian Perspective

Opinion | Anthony Dayton

Anthony Dayton 004

TORONTO. January 4/23 – The 2023 offerings at Stratford, Ontario include the return of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Act 3 is one of the most powerfully dramatic scenes ever staged: Lear, in furious rage and turmoil, storms against the injustices done to him. His inner fury is matched by that of the storm raging on the heath where Lear, fully exposed, rails also against the elements, even as they threaten to destroy his frailty. This scene must be an incredible opportunity for sound and visual effect specialists to recreate the thunder, lightning, howling winds and sheets of driving rain that immerse the audience in Lear’s moment of extreme tribulation. Lear’s loyal friend, Kent, as ragged as Lear himself, describes the storm as “groans of roaring winds and rain,” unlike anything he can remember.

Last week’s Toronto area storm, with its pelting rain and hurricane-like winds, brought Lear to mind. From the safety of my home, grateful to have shelter, food and warmth, it was impossible for me not to think of where impoverished Canadians might find shelter in such raging elements.

 What does this have to do with Justin Trudeau? He isn’t responsible for the storm, obviously, but he does bear responsibility for the economic storm buffeting much of Canadian society, especially lower wage earners.  They are being battered by raging inflation and effectively lower disposable income affecting their ability to satisfy basic needs such as food, shelter and warmth. Grocery bills, rent and housing prices, heating and hydro costs, pummel almost all of us as surely as the storm on the heath pummeled Lear. Such economic miseries were likely inevitable when the Canadian PM announced several years ago, “I don’t think about monetary policy.” Evidently, he was telling the truth.

This is the leader who wanted to provide $500 million in a questionable youth program, with his WE friends set to reap up to $19.5 million dollars to administer it, money which could have been better used to top up the Toronto food banks which have reported being on track to have over two million visits this year by people unable to afford to buy groceries.

This is the leader who has run Canada’s debt up to $2.5 trillion dollars. Not all of it was avoidable, given the necessity of dealing with Covid 19, but even then, much money was wasted, such as this example from the Auditor General’s 2021-22 report: “outstanding pay action requests involved a total of over $500 million in overpayments to more than 100,000 employees.” That $500 million could put some needed cash into our various social programs, maybe a few new hospital beds or filling up the food banks.

But it’s more than the money spent and wasted in questionable programs over the years of the Trudeau Liberals’ reign. It’s the never ending arrogance of the Liberals, even in recent events such as the Mary Ng affair, in which the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development awarded a contract, despite a clear conflict of interest, to her friend’s PR company, apparently because she suddenly realized that she needed to better present herself to the media. (That didn’t work out too well. Now she needs to know how to deal with a tarnished image.) Worse, this came shortly after Governor General Mary Simon’s trip to the Queen’s funeral and then the Middle East, costing almost $100,000 just for the catering services on board the plane. Apparently, the GG thought news coverage to be unfair.

And of course, what should be a meme for the ages, there was the Prime Minister himself, during his attendance at the ceremonies for the passing of Queen Elizabeth, holding forth with song in a bar and then retiring to his $6,000.00 suite, complete, apparently, with butler. No matter how relentless the loyal opposition questions him in the parliamentary scrum, the PM, who once promised transparency and honesty, refuses to admit to or explain that figure, nor does he seem embarrassed, rueful, or apologetic. All this in a time of suffering, both financial and existential, for so many people.

Asked about inflation, the Prime Minister will deflect to price gouging on the part of grocery stores and oil companies, and blame the Conservative Party for not voting for his social agenda to help Canadians, as he says. The cause is never the huge amounts of money wasted or the government’s increased taxes and inflationary spending.

What galls most is the Prime Minister and the government’s callousness towards the suffering of those for whom they took responsibility the moment they swore their oaths and assumed public office, and because their corruption is fueled by a sense of entitlement to do what they please, to live well, with little genuine concern for those they govern. That is gall on steroids.

When asked about the prospects of the coming year, Trudeau is reported to have said that 2023 is going to be “a tough year.” He will point to his dental plans, day care and other social assistance programs to demonstrate how Liberals are providing help for Canadians, while omitting to mention the various tax hikes scheduled for 2023 such as for the carbon and payroll taxes as well as raising CPP contributions. Given that the PM has already stated he doesn’t think about monetary policy, he might not be aware that social programs are not free, that they are funded by taxpayer money and since we are already $2.5 trillion dollars in debt, on which we pay immense amounts of interest, apparently we don’t really have any money anyway.

So, saying it’s going to be a “tough year” just doesn’t cut it; actually, it won’t be terribly tough for the more fortunate, and it certainly won’t be for Trudeau and the government. The PM flies above the economic storms of Canada as it grapples with inflation even while skirting with recession. He needs to descend, to gain some humility in order to genuinely feel with those who are suffering. It’s hard to gain their perspective while jetting around the world and staying in $6,000.00 per night hotel suites, hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

And that brings us back to King Lear on the heath in that raging storm. Suffering has tempered the old man’s arrogance and he is learning introspection, beginning to know himself perhaps for the first time. Clearly now devoid of any kingly sense of entitlement, Lear tells his Fool to enter the sheltering cave first, ahead of his privileged royalty. He lingers a few moments longer in the howling elements and considers:

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend
From seasons such as these?

Perhaps for the first time in his life, Lear has broadened his view beyond that of the royal court, worrying for the safety and health of those of his subjects who daily face economic challenges while living on the edge of storms.

Lear continues,

O, I have ta’en (taken)
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may’st shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just.

(Act 3, Scene 4)

Lear’s prescription is directed to those whose lives are full of pomp and luxury, those who need to cure themselves of a callous sense of entitlement. Lear’s choice of “physic” is for the “pomp” to expose themselves in a way that will register what it is to live hardscrabble lives. In a moment of honest acknowledgment, Lear admits that he has taken, “too little care of this” in his past. Lear isn’t asking for the privileged to seriously cut into their lifestyles. They need only “shake the superflux,” the overabundance, towards the less fortunate in order to provide help.

Maybe a couple of hours out and about in an Ottawa rainstorm might provide that kind of “physic” for our ruling elite. And then, maybe they could cut back a little and stay in hotel rooms that charge a mere $3000.00 a night, leaving the remaining $3000.00, the superflux, available for the food banks.♦

Anthony Dayton is a Canadian life-long educator, freelance writer and photographer. His articles are regularly published on

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