SINCE leading his Liberal Party back to power in Canada last October, Justin Trudeau has been profiled in such glossy magazines as Vanity Fair and Vogue; Hello’s photo spread featured his wife and children. On March 10th he will sit down with Barack Obama at a state dinner in the White House, the first for a Canadian leader in 19 years. “I can’t think of a Canadian politician who has attracted as much attention in the United States,” says Laura Dawson of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington.
Mr Trudeau owes his celebrity to more than glamour. He succeeds Stephen Harper, a prickly Conservative, who in ten years as prime minister conducted an ideologically charged foreign policy at odds with Canada’s multilateralist traditions. His relationship with the United States, by far Canada’s most important, was tense. Mr Trudeau replaces a scowl with a smile. He personally greeted some of the 25,000 Syrian refugees Canada agreed to admit. Such gestures have helped bring back to life the Trudeaumania inspired by the prime minister’s father, Pierre Trudeau, a dashing Canadian leader of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. “But how,” Ms Dawson wonders, “do we translate celebrity into influence?”
Mr Trudeau’s answer: by returning to Canada’s diplomatic traditions. It is the world’s tenth-largest economy; as a military power, it counts for less. It has historically sought to increase its modest clout by working through international bodies such as the UN and the Commonwealth. Mr Harper spurned them as talking shops for despotic regimes. He refused to support a global accord on climate change (or introduce a credible policy in Canada).
Co-operation is back in, says Stéphane Dion, the new foreign minister. His “mandate letter” from Mr Trudeau directs him to resume working through the UN. Mr Trudeau signed the global climate agreement reached in Paris in December. He was due to meet Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial leaders on March 3rd to talk about a national climate strategy and may announce a climate initiative with Mr Obama.