By Guy Lawson
The New York Times Magazine
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, six days after Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, was sworn in as prime minister of Canada, I was shown into his office on the third floor of the Parliament building in Ottawa. A dark oak-paneled room, it contained a jumble of outsize furniture chosen by the previous occupant, Stephen Harper, whose Conservative Party was in power for a decade. The office had the air of a recently abandoned bunker — shelves bare, curtains drawn, personal effects hastily removed. Trudeau’s father, Pierre, occupied the same office for 16 years during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, and the new prime minister would shortly install his father’s old desk, a symbol of restoration but also an emphatic rejection of his predecessor. The squat, bulldoglike bureau left by the departing prime minister, Trudeau implied, was a reflection of Harper’s autocratic manner.
‘‘We’re going to move this place around,’’ Trudeau said. ‘‘This is very much the last guy’s style, not mine. I’ll have a smaller desk in the corner and a bigger couch so we can sit down and actually have discussions. I’ll put a reclining seat over there, for me to read.’’ He smiled as he mentally redecorated the space, the Canadian version of the Oval Office. ‘‘It’s a different approach.’’
There is virtually no transition period in Canadian politics, and it was clear that the electoral win on Oct. 19 had caught Trudeau, his staff and the country by surprise. During his first days in office, his small, overworked campaign team tried to cope with the unexpected demands of governing. With so many positions to fill, they had issued a call for résumés on social media and received 22,000.
Trudeau, who is 43, was still working on getting his staff to call him ‘‘Prime Minister.’’ For years, he was ‘‘Justin,’’ and staff members often still referred to him that way. ‘‘It’s like your really smart friend suddenly became prime minister,’’ Kate Purchase, his communications director, told me.
‘‘People in the street will either call me ‘Prime Minister’ or ‘Justin,’ ’’ Trudeau said. ‘‘We’ll see how that goes. But when I’m working, when I’m with my staff in public, I’m ‘Prime Minister.’ I say that if we’re drinking beer out of a bottle, and you can see my tattoos, you should be comfortable calling me ‘Justin.’ ’’
Picture: vl04 (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons