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Trudeau's racist makeup controversy won't prove to be decisive issue in election: expert

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to photo coming to light of himself from 2001 wearing "brownface" during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, N.S., on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

A political science professor says he's skeptical Justin Trudeau's brownface scandal will impact voters


UofT Professor Nelson Wiseman believes the scandal has had a greater impact on younger Canadians


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Now that we have all had time to absorb the pictures of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in blackface and brownface, at least one academic says he’s not convinced the scandal will make much of a difference to the campaign.

Professor Nelson Wiseman with the University of Toronto’s Political Science Department says he’s skeptical that many voters will factor this situation in when they cast their ballot on Oct. 21.

“This is distracting [the Liberals] from the messages that they’ve wanted to communicate the past few days,” he explains. “I don’t think as many Canadians are surprised or upset by this as is made out to be.”

He says it’s really a big generational gap, and believes the scandal has had a greater impact on younger Canadians than older ones.

“When people think back to that time — the early 90s and before — blackface, it just wasn’t seen as a racist act,” he notes, adding the country wasn’t as diverse as it is now.

Of course, he says younger Canadians are very relevant in this election campaign, particularly for Trudeau.

“They were very critical to Trudeau having a high voter turnout, and the Liberals winning a majority a few years ago,” Wiseman explains.

He predicts voter turnout will “go down” in this election, mostly among younger voters.

“And they’ve been brought up in an environment in which blackface, brownface is seen as racist, whereas their parents, and their grandparents, and their great-grandparents didn’t see it that way. So that’s a big difference.”

Of course, Wiseman notes there are a number of other factors that will likely contribute to lower voter turnout.

While he believes the controversy will die down in the coming days, Wiseman says what’s happened will probably give a boost to the NDP and leader Jagmeet Singh, “because he can speak from personal experience, he can speak with emotion about it.”

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The fact Trudeau’s partaking in blackface and brownface has become headline news around the world is something Wiseman questions. He says what happened shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to everyone — afterall, it didn’t appear to make any waves for more than a decade.

“If this was as outrageous as it was, how come nobody came forward in 1991, all these young people that Trudeau’s photographed with, at a school where there were some visible minorities? So how come it wasn’t racist then?”

It’s unclear how the scandal has impacted the polls.