Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump Just Can‘t Stay Away from Each Other


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, may be the shining beacon of liberalism in North America, but he keeps wasting his sparkle on Ivanka Trump. The two joined Billie Jean King, Jewel, and more at a dinner for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night. Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, have attended events with Ivanka before. They took the First Daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, also a White House adviser, to the Broadway show Come from Away, about planes re-routed to Newfoundland after the 9/11 attacks, during the P.M.’s visit to the states in March. It’s difficult to pin down how one is supposed to understand these outings. Is it diplomacy between two North American allies? Just a photo-op? Presidential adviser to Prime Minister meeting of the minds?

It’s confusing because Ivanka’s role in the administration is confusing. As a panel moderator at the G20 Summit this past April put it, addressing her directly, “What is your role, and who are you representing: your father as president of the United States, the American people, or your business?” Her answers then and other similar queries tend to obscure those distinctions even more. Just this Monday, for example, at another panel for the Most Powerful Women Summit, the First Daughter said she sees herself as “trying to get people to talk, bring people to the table, expose this issue to people who haven’t previously thought or considered it and hopefully make progress.” The Hive’s Emily Jane Fox suggests this description places her closer to advocacy than advisory, and so more on the side of a member of the First Family than White House senior staff.

Regardless of where she falls on the Ivanka Spectrum on whatever day, when her father does stuff like roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate or brags about sexual misconduct, it’s hard to feel anything toward her but the sting of hypocrisy. And so, it’s not a great look for Trudeau laughing along with her at something called the Most Powerful Women Summit. Seating arrangements are the providence of a host, and Trudeau and his beautiful white teeth and his shiny hair weren’t going to refuse. But optics are optics.

Trudeau seems aware it’s still worth keeping his distance. At that very summit he joked, just feet away from Ivanka, about Canada welcoming American immigrants. A day later Marie Claire published an essay by Trudeau entitled, “Why I’m Raising My Kids to Be Feminists.” The essay seems like something that Ivanka would write in her capacity of Women Who Work brand-builder (just replace “feminists” with “families”).

Unlike Ivanka, apparently, Trudeau is in the position to actually change things within his government. He’s already made efforts to do so, establishing gender parity in his Cabinet, but has a ways to go. As he said Tuesday night, “Now that we have a Cabinet, and a government, and quite frankly, a party with all these great, strong, young women, the challenge we have is, despite all their presence, we’re still very much in an old-fashioned man’s game of politics. And we’re having to look at how we change things in the workplace.”

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