Oh, Justin Trudeau, what crisis have you baked up for yourself now?
Fresh from a string of mini scandals and a humiliating election win, the photogenic Canadian Prime Minister has inadvertently handed his citizens another reason to ridicule him.
In what was probably an earnest attempt to satisfy the sweet tooth of his Liberal cabinet colleagues, Trudeau posted a photo of himself on Twitter Monday carrying several boxes of pastries from the Winnipeg gourmet doughnut shop, Oh Doughnuts. To make matters worse for loyalists of Canada's popular, iconic, and non-gourmet doughnut chain, Tim Hortons, Trudeau referred to his doughnut haul as "some of Winnipeg's best."
It didn't help that he committed this sin at a Liberal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, a predominantly working-class, central Canadian prairie city. Winnipeggers pride themselves on being thrifty and resilient -- especially during long, bone-chilling cold winters. And it also didn't help that his NATO "hot mic" scandal (in which Trudeau appeared to mock US President Donald Trump at a Buckingham Palace reception) -- was still ringing in the ears of Canadians as they watched him carting out his fancy doughnuts with his fancy new beard.
But, honestly speaking, people are getting too wound up about it. Compared with, say, the rebuke he drew last year after photos of the younger Trudeau in blackface turned up (he apologized), and his disastrous India trip, this doughnut dustup is a minor, forgivable gaffe. I would suggest everyone go have a Timbit with a double double (I'll explain).
If you are not a Canadian (I am one), and this is all puzzling -- well, you don't know doughnuts (which is to say: Tim Hortons).
Even after being sold to overseas owners, Tim Hortons -- named after co-founder and Canadian hockey legend Miles Gilbert "Tim" Horton -- remains a Canadian icon on par with the Hudson's Bay department store chain and the Canadian Tire hardware store chain. While the latter dishes out "Canadian Tire money" to loyal customers, Tim Hortons generates long line-ups at about 4,300 Canadian retail and airport locations, and customers are in on a special lingo when they order at the counter ("double double"? That's two creams and two sugars in the coffee).
Oh Doughnuts, on the other hand, boasts just two locations, both in Winnipeg. Its menu ranges from (at the lower end) "Gluten friendly" doughnuts, at C$4.25 each to a half dozen regular and specialty doughnuts that can cost between $19 to $25 Canadian (that's close to $15 US). The company says it offers its employees decent wages and good benefits, as well as utilizing local and organic ingredients.
Tim Hortons' cheapest doughnuts, by contrast, cost under a dollar each. If you want 10 assorted "Timbits" (made from the leftover dough from the doughnut hole) it will set you back the proletarian price of $C2.39.
While Tim Hortons is a massive corporation owned by a Canadian holding company that is majority-owned by a Brazilian investment firm, Oh Doughnuts proudly announces that it is queer (and woman)-owned and operated and bakes its product "fresh from scratch daily. "
Certainly for Trudeau, the values of this establishment couldn't align better with his public persona as a self-avowed feminist and champion of minority and gender rights.
Still, that he is being dragged for his Tweet indicates how this master of political correctness may have traded his Midas touch for a series of missteps.
He got strafed in the press for coming home with that new salt and pepper beard after an extended Costa Rica family vacation over Christmas (critics said it was meant to project an air of maturity), and harangued last year for fumbling an answer on how his prime ministerial household consumes water. In this latest dustup, one Twitter user even took aim at the Prime Minister's choice of treats as inconsistent with Canada's Food Guide, a government guideline for healthy eating, which many Canadians unashamedly post on their refrigerator doors.
Trudeau, currently in a vulnerable minority-government position, probably regrets posting the doughnut take-out on social media and setting off this "Only in Canada" incident. But who knows? If Trudeau keeps his head down (and his beard trimmed) it may turn out to have been just a tempest in a teapot -- or much a-dough about nothing.
Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.