Justin Trudeau has to be the most optimistic man on Earth

Glass half full.
Glass half full.
Image: Reuters/Ruben Sprich
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Davos, Switzerland

The mood among world leaders is pretty gloomy. Reasons include the ongoing ISIL threat, the millions of displaced people in the Mideast and Europe, and disappointing economic growth, just to name a few.

But Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is amazingly unfazed by the storm clouds all around. “I can’t help but being tremendously optimistic,” the 44-year-old leader told attendees of the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering.

His electoral mandate is to “provide a positive and good government for Canadians,” Trudeau says, “rather than focusing on what we’re scared of.”

But what about the prospect of terrorism attacks on Canadian soil?

“People are open to not choosing to live in constant fear,” Trudeau says. “We have to make a choice about how much we’re going to close and limit and crack down on our society in order to protect it.”

What about short-term costs and security risks represented by open immigration?

“Diversity isn’t just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention,” says Trudeau. “It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.”

How about the impact of low oil prices on Canada’s energy-producing economy?

“The low oil prices are a challenge but the Canadian economy is a lot more than natural resources,” says Trudeau.

What about the costs of transitioning to a greener economy?

“We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity,” he says.

Trudeau’s optimism is all the more stark against German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to decline her invitation to Davos in order to stay home to deal with the migrant crisis. And his strategy for getting the Canadian electorate to share in his optimism sounds rather, well, optimistic—especially in light of the fractious situation gripping his neighbor to the south, where US president Barack Obama, in his latest state of the union address, highlighted the US political divisions he regrets that he has failed to erase.

“Once you get elected through dividing people it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone,” Trudeau says. “The choice we made was to call on ‘the better angels of people’s natures,’ to use a great Lincoln line.”

Will future events make Trudeau’s optimism look foolish? Canada’s new leader has made it clear he’s willing to take that risk.