Justin Trudeau: Working From Home Just Like The Rest Of us

Coronavirus
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In isolation with his family, Canada’s prime minister oversees Covid-19 response and bath time.

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s week will one day fill the pages of Canadian history books — he’s sealed off the U.S. frontier to non-essential travelers, unleashed a huge economic aid package and moved closer to invoking a law that can empower the government to limit civil liberties.

And the G-7 leader has done it all from home, with his three young kids underfoot.

In fact, for more than a week, the prime minister has looked after the children solo — 24/7 — as the only able adult in the house.

He and his kids entered 14 days of self-isolation together after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for Covid-19 last Thursday. He insists he’s fine and says Sophie, who is quarantined in one part of their house, is feeling better despite mild flu-like symptoms.

There are no caregivers or political staff at the Trudeau home, just the five members of his immediate family, a government official told POLITICO.

Like so many parents now working from home, he’s encountered some challenges.

Trudeau was late for an evening phone meeting with political staff this week after getting delayed by six-year-old Hadrien’s bathtime, said the official who was on the call.

From the homefront, the prime minister has also been in the thick of domestic and international coordination on coronavirus, fielding calls from U.S. President Donald Trump, other world leaders, provincial premiers and his cabinet ministers.

He even participated in a video conference call with fellow G-7 leaders about a joint Covid-19 response while he sat in his home office, where his kids’ artwork can be seen tacked on the wall.

Trudeau tweeted a photo taken by his daughter Ella-Grace, 11, of the moment. The image showed the prime minister all by himself while some of his peers, like Trump, were seated at boardroom tables flanked by officials.

Trudeau has about a week left in self-isolation and, the official said, it could mean he will be absent from the House of Commons next week when Parliament reviews his multibillion-dollar rescue plan. Elements of the package must be approved by a quorum of MPs, who will be recalled to Ottawa.

Trudeau has said his cabinet is also mulling whether to invoke the Emergencies Act, which would give the federal government extraordinary powers to, among other things, restrict the mobility of Canadians.

Such an unprecedented step would also need parliamentary approval and, if cabinet decides to move forward with the law, Trudeau may not be present for the debate.

All of these major steps have been discussed by phone from inside Rideau Cottage, a red-bricked house on the property of the Governor-General’s much larger residence Rideau Hall.

But despite the situation, Trudeau has increased his public appearances.

He’s been slipping outdoors to hold almost-daily news conferences a few steps from his front stoop.

In his first media availability outside the home after Sophie’s positive test, Trudeau called his situation “an inconvenience and somewhat frustrating,” but he noted his family was doing the right thing by following the advice of medical professionals.

Inside Rideau Cottage, domestic duties have kept the prime minister busy.

Trudeau, the official said, has been preparing meals for Hadrien, Ella-Grace and Xavier, 12, using supplies left outside the door. The drop-offs have also included a box of Star Wars Legos to help preoccupy the kids.

The sounds of children yelling or laughing have at times been overheard during phone discussions about “pretty serious stuff,” the official said.

All meetings with staff, they added, have been conducted by phone because installing secure video links in the home where people are self-isolated was seen as a big obstacle.

The phone calls have created new challenges as ministers and other officials try to follow along with charts and graphs. Key discussions have grown more complex due to the lack of body language. “You don’t see the nuance of the raised eyebrow,” they said.

The official said the prime minister’s example of working from home could serve as an opportunity to “normalize” the fact that many more people may have to do the same.

There are small silver linings. The proximity of Trudeau’s news conference Wednesday to his front closet came in handy.

He made his major economic announcement and then he paused the live outdoor news conference, which was held on a cold late winter day.

“Just before I take questions, I’m supposed to model healthy behavior, I’m going to go grab my coat and I’ll be right back,” he said before dashing into the house and returning a few seconds later.

Trudeau has used his news events to urge others to work from home as much as possible.

“Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to,” he said this week. “Work remotely if you can. Let the kids run around a bit in the house. Things will get better.

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