Justin Trudeau's geek factor

Jesse Brown evaluates the putative Liberal Leader hopeful's record on digital policy

This morning, Justin Trudeau came out as a geek.

“I no doubt have something more important to be doing,” he tweeted, “but I just found the whale in xkcd’s Click and Drag, and it made me smile.”  Trudeau included the hashtag #geek in an apparent act of self-description. “Wheeeee!,” he added in a subsequent tweet.

Xkcd is of course a wildly popular stick-figure web comic about the Internet and technology, and “Click and Drag” is an epic, interactive entry in the series filled with hard-to-spot secrets like the aforementioned whale.

Trudeau backed up the tweet with proof: a screen-grab of the whale.

This development begs the question: is the newest contender for Liberal party leadership actually a geek, or is he just pandering to the geek vote. A quick look at his record is in order:

Online Privacy

When then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tried to push through Bill C-11 Bill C-30, the online spying law that would grant police access to some of Canadians’ private information online without a warrant, Trudeau was a vocal opponent. He participated in the satirical #TellVicEverything Twitter hashtag by revealing that “Last night I promised my wife I’d wake up early for yoga, but repeatedly snooze-buttoned instead” (note also the sop here to the #Yoga vote).

Later, Toews inferred that Trudeau may have orchestrated the @Vikileaks30 Twitter feed, which posted public information about Toews’ divorce. Trudeau denied any role in the account, but apologized for having linked to it.

For this, he gets a Geek Grade of B (more tweets than action)


Justin Trudeau was a vocal critic of the Conservatives’ copyright reform bill, likening it to America’s failed Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which critics claimed the Harper administration had been under pressure to emulate.

When Heritage Minister James Moore called such critics “radical extremists,” Trudeau tweeted “Wow. Apparently I might be a ‘radical extremist’ because I have questions about a gvt bill. I thought that was called ‘doing my job’.”

Geek Grade: B (more tweets than action)

iPod Tax

In 2010 Bloc MP Carole Lavallée put forth a motion that the private copying levy be extended to devices like iPods. That would have meant that every time a Canadian bought one of these gadgets, they’d pay a special tax (as much as $75 per iPod, according to the Conservatives) that would then be distributed to musicians (or their labels, at least) to make up for all of the supposed revenue they were losing due to all of the illicit downloading iPod owners were supposedly doing. Even if you filled your iPod with nothing but legitimate music and apps, you’d have to pay the levy.

The motion was defeated, but Trudeau voted for it.

Geek Grade: F (wrong kind of action)


Trudeau has some ways to go before truly locking down his geek credentials.  Xkcd appreciation and pugnacious tweets are great, but they would go down even better if  he backed that up with substantive action on digital policy issues.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

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