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What’s Wrong with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau Asking for a Second Assistant?

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is no stranger to publicity.

And as such, she’s also familiar with public backlash (if she’s not hiring two nannies for her three children on public money she’s singing about them in public).

So when she opened her mouth to tell the journalist at French-language newspaper, Le Soleil, that her work schedule was so overwhelming that she needed a second assistant, she could hardly have been surprised when the nation reacted the way it did.

Twitter was awash with sarcastic responses to her complaining, and it didn’t take long for users to come up with the hashtag #PrayForSophie, mocking her whining.

So is this just a case of upper middle class privileged moaning?


Many have criticized her for whining about her hardships, especially given that the Liberal government has claimed to be sympathetic to the difficulties of the middle class.

And despite the demands on her time, plenty have pointed out the undeniable perks that come with her job – namely extensive travel and a team of hired help. Which is pretty good for a position that technically has no official duties.

Besides, we never once heard Stephen Harper’s wife, Laureen, complain about the demands on her time in the nine years that she upheld the position as PM’s Wife.

But then again, it’s nearly impossible to argue against Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s popularity exceeding that of the former “first-lady” of Canada. (Be honest, you didn’t know her name was Laureen.) The expectation and longing to see more of her – like when the media went into overdrive as she and Michelle Obama appeared to get along like a house on fire in Washington – doubtless takes up more of her time than it did of Laureen Harper.

As an active participant in several projects and charities, Gregoire-Trudeau said that she receives many letters and is frequently asked to help – but since she has one assistant, three children, and only her dining room table to serve as her office, she lacks the resources.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 09:  Sophie Gregoire and Justin Trudeau arrive at the "Midnight's Children" Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
 Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Michelle Obama, the first lady of the US, unquestionably employs more than one assistant, and you can bet your life that she has her own office in the White House.

So given that the Gregoire-Trudeau is giving up her own time to serve her duties as wife to the Prime Minister of Canada, shouldn’t we consider this her job in its own right?

Doesn’t she deserve her own office, a secretary, and a couple of extra staff to help her perform her obligations to Canada? Because we sure as hell wouldn’t be putting in the kind of hours that Sophie does without expecting to be supported or remunerated for it.

Why is her request for extra assistance met with a collective groan, a rolling of the eyes and the obligatory reminder of the plight of “everyday Canadian women feeling overwhelmed”?

“You should see how much work I have to do, and I don’t even have ONE assistant, let alone two!” is the inevitable battle cry; the indignant response to Sophie’s statements. But as a figurehead of Canada, why can’t we respect her for standing up and admitting that she is over-worked and under resourced? And can’t we all admit that the Prime Minister and his wife both have a bit more on their plates than the average Canadian?

Of course, the average Canadian doesn’t have the luxury of being able to publicly ask the government to dig into its pockets to help them, either. But perhaps we could admire Sophie for being vocal about her limits, instead of struggling on in martyrdom.

You only need to peer over the border or look across the pond to see what the world thinks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife.

Grown American men are begging the PM to be the President of the United States, and my British mother asks me for updates on the Canadian dynasty every time we Skype.

For better or for worse, image is clearly important. And sure, Canadian opinion of the former teacher, boxer and actor may differ wildly – but irrelevant of his beliefs or policies, how many outsiders could have picked Stephen Harper out of a lineup?

Presence on the world stage does not occur overnight. And sneer as Conservative MP Candace Bergen might at Trudeau’s willingness for “self-promotion, to do vanity trips, to do the things that he likes to do” – Canada did not gain global relevance by hiding their leaders and their wives behind a mountain of paperwork at 24 Sussex Drive.

If we’re valuable to our company or our country, why should we silently allow ourselves to get snowed under an avalanche of work or requests for input?

Let’s set an example that anyone being overworked – whether it’s “first lady” of Canada, or a General Manager at the bank – should be able to ask for assistance without derision.


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