Diplomats placed a rush order for a Made In The U.S.A. six-foot cardboard cut-out of the Prime Minister for display at the Canadian embassy in Washington, say Access To Information records. At least one official questioned the purchase as undignified.
“Can we PLEASE order this for July 1? We’re talk’n some serious selfie action,” wrote Anna Gibbs, senior events production manager at the Washington embassy; “I WANT ONE FOR OUR CANADA DAY EVENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That will be as popular as a Mountie selfie!!!”
Neither Gibbs nor other embassy staff would agree to an interview. In email records released by the foreign ministry, one employee enthused: “I 100 percent support this idea. I think people will get a kick out of it and it’ll work really well with our snapchat filter!”
The display was used to decorate 2016 Canada Day observances in Washington. Diplomats ordered a similar cut-out at the Canadian Consulate in Atlanta, where Consul General Louis Blais advised Washington staff to check before stocking up on Justin Trudeau displays.
“Did you check with Ottawa to get permission to use the cut-out?” wrote Blais? Replied Events Manager Gibbs: “We did ask weeks ago. Never got an answer, which I took as no objections. But as added cover, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa has one of the Obamas.”
The displays were purchased from Historical Cutouts Ltd., a Pennsylvania vendor that also sells life-sized cut-outs of Nelson Mandela, Josef Stalin, Napoleon, Che Guevara and North Korean dictator King Jong Un. “All products are made in America,” wrote the company.
The Trudeau cut-out retails for US$59.99. The Canadian Embassy paid $147.79 for its version, including a $72.80 charge for rush delivery by UPS air cargo on June 28, 2016.
Diplomats spent a week discussing the purchase in emails with the subject heading, “URGENT – Please order Trudeau cut-out NOW!” “We don’t need to decide today,” wrote one Embassy counsellor.
Another diplomat, Katherine Baird, congressional liaison at the Washington Embassy, questioned the purchase. “I’m of two minds, to be honest,” wrote Baird. “I get the PR value but it just doesn’t seem very Prime Ministerial.”
The Embassy’s events manager disagreed. “Hi all!” she wrote on June 28, 2016. “We need to order this today to get it here in time for Canada Day. I think this will be a hoot and extremely popular, and will go well with our snapchat filter.”
The Embassy referred all questions to foreign affairs headquarters in Ottawa. Staff in Ottawa did not comment.