Print Edition: October 17, 2012
The man from Papineau with the locks and forgotten goatee finally came forward on October 2.
Of course, that would be Justin Trudeau.
The right wing media seems to have developed a fixation on his hair and how great it is – though in the past he’s been known to sport a pretty pitiful goatee.
Trudeau has at last announced that he wants to lead the Liberal Party of Canada.
He’s also the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, if the name and media attention haven’t somehow already given it away.
And what a name he has to live up to. His father, Pierre Trudeau, was Canada’s Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979, and again from 1980 to 1984. He was the man responsible for making one of the great changes to our country’s constitution in the way of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It’s primarily this reason that this younger Trudeau is known.
So Trudeau has some work to do. He needs to show his own strength and leadership if he is to be chosen to lead the party at the April convention in Toronto.
In the 2011 Canadian election the Liberals were devastated. They were relegated to third place with 34 of 308 seats in the House of Commons. But they were sputtering for years before that.
After that disaster of an election—right or wrongly deserved—under former leader Michael Ignatieff, perhaps they do now need a celebrity leader. In this case Trudeau is the man to get them back in the game and see their key demographics return.
However, saying Trudeau needs to come out strong and be his own man is a disservice to what he’s up against. As much good as his father did for the country, he was also a polarizing figure. This is most certainly something the opposition will try to paint Trudeau with.
He’s also somewhat inexperienced having only been in government for exactly four years this month.
Then there’s the blunder he made at the beginning of the year with his remarks on contemplating a separatist Quebec.
And Trudeau’s star power could potentially cause other would-be candidates to shy away and make this leadership race a one man show. There’s still no competition and the possibility that Trudeau could emerge as leader without ever really being pushed on policy issues.
But downsides often come with upsides as they do with Trudeau.
For one, he’s relatively young at 40. Potentially he would have a better chance of connecting with Canadian youth than previous leaders have.
Secondly, his freshness to the political scene could rejuvenate the party in a way that they haven’t seen since the Chrétien days. Martin, Dion, Ignatieff and even most recent interim-leader Rae could not do that.
The question of whether he is capable is still in the air, as he has yet to really demonstrate his potential. If there are no other candidates it would harm the party more than unites it. It is an open question as to how things will unfold from here until April, but at this time with Trudeau as the potential leader, there is no reason to count the negatives over the positives.
Will Trudeau ever make the difference to the lives of Canadians that his father did? It’s very unlikely. But let’s see what unfolds. After all, even if he does get the leadership there’s still the next federal election to contend with.
It would be a great achievement itself to bring back a hurting Liberal party.