OTTAWA — Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau is full of questions but has few answers of his own — at least according to his record in the House of Commons.
The second-term MP, who announced his candidacy for the party’s leadership Tuesday before an enthusiastic crowd in his Montreal riding of Papineau, is a rock star in Liberal circles.
But in Parliament, Trudeau’s record is lacklustre compared to those of his peers. While most MPs relish the chance to introduce legislation through a private member’s bill, or to call attention to matters of national importance through a motion, Trudeau appears to have taken a pass.
The Liberal critic for post secondary education, youth and amateur sport, Trudeau has never tabled a private member’s bill in his four years in office. During his first term, Trudeau tabled one motion calling for the consideration of a national voluntary service policy for young people. (Although it garnered support from the NDP and some Conservatives, it was shot down by most of the Tory caucus and the Bloc Québécois.)
In comparison, Thomas Mulcair introduced five bills in his first four years in office — including two that proposed Quebec’s language laws apply to federal works in that province. Potential Liberal leadership contender Marc Garneau has three times introduced a private member’s bill to create a commissioner for children and young persons in Canada.
Trudeau appears to be more focused on asking the federal government written questions than proposing solutions. He has tabled 16 questions since the last election on topics ranging from cuts to Environment Canada’s water-monitoring stations in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, to the federal government’s target date for reducing the net debt, to the cost of putting up portraits of The Queen in Canada’s embassies and consulates abroad (total cost: $1,000, according to the Tories).
Asked about his Parliamentary record, Trudeau’s office refused comment.
But University of Montreal political scientist Bruce Hicks said Trudeau doesn’t need to table bills and motions like other MPs because he serves his party in other useful ways: He stumped for past Liberal leaders like Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, gave speeches, drew support and raised money, “which isn’t something an average MP does,” Hicks said.
Other MPs push bills and motions “because they get so little satisfaction from being an MP in general ... that they go around doing all these little things to make themselves feel good about their jobs,” Hicks said, adding Trudeau doesn’t have that problem.
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Justin Trudeau signs boxing photos for the North Burnaby Boxing Club.
Linda Ching, 16, started the night by proudly saying -- in English, Mandarin and French -- her first vote will be for Justin Trudeau.
A supporter picks up Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau following a event in Richmond, B.C.
Two year-old Shann Thind looks up to Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau as he gives his speech during a event in Richmond, B.C.
Justin Trudeau returns two-year old Shann Thind to his parents as he gives a speech during a event in Richmond, B.C.
The crowd gets to their feet after Justin Trudeau's speech.
Margaret Kemper Trudeau, Justin's mother and ex-wife of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, called the campaign and media attention over her son "deja vu."
Justin Trudeau hugs his mother, Margaret Kemper Trudeau, at his Richmond, B.C. event.
Justin Trudeau signs boxing gloves for a B.C. fan and promises to return for some sparring.
Justin Trudeau held a brief media availability after his Richmond, B.C. speech.
Since MPs returned to work after the May 2011 election, 247 private members’ bills have been tabled in the Commons, though few have any chance of becoming law. So far, only four bills have passed — three from the Conservatives and one from a Liberal MP.
NDP MP Jamie Nicholls told HuffPost that while Trudeau may not have been a strong player in the House, he shouldn’t be discounted.
“From the times that I’ve been in the House, I haven’t been particularly impressed by any of his presentations, but that is not to say that in the future he won’t develop his policy-side of things,” the Quebec MP said.
Tory MP Ryan Leef said he doesn’t believe Trudeau has the depth of experience to go head-to-head with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But it’s up to Liberals to decide whether his track record on the Hill is sufficient to lead their party, he said.
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“Those are questions he’ll have to answer during his leadership race and I’m sure other candidates will press him on it,” said Leef, a first-time MP from the Yukon who recently introduced a bill to protect the health of correctional workers.
Senior Liberals privately concede that Trudeau isn’t the perfect candidate: he’s quite young and lacks cabinet experience. But they point to his strengths — enthusiasm, energy, charisma — all of which he has in spades.
“I’m somewhat envious of him,” Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve been working for 20 years in Winnipeg North and he seems to be more popular than I am in Winnipeg North.”
“I’ve been to work events with Mr. Trudeau and he is virtually mobbed,” added Lamoureux, who has declared his support for Trudeau. “He has an element of charisma that escapes the vast majority of politicians and at the end of the day, I believe that his contrast, compared to Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Harper, will be beneficial for the Liberal Party.”
Veteran Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who has yet to endorse a candidate, said he was confident that Trudeau would once again surpass expectations and impress Canadians, echoing comments made Wednesday by former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.
“Justin brings an energy, an engagement,” said Cotler. “I mean he won a riding that you had to be there in the trenches day in and day out. This was not a nomination that was handed. He is a very hard worker.”
Many Liberals hope Trudeau will inspire and mobilize a new generation of young people, including those who don’t vote but who could potentially turn things around for the Grits.
If Trudeau is successful, Cotler told HuffPost, his leadership could be a “transformative event — not just for the party but for Canadian politics as a whole.”
Trudeau is the second declared candidate in the Liberal leadership race. His only competitor so far is his half-sister’s mother, Deborah Coyne, a constitutional lawyer who had a relationship with his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Liberal leadership contest officially kicks off in November and a new leader will be announced April 14.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau kisses his wife Sophie Gregoire after announcing he will seek the leadership of the party Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd of supporters as he holds his son Xavier and his wife Sophie Gregoire holds their daughter Ella-Grace after announcing he will seek the leadership of the party Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau laughs with his son Xavier after announcing he will seek the leadership of the party Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau announces he will seek the leadership of the party at a news conference, Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, right, and his wife Sophie Gregoire arrive at a news conference before announcing he will seek the leadership of the party, Tuesday, October 2, 2012, in Montreal.
Justin Trudeau Launches His Liberal Leadership Bid
Papineau MP Justin Trudeau launched his leadership bid Tuesday in his Montreal-area riding. Trudeau, the oldest son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is running for the leadership of the third party in the House of Commons but he made it clear his ambition is to be prime minister.
What Changed Mr. Trudeau?
Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau explains why he decided to jump in the race to lead the third party.
Alexandre "Sacha" Trudeau
14. Canada's Paris Hilton
"His resume is paper thin. He's truly the Paris Hilton. He was born into money, and a name, and that's about all he's done." - <a href="http://blogs.canoe.ca/lilleyspad/general/video-levant-and-lilley-on-trudeaumania-part-2/">Ezra Levant</a> (2:50 in video)
13. Maygan Sensenberger?
"Maybe Justin Trudeau won’t be Maygan Sensenberger to the Liberals’ Rod Zimmer. Maybe there’s a hidden depth beneath that glib exterior. Maybe he’s more mature than the MP with the Johnny Depp moustache who called the environment minister a 'piece of shit' during a heated moment in the House of Commons, and suggested that if Canada’s going to go the way of Stephen Harper 'maybe I would think about making Quebec a country.'" - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/09/28/kelly-mcparland-liberals-transform-themselves-into-the-lindsay-lohan-party/">Kelly McParland</a>
12. Curious Attire
"Nothing riles Liberals more than the accusation that Justin’s nothing more than an empty suit – or whatever you call his often curious attire." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/is-justin-trudeau-really-taken-seriously-by-his-own-party/article4575515/">Gerald Caplan</a>
11. Adolescent Machismo
"I found last March’s boxing match between Justin and a Conservative Senator to have been an embarrassing descent into adolescent machismo." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/is-justin-trudeau-really-taken-seriously-by-his-own-party/article4575515/">Gerald Caplan</a>
10. Delicate Princeling
<i>On a protest in Toronto against the anti-Islam film the "Innocence of Muslims."</i> "You’d have thought that if a vigorous objection would be coming from anywhere, it would be coming from the Liberal Party of Canada. It didn’t, and it is even less likely that it soon will, now that the delicate princeling Justin Trudeau has unofficially declared his odds-on-favourite candidacy for the party leadership." - <a href="http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/only+Canada+liberal+party/7304311/story.html">Terry Glavin</a>
"Justin Trudeau is a dabbler – he dabbled in teaching, dabbled in the arts, dabbled in acting, dabbled in activism. Now he’s dabbling in politics." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/09/28/kelly-mcparland-liberals-transform-themselves-into-the-lindsay-lohan-party/">Kelly McParland</a>
8. Handsome Young Thing A Bad Thing?
"After running the country for most of the 20th century it’s morphing into the Lindsay Lohan of Canadian politics, constantly vowing to clean up its act, only to wake up with a headache and another charge on its rap sheet. The Liberals aren’t into drugs that I know of, but after three failed marriages, a stint in rehab and with its overall health in decline, it pledged to undertake a serious effort to re-establish itself as a mature, dependable party. Instead it’s plunging shamelessly into an affair with the handsome young thing with the dynamite hair." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/09/28/kelly-mcparland-liberals-transform-themselves-into-the-lindsay-lohan-party/">Kelly McParland</a>
7. Thin Résumé, Low Bar
"Mr. Trudeau brings a thin résumé. He has youth, a storied name, decent smarts and a certain something that makes people like him. That this may be enough speaks volumes about how low the bar is set for the job of Liberal leader." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/if-trudeau-leads-will-liberals-follow/article4570953/">John Ibbitson</a>
6. That Johnny Depp Beard Again
"A high school teacher when he wore a cropped version of a Johnny Depp beard, Justin reached out to the country only once before, at his father’s funeral: voicing the most poignant of the elegies, ending his prayer with the heart-rending, 'Je t’aime, papa.' Prayers will come in handy should he be charged with rescuing the Liberals, who haven’t been the country’s Natural Governing Party since Noah launched his ark." - <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/18/trudeaus-big-leap/">Peter C. Newman</a>
5. Going The Way Of Mulroney
"Unless Justin as leader applies some harsh medicine to the remnants of the Liberal party, he will end up like Ben Mulroney, hosting entertainment shows. (Already the politician, Justin invited Ben to his wedding to glamorous CTV talk show correspondent Sophie Grégoire.)" - <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/18/trudeaus-big-leap/">Peter C. Newman</a>
4. Cowboy Campaign Slogan?
"What do you want me to be? A cowboy? I can do that! No? Something else? Name it? I was a drama teacher, so I can totally be what you need." - <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/09/26/post-approved-campaign-posters-slogans-for-justin-trudeaus-liberal-leadership-bid/">Steve Murray </a>
3. Cut From The Same Cloth
"Justin Trudeau and Justin Bieber have more in common than just a first name. Both guys are also adored by legions of love struck fans. Except in the case of Bieber the fans are teenage girls, whereas for Trudeau they are the Canadian media." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/09/27/gerry-nicholls-dear-media-will-you-and-justin-get-a-room-please/">Gerry Nicholls</a>
2. The Shiny Pony Enters Horserace
"Outside the Commons Wednesday, the son of Canada's most over-rated and historically-revised PM, the Shiny Pony, as Sun News Network refers to him mockingly, had his media fan club giggling like groupies at a Justin Bieber concert." - <a href="http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/27/the-shiny-pony-enters-horserace">Sun News</a>
1. Eulogy Maudlin, Sappy, Contrived
"Eulogies aren’t easy, especially when they’re deeply personal. But I was among many who found his to be maudlin and sappy, contrived, almost embarrassing, the opposite of those who felt it soared to the heavens." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/is-justin-trudeau-really-taken-seriously-by-his-own-party/article4575515/">Gerald Caplan</a>