DIEPPE, N.B. - On a day when Justin Trudeau's Liberal leadership bid won the support of Dominic LeBlanc — a scion of Canada's Liberal establishment — a new poll came out that suggests he could reshape the country's political landscape.
The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey released Friday says 36 per cent of those who took part in the poll across the country last week said they would be certain or likely to vote Liberal in the next election if Trudeau is at the party's helm.
The poll says he would get "significant support" east of Manitoba, with 40 per cent of those surveyed in Ontario, 43 per cent in Quebec and 48 per cent in Atlantic Canada indicating they would be certain or likely to vote for the Liberals if Trudeau is leading the party.
"Justin Trudeau — more than any other prospective candidate we tested — holds the best prospect for a revival of the Liberal party," said Allan Gregg, chairman of Harris-Decima. "In fact he is the only candidate we tested that has the potential to broaden the Liberal vote beyond its current base."
Gregg said the results in Quebec "debunk the myth that the Trudeau name is a liability in the province of Quebec or among francophones."
The poll also suggests that while Trudeau is a threat to the Conservatives, the NDP has the most to lose from his leadership of the Liberals.
The poll suggests that if Quebec MP Marc Garneau were leading the Liberals, 18 per cent of respondents would be certain or likely to vote for the party, while the Bank of Canada's Mark Carney stood at 16 per cent.
The telephone poll taken between Sept. 27 and 30 of just over 1,000 Canadians is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
It also looked at LeBlanc's chances in the leadership race, but the New Brunswick MP set his own ambitions aside on Friday to back his lifelong friend.
LeBlanc's move, coming only three days after Trudeau announced his candidacy, effectively leaves the Montreal MP without any serious challengers waiting in the wings, prompting more speculation about a boring coronation rather than a exciting race leading to the final voting in April.
In a brief speech that was mostly in French, LeBlanc told about 250 people in Dieppe, N.B., that he and Trudeau have not only been friends since childhood, but they also share deep Liberal roots — LeBlanc's late father, former governor general Romeo LeBlanc, was a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister who served under Trudeau's famous father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
LeBlanc said their families vacationed together in New Brunswick in August, and the two politicians share not only a close friendship, but the same political values.
"We spoke, Justin and I, about our shared love of Canada," he told a campaign event where the announcement was made. "We spoke about the challenges facing our country and we spoke about how we can participate, fully, in the future of Canada and in giving Canadians a progressive, inclusive government of which they can be proud."
In the past, LeBlanc has had aspirations to lead his party and briefly ran for the top job in 2008 before stepping aside for Michael Ignatieff.
Although he'd mused publicly about running again this time, he made no effort to put together a campaign team and few Liberals actually expected him to take the plunge. An insider close to Trudeau said no pressure was put on LeBlanc to stand aside.
For his part, LeBlanc made it clear he would be part of Trudeau's team.
"We have been friends our entire lives," he said. "I have seen up close Justin's toughness, his work ethic. Justin is one of the most energetic, hard-working people I have ever met. I've seen how his hard work, how his energy, how his enthusiasm can inspire others."
LeBlanc then pointed out there was another 200 people waiting outside the auditorium to see the two men.
In his speech, Trudeau spoke in broad terms about his desire to lead the party and the country. There were no policy announcements, no clues as to what he would do if handed the mantle of power.
But he pumped up the crowd with little effort. He also punctuated most of his sentences by looking directly as the assembled cameras like a seasoned campaigner.
"It's not about me. It's not even about our party," he said. "It's about the fact that Canadians are listening because they're not satisfied with the government they have. They want better. They know they deserve better."
Like LeBlanc, he spoke mostly in French, appealing to residents of the Moncton area, known for its large contingent of francophones and dedication to bilingualism. The area is part of LeBlanc's Beausejour riding in eastern New Brunswick, an area where the LeBlanc name is synonymous with Liberal royalty.
After the speech, Rick Sear said he liked what he heard from Trudeau.
"He expresses a vision of a new generation for Canada," said Sear, a retired accountant from Sussex. "It's really what we need in this country — new leadership. Let the younger people take over."
Sear also said he was impressed with Trudeau's vision.
"He expressed values, Canadian values," he said. "I know (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper has values that don't resonate with Canadians. His is a divisive type of leadership just to gain power. We need a vision that all Canadians can get behind."
Despite Trudeau's youthful appearance — he's 40 — Bertin LeBlanc said he reminds him of another era.
"It reminded me of the years when we felt that national unity was a priority, not only on the questions of language and culture but also in terms of economic development and respect for all provinces," said LeBlanc, who lives in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B.
Victor Boudreau, leader of New Brunswick's Opposition Liberal party, said Dominic LeBlanc has been a friend of his for 25 years, but he said it was clear why one friend was stepping aside for another.
"The buzz that has been created around Justin Trudeau's candidacy ... it's a buzz that we've not felt within the Liberal Party of Canada for quite some time now," he said. "That's certainly encouraging to see the attention that it's bringing to the party."