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Daniel D. Veniez Headshot

What the Trudeau Effect Has Done for the Liberal Party

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Richard Lautens via Getty Images
Richard Lautens via Getty Images

Some professional politicians appeal to the lowest common denominator in us. Knowing that fear is the most potent of political weapons, they employ it with ruthless cunning. Cynicism is a tool to be manipulated for maximum electoral advantage. Their discourse and action is consistently laced with "me." Inherently insecure in their own skin, this brand of political careerist repels strong, accomplished people. They take a perverse pride in the subservience of people around them, instead of basking in their creativity, strength and independence.

In his short time as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau has become the antithesis of this genre of politician. His style is hopeful and optimistic, his purpose the greater good. He pushes people to aspire to be the best they can be. In his world, trust and openness replace parochialism.

Trudeau's confidence is also infectious. In part because of that, he has become a magnet for talent. There's no better indication of a great leader than one who seeks to attract exceptional people to his cause. In growing numbers across Canada, great people are choosing to enter active public life as candidates for the Liberal Party. What draws them is Justin Trudeau and the hope and practical idealism he represents. They are people of quality, accomplishment and dedication to service to Canada.

Among them is Bill Morneau, who is the Liberal Party's candidate in Toronto Centre. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario, he earned two masters degrees from the London School of Economics and from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Morneau is a world-class overachiever in all he touches. Until recently, Moreau was Chairman of the C.D. Howe Institute. Morneau is a highly respected entrepreneur, business leader, community activist, and generous benefactor.

Morneau is a business powerhouse and will add considerably more depth to an already deep Liberal bench on economic issues. He'll join such stars as Scott Brison, John McCallum, and Chrystia Freeland.

Morneau's decision to stand for public office for the first time is a concrete example of the Trudeau Effect. The same is true for another, Sven Spengemann, who is a candidate for the Liberal Party nomination in Mississauga South.

Born in Berlin, Germany, Spengemann moved to Canada at 14 with his parents and sisters, where they settled in Mississauga's Erindale/Credit Woodlands neighbourhood. He earned his first law degree at Osgoode Hall, and then pursued graduate law degrees at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium and Harvard Law School. Apparently not satisfied with only four of them, he completed fifth degree, this time his doctorate in political and constitutional theory, at Harvard Law School.

Spengemann's awards are too many to list here, but he's also a Fulbright Scholar.

In 2003 served as a senior policy analyst within the Privy Council office. That is the nerve center for Canada's public service and is where the best and the brightest hang their hats.

In 2005 and for the seven years that followed, Spengemann served in Baghdad with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), first as Legal Advisor and then Senior Constitutional Officer. He negotiated operational protocols with the US Coalition Forces to ensure operational, security and medical support for the UN Mission. He then led a team of international and Iraqi experts to assist the Iraqi Parliament, executive and Kurdistan Regional Government with constitutional and legislative reforms. Spengemann returned to Canada in 2012. He is BMO's Visiting Fellow at York University's Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, where he teaches on Middle East politics.

Another overachiever, Spengemann, a father of two, is a pilot and serious mountain climber. Several years ago, Sven paid me a visit at home in Vancouver. He showed up suited in the full body armour of the high performance motorcycle he pulled into my driveway on. It was a ride that took him from Toronto to Newfoundland, all the way West to the Coast of British Columbia, and back to Toronto again. When I asked him why he was doing that, his answer simply was: "What better way to see my great country?" And when I asked him recently why he wanted to run for parliament and subject himself to all that goes with being a politician in today's 24-hour news cycle, his response was equally clear and elegant. "What better way to serve than to have a mandate from my fellow citizens to represent them?"

Sven Spengemann, like Bill Morneau, can do anything they want to in life. They certainly don't have to take the massive pay cut, tripling of their workload, and the high probability that they will soon have to be dragged into the pettiness and ugliness of partisan warfare. The much bigger prize they covet is what makes all the sacrifice worth it: the opportunity to serve.

My hope is that Sven Spengemann's next stop will be the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Mississauga South. His constituents need him there. And so does Canada.

The new Trudeau Effect's consequences on Canada's future are far more profound and far-reaching than most of us understand. When this kind of quality, substance, and stature are attracted to electoral politics for the first time, you just know that we are at the dawn of a very new, exciting, promising time in our nations history.


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