Today, Justin Trudeau launches his campaign to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. As he does, there is concern that the hyperventilation surrounding Trudeau's candidacy and his status as a bona fide celebrity and political rock star is sucking all life out of this "wide open" race.
Remember that term? After Bob Rae decided not to be a candidate, credible people declared the race for Liberal leader "wide open." Tell that to all those "exploratory committees" populated by other candidates. There is still time for credible challengers to emerge. But there's no question that this is Mr. Trudeau's race -- or marathon -- to lose.
While I am very skeptical that he would do so, I would throw my support behind Bank of Canada Governor, Mark Carney, should he chose to run. As I wrote last week, Carney would be an incredibly compelling candidate and, I would have no doubt, outstanding parliamentarian.
Mark Garneau has said that he is seriously considering it. I hope he does. He would be a formidable candidate. So would Dominic LeBlanc, although we've heard nothing from him on his intentions. The other declared and undeclared candidates are all good, smart, and hard-working people. All of them bring something unique to the conversation that Liberals and Canadians must have.
I sincerely hope that Trudeau's official entry in this race does not discourage them from participating, although many of them will no doubt be reassessing their plans.
The press coverage and commentary leading up to Trudeau's announcement has been fawning or vitriolic, but you can't find much in between. Comparisons to his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, have been and are incredibly unfair.
The hypocrisy of pouncing on Justin Trudeau's "thin" professional record is nauseating. Arguably, Trudeau has a more substantive and varied background and education in the real world than Joe Clark, Stockwell Day, and Stephen Harper combined before they became leaders.
Not nearly enough credit is given to a fact that more Canadians will see for themselves in the coming months: Justin Trudeau is an outstanding politician. He's also a tremendously smart guy. He has been giving stirring speeches in front of audiences for years and I have never once seen him give one with prepared notes, and I have never once seen him ignore a question.
Trudeau's audiences are generally younger ones. These are people who weren't even born when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was in power, and don't even know who he is and what he stood for. In many cases, they weren't even born before his death.
They come to see and hear an attractive, authentic, sincere, and engaging member of the House of Commons. They don't get too many of those in the neighborhood, and when they do, they like it a lot. That should be encouraging to all of us that want a higher level of civic engagement, particularly among young people.
For the over 45 crowd, Justin Trudeau's celebrity is in large part derived because he is his father's son. But for everyone else, this isn't about the father; it's about Justin Trudeau himself and his message.
That message is one of hope and opportunity. Trudeau talks about having the power to "change the world," about how all of us can make a difference, about how we must engage and participate to do that.
I've had a long dinner with Trudeau. We had a long walk together in the frigid cold of a January evening in Ottawa. He's come to my constituency in Vancouver to help me on four different occasions. He's called me on Saturday afternoons to give me political advice.
This guy has worked harder than I have ever seen anyone work in politics. On one memorable trip to my West Vancouver constituency, my wife and I picked Justin up from the heliport in downtown Vancouver. I dropped him off at his hotel so he could change into a suit and tie.
Then we drove to a packed fundraiser where he posed for every picture, shook every hand, and gave a stirring speech. After that fundraiser, I took him to another, where he did the same thing. At about 10:00 p.m. that night, we arranged a ride for him to the airport. He was taking the overnight flight back to Ottawa to be in the Commons for a vote.
Trudeau had nothing to gain from any of this. He did it to help the Liberal Party and one of its candidates -- me.
Whenever he came to my riding, he packed the room. Every time, he raised money. Every time, people left wanting to hear more. Every time, people bug me for weeks later about the pictures I promised to send. And every time, they talk about how moved they were by what he said.
This isn't the reaction to a fad or a flash in the pan. Justin Trudeau has a genuine and deep personal connection with people he comes in contact with. That is a gift. Trudeau knows he has it and is intent on using it to do some good. This guy is the real deal.
It is terribly unfair to Canadians that Justin Trudeau be introduced as anything other than his own man. If Liberals respect Justin Trudeau, it is for a lot more than his father's legacy. It's because he's earned it the old fashioned way -- for being himself.
Here are the remaining candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Age: 40 Occupation: MP for Montreal-area riding of Papineau <a href="http://justin.ca/en/">Website</a>
Age: 58 Occupation: Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, former B.C. Liberal environment minister <a href="http://joycemurray.liberal.ca/">Website</a>
Age: 53 Occupation: Former Liberal MP for Willowdale and 2006 leadership candidate <a href="http://www.marthahallfindlay.ca/">Website</a>
Age: 50 Occupation: Lawyer, former Montreal Liberal MP <a href="http://martincauchon.ca/">Website</a>
Age: 57 Occupation: Lawyer, professor <a href="http://www.deborahcoyne.ca/">Website</a>
Occupation: A retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian forces and mediator. <a href="http://karenforcanada.ca/" target="_hplink">Website</a>
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