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Trudeau's Drama Skills Cast Him as Canada's Next Prime Minister

10/20/2015 01:57 EDT | Updated 10/20/2016 05:12 EDT
NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau arrives on stage in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

In March of 2013, after the Trudeau team of advisors practically apologized for him having been a drama teacher by citing that he had also taught math, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post defending the value of drama classes in general and particularly to politicians.

Trudeau used some of those skills wisely and in so doing, captured the hearts and minds of the electorate.

I have an undergraduate degree in political science and a post-graduate degree in theatre and have coached many politicians to better engage with their audience. I therefore look carefully at the presentations skills of the leaders of our national parties.

M. Mulcair was very poorly advised by M. Lavigne and his team of experts. The decision to try to hide "angry Tom" behind an insipid smile was absolutely the wrong thing to do. The electorate, as was clearly demonstrated by last night's result, was unhappy with the Harper legacy. We could have used angry Tom to reflect our ire. We needed to see some of the passion that M. Mulcair was capable of demonstrating. He was clearly not comfortable in this kinder, gentler persona and therefore, despite his early and practically insurmountable lead in the polls, his team faltered.

We needed to see M. Mulcair on the attack. What we got instead were sound bites and bits of largesse.

M. Trudeau offered us vision. His speech in Brantford was inspiring. He tapped into our feelings of frustration with the Harper legacy by offering us a philosophy of hope and change. He was, in that speech, the Obama of the North.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," said President Kennedy, another famous American orator. Taking the same approach, M. Trudeau said in his victory address, "I didn't make history tonight, you did."

Steven Harper was the uncomfortable player that wanted to hide in the wings rather than give his words feelings. He didn't like his audience and disconnected himself from them. If he didn't seem to care about us, why should we give him our trust. He was stiff and uncomfortable. His words were threats without emotion and, as a result, carried little conviction.

Politics is theatre on a grand scale. People go to the theatre neither to watch the actors nor to listen to them. They want to be transported into the world of the play: to suspend disbelief. Just as we are aware that the events on the stage have been rehearsed, that the lights, sound cues and blocking (movement) are all preset, and that the lines have been memorized, we must put aside that knowing in order to become involved about the outcome of the drama.

So must we put aside our knowledge that the politicians have speechwriters and have been coached and rehearsed. The politician who can evoke an emotional response is the politician we will inevitably favour. We want vigour, we want a perception of honesty. We want to believe in their truths.

Mulcair without the passion was so restrained that we found it difficult to believe in his platform. The simpering smile belied his true nature. Tom Mulcair had many positive attributes at his disposal. He has an aura of gravitas and a very mellifluous voice. He should have used those qualities to much greater effect. Conviction was lacking.

Harper, this time around, had competition. Justin Trudeau was neither a soft-spoken Stéphane Dion, nor a grandiose, verbose Michael Ignatieff. Witness what Jack Layton was able to achieve as he moved his party from a perennial third place to the opposition benches.

As did Layton, Trudeau spoke to us, directly to us. He was inclusive and inspirational. He used his drama skills to colour his speeches with feeling and that more than anything prompted us to give him our trust and our votes.

It was clear that there was an "anyone but Harper" movement afoot and probably more strategic voting than ever before seen. It became obvious from the moment that M. Trudeau turned around the "just not ready" attack ad during the first debate with a smile and a shrug that he was, in fact, more than ready to win the hearts and minds of the Canadian people and thus he became our 23rd Prime Minister.

© Harvey Ostroff Oct. 20, 2015

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