As most of us were busy with family and friends over the Christmas break, one Federal Liberal leadership hopeful was occupied with strategically advancing his lead over the rest. Perhaps most surprising was the fact that it was the perceived front runner, Justin Trudeau.
Although some have been critical of Trudeau's content and what he would bring to the leadership race, he has been slowly defying his lightweight reputation. Part of that is Trudeau seeking the media, but it's mostly been the media seeking him, which has contributed to an obsessive cycle portraying the race as a one-man show.
Trudeau could easily run a front runners campaign; not say or do much and just let things happen. It would be unfortunate had he gone down that route, considering many don't know what he stands for, but it would also reduce the risk of costly political mistakes. The good news is that Trudeau has decided to -- on occasion -- put himself out there or at least be reactive to the media.
In the last few months, we have learned a bit more about Trudeau on specific files. His unambiguous support for the controversial Chinese takeover of Calgary-based Nexen Inc. -- a 15.1 billion deal came as a surprise to many. Trudeau may have supported the deal to demonstrate his ability in taking bold positions or the realization that local companies need the assistance of international players to develop the oil sands. In an article which outlined his position, Trudeau eloquently outlined the importance of the deal to improving our economy and described it as a boost to our middle class whose incomes have stagnated for more than a decade.
In some instances, Trudeau found himself in awkward positions trying to clarify mixed messages on files like the long gun registry. At other times, he was diffident for remarks made towards Albertans, conveniently dug up from previous years during the Calgary Centre by-election.
More recently, Trudeau has shown that he is the most strategic through political tactics with his visit to Chief Theresa Spence on Boxing Day. The move was both brilliant and shameless. It was brilliant because he was the first Liberal leadership candidate to visit the Chief who has been on a hunger strike for three weeks to protest the Harper government's harsh, non-consultative approach to aboriginals via Bill 45, in addition to unresolved issues from the Attawapiskat crisis. Compare this to Marc Garneau's old school styled open letter to Prime Minister Harper which urged him to move swiftly and meet with Chief Spence.
Trudeau's visit was shameless in the sense that it was pure optics for his campaign. Ultimately, it was about Tweeting a photo of solidarity with the hunger striking Chief. Governments of all stripes have failed to effectively address the concerns raised by Aboriginal leaders for many years. The reality is the treatment of First Nations People has never been a priority for any government, but if Trudeau has a solution here, he should go one step further and table it.
The most substantive item that Trudeau deserves credit for was his determination to speak at an Islamic conference in defiance of many critics. The controversy arose when some media outlets and Jewish groups raised a stink about one of the conference sponsors, IRFAN Canada and its alleged ties to the militant group, Hamas. In the end IRFAN pulled out due to the controversy but Trudeau proceeded with his plan to attend and speak at the conference.
The speech focused on uniting people and signaled a completely different foreign policy approach than the one adopted by the Harper Conservatives -- one that would see Canada return to its traditional role as a facilitator in key conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian one.
For good or bad, Canadians have been oversaturated with Trudeau coverage. There is little doubt that Trudeau will win the Liberal leadership race, but for now other candidates deserve more media coverage. Nearly a year ago, the media covered the NDP leadership race in a fair fashion. Why can't they be just as impartial to the other Liberal candidates?