The 2012/2013 Liberal Leadership has been a tremendous success both for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. Some media have dubbed it a "fiasco" or "colossal failure." Many pundits are calling it a coronation, a term I would argue isn't appropriate for the leader of Canada's third place political party. To understand, we have to look at the context of the last two leadership campaigns.
The 2006 leadership was if nothing else, very hotly contested and exciting. We had Michael Ignatieff as the frontrunner, Bob Rae as the close second and the dark horses Stephane Dion and Gerard Kennedy not too far behind. There were also candidates who despite their significantly smaller numbers coming in to the convention, played a large role in determining the eventual winner. Former Ministers Ken Dryden, Joe Volpe and Scott Brison all supported Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findlay supported Dion. The dynamics of these moves lead to the eventual deal between Kennedy and Dion that saw Dion elected as leader. The excitement and drama of that hotly contested last delegated convention ever surely should have lead to a great Liberal victory in 2008, according to pundits and media commenting on the 2013 process anyway.
The 2009 Liberal Leadership was less hotly contested as we all recall. Michael Ignatieff announced he would seek the Interim Leadership, prompting both Dominic Leblanc and Bob Rae to withdraw from the race. With 97 per cent support of the delegates in 2009, Michael Ignatieff lead the party to third place with 34 seats and just 18 per cent of the popular vote. Mercifully, Ignatieff lost his own seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore making his decision to step down an easy one.
So why didn't it work? The 2006 Leadership was hotly contested and the frontrunner was passed on the final ballot. This is the outcome that is desired by some people for 2013? That frontrunner went on to lead the party less than three years later and eventually lost a general election and his own seat. Both leaders had an abundance of policy, both leaders had substance, but that failed to resonate with the Canadian electorate.
The 2006 Liberal Leadership introduced Canadians to two people more than any other: Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. Pundits of the day said the contest was between them so the media focused on them primarily. Stephane Dion who was the surprise winner of that convention in Montreal did not become known to Canadians until the Conservative Party defined him in three simple words: Not A Leader. Canadians had no reason to think otherwise, many had never heard of him before and even people within the Liberal Party secretly agreed.
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The 2009 Liberal Leadership introduced Canadians to nothing. Michael Ignatieff negotiated the interim Leadership assuming Canadians remembered him from 2006. The short-sighted decision to forego that re-introduction opened the door for the Conservative Party to define him in even fewer words: Just Visiting. Canadians had no reason again to think otherwise, it had been at least two hockey seasons since those great headlines from the 2006 process. Who was this guy who came in thinking he could take home the cup without ever playing a game?
The 2013 Liberal leadership process has done one thing very well, it has defined and introduced Justin Trudeau to Canadians. His tour schedule has been impressive, appearing in town halls, church basements, banquet halls and restaurants across the country. Breakfast gatherings have drawn 300 people, lunches in excess of 500 and evening rallys have surpassed capacity at many venues exceeding 1,000 or more people. This has resulted in hundreds of local media stories in towns across Canada. Canadians know what Justin Trudeau stands for, he stands for values they believe in. To Liberal Party members, he has shown respect for the Policy process they have worked on very hard for many years and not dictated top heavy policy like his predecessors and opponents. That has translated in to an overwhelming vote of confidence and lead in this contest.
Canadians know that Justin Trudeau is passionate. They know that he is eloquent and thoughtful. They know that he is likeable. That is more than Canadians have known about the last two Liberal Leaders and that is why Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party have already won. That is why the Liberal Party's best chance at success in 2015 is with Justin Trudeau as Leader.