There is little doubt that the entrance of Justin Trudeau into the Liberal leadership race is big news. The media loves him. Why? He is the son of Canada's most popular and polarizing Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and like his father, Justin exudes charisma and cuts a dapper image, even when he is modeling himself after a Musketeer.
He's part of a political dynasty that this country has never had provincially or federally (save for the Bennetts in BC and the Mannings) and likely the entrance of Justin Trudeau into the race is exciting news for those hungry for intrigue in Canadian politics.
The question that will occupy politicos and Liberals alike in the coming months until the April 14th 2013 Liberal Leadership convention is this: does Justin Trudeau have what it takes to lead the Liberal party out of third party status and into the light, back to "natural governing party" success? Below are the reasons why I believe the answer to that question is a resounding "No."
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First, let's leave Justin out of the equation and look at his opponents in Parliament. On one side you have Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party. Mulcair is a no-nonsense Quebec federalist who has shown already he isn't afraid to take on contentious positions (Dutch disease anyone?).
He has fashioned a coalition of Atlantic and B.C. progressives together with Quebec progressives and soft nationalists. Mulcair is actively fashioning this coalition and working to expand and gain traction into the Prairies and build up support in Ontario. It will be very difficult to pull votes away from this coalition, which Trudeau will need to do if he wants to break back into old Liberal territory.
On the other side of the isle you have Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada for the past six years and guaranteed by the Constitution to lead the country into his 10th year in 2016 (as an aside while convention has had majorities call elections after every four years, the Constitution has mandated elections every five years).
Harper and his team are a master of labeling. In no time flat he was able to label the past two Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion as "Not a Leader," and Michael Ignatieff as "Just Visiting" with very little truth to those accusation. Does anybody think he'd have a difficult time labeling Justin Trudeau as "the entitled son," "his father's son," "out for himself," "inexperienced," "hot-headed," or "son of the NEP"? There is ample fodder and Trudeau hasn't even launched his race yet.
In a recent column and in top cynical form, political commenter Andrew Coyne ads another layer to the analysis of Justin Trudeau and his suitability to lead the Liberal Party. If he has any firm policy stands, few people accept Justin Trudeau likely knows what they are. We know he's been an advocate for youth, especially the Katimavik program, as well as an advocate for the environment (parliamentary expletives aside) but what else would he stand for?
None of Justin's parliamentary pronouncements nor his public ones give any clue as to what he would do regarding the Nexen oil deal, EI claw backs from Canadians living in Atlantic provinces and as Coyne points out, using a deficit to stimulate the economy or reducing it to "reassure financial markets." On a great many things, mum has been the word thus far.
Justin himself is no dummy (he has a degree in Literature from McGill and a degree in Education from UBC). He is passionate and certainly speaks like a leader at times. He won a difficult riding that many thought would be unwinnable by a Liberal and certainly by a Trudeau.
Let's also not forget that he won the boxing match against Senator Patrick Brazeau and he has a lot of Twitter followers.
These are all impressive achievements but in my mind, they don't add up to a successful leader of a major Canadian political party. The missteps he's made will make an easy bullseye for a Conservative party that has been unafraid to stretch the truth to absurd lengths in the past.
The NDP is not likely to give up the gains they have made without a fight, so attack ads from both camps are likely. I'm certain that the governing party already has "separatist" ads in the can just waiting to be released once Trudeau announces his leadership bid on Tuesday. With the above standing in his way and his apparent inability to watch what he says, he may indeed be the biggest liability the Liberal leadership contest has.
Justin Trudeau has captured the imagination of Canada's political media. Here are the 11 most ridiculously flattering things they've said about him so far this year.
<a href="http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/16/justins-the-one-10-winning-reasons-why" target="_hplink">- Warren Kinsella</a>
"Justin Trudeau does not shake your hand; he inhabits it. The wrist cocks out and up, the fingertips down; the elbow shoots off to his right; the shoulder rises slightly. Then a friendly grin dawns as he delivers a firm but not crushing grip, looking you in the eye, with a twinkle in his own. The effect is of someone who is warm, slightly embarrassed by the fuss, almost goofy, and genuinely happy to meet you. It is likely that some of this is practised; he would have spent his early social years deflecting other peoples' preconceived ideas about class and snobbery. Either way, it is effective. The man is genuinely, immensely likable." <a href="http://o.canada.com/2012/08/17/electrifying-and-elusive-justin-trudeau-quietly-mulls-his-political-destiny/" target="_hplink">- Michael Den Tandt</a>
"Trudeau is part Sisyphus, driven by his nature and upbringing to push his political rock up the hill. And he is part Icarus, driven to prove himself in spectacular ways, whether by crossing rapids, speaking off the cuff about separatism or exposing himself to defeat and humiliation in the ring." <a href="http://o.canada.com/2012/08/17/electrifying-and-elusive-justin-trudeau-quietly-mulls-his-political-destiny/" target="_hplink">- Michael Den Tandt</a>
"A leadership race without Justin Trudeau would be both Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, and one more yawn before sleep." <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/06/16/rex-murphy-why-justin-trudeau-has-to-run-for-liberal-leader/" target="_hplink">- Rex Murphy</a>
"Mr. Trudeau is tantalizing, but whether he is galvanizing is another question." <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/justin-trudeau-is-the-best-hope-for-liberals-and-conservatives/article4249423/" target="_hplink">- Lawrence Martin</a>
"He isn't an old fart. The Liberal party -- like the Conservatives -- has been run by, and for, old farts for too long. The party is in desperate need of a new generation of leadership. Trudeau, like Barack Obama in 2008, has the greatest ability to mobilize young people to work for him, and vote for him."<a href="http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/16/justins-the-one-10-winning-reasons-why" target="_hplink"> - Warren Kinsella</a>
"You, with the expressive mane of hair and the explosive pronouncements that sometimes rival the idiocy of our other Justin, the Beeb." <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/is-it-time-for-the-second-coming-of-trudeaumania/article4484207/?cmpid=rss1" target="_hplink">- Judith Timson</a>
"Under his suit jacket, the sleeve buttons on his dress shirt were undone. His necktie was knotted, but left loose over an open top button. His mane of black hair was tousled. Even in genteel disarray, even dressed more or less like a couple hundred of his parliamentary colleagues, the 40-year-old Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau looked like a million bucks." <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/05/04/justin-trudeau-should-be-the-next-leader-of-the-liberal-party-no-seriously/" target="_hplink">- Paul Wells</a>
"He's got more charisma than the royal family and Lady Gaga combined. In Ottawa, which is Hollywood for ugly people, that matters. To win, political parties need some sizzle with their steak; Trudeau has sizzle in abundance. On the election hustings, when measured against Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair will look like Angry Old Guys, because, er, they are." <a href="http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/16/justins-the-one-10-winning-reasons-why" target="_hplink">- Warren Kinsella</a>
"The 41-year-old Liberal MP from the Montreal riding of Papineau, impossibly handsome, charming and much more comfortable in his skin than the bearer of such an iconic yet troublesome political name has any right to be..." <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/is-it-time-for-the-second-coming-of-trudeaumania/article4484207/?cmpid=rss1" target="_hplink">- Judith Timson</a>
"So the rail-thin, lion-maned clothes horse with dimples like moon craters, a giant-killing right hook and a weapons-grade surname will position himself as the loyal helpmate of a post-leadership-fixation Liberal Party? It's so crazy it just might work." <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/05/04/justin-trudeau-should-be-the-next-leader-of-the-liberal-party-no-seriously/" target="_hplink">- Paul Wells</a>
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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