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Only a Fool Would Underestimate Trudeau in the Federal Election

01/25/2015 11:00 EST | Updated 03/27/2015 05:59 EDT
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As the federal NDP solidifies the notion that they are not government material by way of recent defections, lack of attractive candidates and distinct policies, the only viable options left for Canadians is a clear choice between Justin Trudeau's Liberals and Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Let it be understood that the next election is not a choice between fundamental policy differences but personalities and legacies.

Unless the Conservatives renew themselves by way of a sudden leadership change or political miracle, Justin Trudeau is destined to become prime minister. In the words of former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, Trudeau is "young, articulate, attractive -- a flawlessly bilingual young man."

At a media reception hosted by Trudeau in Mississauga earlier this month, billed as "Celebrating Canada's Diversity," I witnessed just that and more. I saw true diversity in the crowd, a mix of old and young candidates, the experienced and inexperienced, the activists and the elitists, all united with the belief of a sea change in fortunes coming their way -- something that seemed a fantasy just one election ago.

The Liberals seem to realize that Trudeau is their last, best hope and a chance to be relevant to the Canadian electorate once again. Excluding some foolish remarks, Trudeau has fulfilled the promise that was placed on him two years ago. Liberals know their leader is not Rhodes Scholar material, but instead a reasonable man who is comfortable in his own skin -- and it shows.

He seems to understand the Liberal brand. To that end, he has surrounded himself with competent advisors with experience and wisdom, such as veterans Ralph Goodale and John McCallum.

He is even attracting competent candidates to the Liberal cause. Ahmed Hussen, running in York South-Weston, is a Somali-Canadian father of two, and a criminal and immigration lawyer. He has also led the Somali Canadian Congress ably, eloquently, and has been a force on issues like integration and multiculturalism. He has testified before the House of Commons and the United States Congress on important and pressing issues.

He is a bright and accomplished Canadian success story who has also been a mentor, not only to this columnist, but for many others, too.

Mississauga's Iqra Khalid is yet another inspiring candidate. A Pakistani Canadian, who is 29 years old, she is nominated in Mississauga Erin-Mills. A recent law school graduate, she is articling with the City of Mississauga and expects to be called to the Bar later this year. She wants to inspire young people to be active in politics and nation building.

In her own words she wants to: "Inform. Reform. Empower."

Running in Mississauga-Lakeshore is yet another top-notch Liberal candidate, Sven Sengemann.

The York University professor spent almost a decade with the United Nations, including in Iraq, and also held senior leadership roles with the Government of Canada. With a PhD from Harvard, he has been a visiting Scholar with the University of Toronto's Peter Munk School of Global Affairs and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He has also served as a board member with the United Way of Peel Region.

This is no longer the Titanic-like party that was on suicide watch in 2011, but a movement that could be embraced and welcomed by Canadians.

Trudeau is the most impressive, practical, and smart political leader since the Jean Chrétien era. Since taking over a near-bankrupt, third place, humiliated party less than two years ago, he has made it a growing political movement. The party is now well-organized, better funded, and has attracted strong candidates and volunteers that truly represent the new Canada. This was not achieved by way of political anointment or appointment, but by way of a fair and open political organization and competition.

Trudeau has the luck of being underestimated, like Jean Chrétien was, and the intelligence to turn to experienced people the way Pierre Trudeau and Lester B. Pearson did. Perhaps like all Liberals, there is the will to win in his blood. Given his family pedigree, perhaps the will to win is not only powerful but predestined. Yet if he achieves victory, it will not be just because of his last name, but because he works hard, performs well, knows his weaknesses, and plays to his strengths.

Embrace the moment, Liberals, and welcome back to relevance. It sure seems like old times.

This story originally ran on Leaders and Legacies.

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