Liberals are obsessed with the past. Celebrating past successes is not necessarily a bad thing, but being obsessed with them to the point of creating a self-image as Canada's natural governing party is too much. This image is hurting Liberals more than anything else.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Elliot Trudeau are not coming back to save the Liberal party. There are no messiahs or shortcuts. Liberals need to work hard to earn back the trust of Canadians if they are to regain power. Moreover, they need to stand for something.
The Liberal leadership race offers an opportunity for Liberals to come back into the game after their party's historic defeat in 2011.
Since the MP for Papineau, Justin Trudeau, entered the Liberal leadership race, critics have written him off as a pretty boy with a famous name and no substance. The question many people are asking is "what does he stand for?"
Trudeau has been in politics for a little less than six years, so it's not entirely fair to compare his track record with those of Stephen Harper or Thomas Mulcair.
Since joining politics, Trudeau has purposely been kept on the backbench of his party. The few times he was brought out to the spotlight were when a riding association wanted to attract a crowd. He is, after all, the Liberals' best fundraiser. That said, Trudeau publicly acknowledges his limitations, and is willing to work hard.
What he brings to politics is a charismatic, genuine, energetic and trustworthy face. He can work a crowd like no other MP. Since announcing his candidacy, he has had no problems drawing full crowds at appearances ranging from rallies to talks on the role of social media in politics.
And he's in touch with people. He knows how to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to engage Canadians. At a recent Facebook summit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Trudeau credited his success on the social web to just being himself in his goofy and professional moments. He says his posts on social media reflect who he is in private life as well.
Don't underestimate these traits. Jack Layton's NDP won in Quebec because he was able to come across as a caring politician Canadians would most prefer to have a beer with.
I met Trudeau for the first time at the Facebook summit last week, and he was extremely approachable and relaxed. This is exactly what the Liberal party needs right now.
Politicians have ignored young people for so long that having a 40-year-old youthful face running for the party leadership can turn things upside-down. According to Elections Canada only 38.8 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 voted in the 2011 federal elections. Trudeau has the potential to increase youth voter turnout if he is elected as the next leader of the Liberal party.
A recent poll for the National Post reveals that if Trudeau were the leader of the Liberal party and a federal election was held, the Liberal party would win with 39 per cent of the vote.
What the Liberal party of Canada needs is a young energetic leader who can reclaim the centre and encourage people who don't usually vote to do so. Trudeau has a long road ahead of him, one which I know he can lead, provided that he wins. The party needs to work together to come up with grassroots ideas on breaking barriers and creating opportunities. This cannot happen if they do not move on from their glorious past.
Probed about the NDP at the media scrum after the Facebook summit, Trudeau said, "I'd say they have to watch out. I look forward to waving at the NDP as I pass them on the way to the Prime Ministership."