10/15/2015 12:46 EDT | Updated 10/15/2016 05:12 EDT

Harper Is Right When He Says Justin Isn't Ready

Bernard Weil via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 25: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited the Toronto Star to speak with the editorial board. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Imagine a young lad growing up in a household, where the father is one of Canada's brightest and politically astute Prime Ministers. Imagine being that young boy, whose father also had a superlative educational beginning in one of the best private schools in Canada. The young son would also, one day, have the privilege to attend the same school.

Keep imagining the household and public life during those early years of the young man's life.

The visitors seen. The discussions overheard, the debates witnessed. The statesmen and women; lawyers; academics; journalists; public intellectuals; diplomats; and the long procession of political leaders and power brokers, coming and going, day in, day out.

All the while the young boy listens to his father, spending time with him. Hearing the stories. The fights and struggles. The strategies. Bearing first hand witness to the father's seductive charm, devastating wit, even brilliance.

For a young person who would go on to develop his own political aspirations, it would be like sitting at the feet of a god. The advantage is one that few others have ever been offered.

As Canadians know, Justin Trudeau has done quite well because of being born into his father's house. Not to say Mr. Trudeau hasn't done his own work. He has.

But now running as the leader of the Liberal Party, with his desire to become Prime Minister, here's the clincher:

"Given such pedigree, such exposure, grooming and inculcation, what should we expect from Mr. Justin Trudeau?"

As we all know, the question has been answered in the negative by his main detractors, the Conservative Party: "Justin isn't ready," they say.

As full disclosure, I've never belonged to any political party. While I'm left-leaning, that hardly makes me a lefty. After all, Chairman Harper has so galvanized, thrilled and defined the Conservative movement, that anything to the left of Genghis Khan is a lefty.

As a consequence, none of what follows should be seen as some sort of irrational bias against the Liberal Party and Mr. Trudeau. Admittedly, judging character can be a infelicitous exercise. But at election time, it's one that also has to be undertaken.

So, back to Mr. Trudeau and the facts. The disappointment here isn't what the Harper team has said about Trudeau. Instead, the greater disappointment is Harper is probably right.

Let's at least agree on this at the start: We shouldn't be judging a political leader on what he or she has been saying or doing a few weeks before an election. Assessment needs to be based on the prior years, and examples demonstrated during that longer period of time.

In Mr. Trudeau's case, even putting aside the question of what we should expect to see in someone with such a privileged upbringing, a quick review of the past couple years is evidence enough.

As Mulcair was showing righteous (and articulate) indignation at Harper in Parliament, Trudeau was out and about various ridings trying to ramp up support for the Liberal Party. As important as that may be for his party, that's not his primary job.

His first responsibility is to Canadians, to be in Parliament holding the government's feet to the fire. What would've happened if Mulcair would've done the same? Taking advantage of Mulcair holding down the fort back home, while Trudeau is out on the road, it looks self-serving and not a demonstration of leadership.

Leadership is also difficult to detect in Trudeau's support for oil industry expansion,and his support for the Conservative Party's Bill C-51.

"Well, let's pass it and then amend the parts we don't like," isn't the stuff that needs to replace Harper's manufactured, neo-conservative Zeitgeist. The same goes for Trudeau's soft acceptance of Harper's recent Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Is Mr. Trudeau ready? He seems to have done a passable job as an MP. But as Prime Minister? Especially given what he should be as a leader, I can't see it.

In B.C., in the area I live, is the Sea to Sky Corridor. Since our Premier's election, many of us have been fighting Christy Clark's disastrous LNG aspirations. Yet even at the municipal level here in Squamish, we were able to press the candidates in the last municipal election to voice their view about its legitimacy.

We framed it as a "litmus test." If the candidates were smart enough to understand the science, the economics and the environmental consequences of accepting the LNG nightmare, that was a good test for office. As it turns out since, those who passed the test and were elected councilors have done very well on other matters, too. Those who failed the test continue to show less-than-stellar decisions on other complicated and controversial matters.

As it turns out, on the LNG topic, Mr. Trudeau also acquiesces. Once more, a failure on the litmus test.

If an aspiring leader can't make the right decision on the issues we know about, there's little reason to think, post-election, they'll make the right decisions.

And by gosh, don't we know, post-Harper Canada will have to be different. So, at least vote. And vote with your conscience.


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