No matter what political stripe defines us, most individuals are likely to take at least a passing interest in Justin Trudeau’s fortunes now that he has declared himself a candidate for the federal Liberal party’s leadership.
That, of course, is because of his lineage and for many people in this country, the idea of one of Pierre Trudeau’s sons attempting to become a major political figure in Canada can be seen as our version of the Kennedy family’s efforts to create a political dynasty in the United States.
Looking at Justin Trudeau’s efforts on the national stage to date, he certainly played a role in both partisan and non-partisan activities (he served as the national chair of the Katimavik program for young people, for example) before seeking a seat in the House of Commons in the 2007 federal General Election.
He is a good-looking man on the verge of middle age who has served, so far, quietly on the back benches of his party in opposition and, should he be successful in leading the Liberal party, it will be trial by fire where he can expect to be attacked without mercy by the experienced and adroit Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition, the federal New Democratic Party and whether he will be seen as prime ministerial stuff will largely be determined by how well he is able to respond to Mr. Mulcair, from whom we can reasonably expect taunts and insults designed to keep young Justin in his place as leader of “the third party.”
Of course, Justin Trudeau has to win his party’s leadership first.
It seems that, so far, his entry into the leadership race has sparked the only recent national chat about the fate of the Liberals.
So young-ish Mr. Trudeau may be the Liberals’ best bet for some much-needed national publicity, a requirement if they are going to be able to rebrand and reposition themselves in the national mind.
Whoever wins the Liberal leadership, should he or she wish to keep the job, must wait out the period where Canadians, inevitably, will tire of the Tories and look to replace them with a new look.
Prime Minister Harper, so long as his government doesn’t do anything too rash, will almost certainly be good for another majority government and that election is scheduled, now that we can set the clock by four-year electoral terms in this country, some time in 2015. Four years from that brings us to 2019 and that, if ever, would be Mr. Trudeau’s election to (possibly) win with the Liberals.
Whoever wins the leadership must be selected, at least in part, for their ability to not only grow into the job over the next seven years but, more importantly, to be able to both hold Canadians’ attention over this long haul and increasingly endear him/herself to voters at the same time.
Whoever wins the Liberal leadership must also be able to lead the party to a better standing in the House of Commons in the 2015 election, helping the Liberals to wrest seats from the NDP and Tories at that time.
That will certainly be the test and if Mr. Trudeau—or whoever—is not able to improve the Liberal fortunes in 2015 then it is very likely the NDP and Mr. Mulcair who will be slavering after the 44 Sussex Drive home address following the 2019 electoral tilt.
Just as the New Democrats did this past spring, the Liberals must choose this leader very wisely and with a view to the long game and the ability of their choice to age gracefully on the job.
So far, Mr. Trudeau seems to fit this bill the best of any in the field.
His political pedigree will win him no friends in Alberta where the name “Trudeau” is synonymous with the still-hated National Energy Policy. But then again, a Liberal by any other name is unlikely to do any better in that particular bread basket. The Trudeau name will be a mixed blessing in Quebec as well.
But it will also have much credibility and resonance there and in other areas of the country and if the man who will be thought of as Pierre Trudeau’s son for the next while can convince Canadians that he is actually his own man, he may very well be a contender to square off against Mr. Mulcair in 2019 for a serious shot at forming the government after that year’s election.
In any event, so far he seems to be the Liberals’ best bet.