Not Just a Pretty Face

The best kind of “gutsy” decisions, are the ones no one really cares about

To date, Justin Trudeau has run a safe leadership campaign. He’s smiled, talked about how he loves Canada, and made helping the Middle Class his core theme. That’s a perfectly acceptable way for Justin to introduce himself to voters, but it’s still the most innocuous campaign theme imaginable – even a “pro-sunshine and pro-puppies” message would have forced Justin to answer tough questions about skin cancer and pit bulls. You won’t find anyone who disagrees with helping the middle class.

And while Justin should be commended for voicing his support for pot decriminalization, that’s a policy that was long overdue when Jean Chretien introduced it a decade ago.

Yesterday, however, Justin Trudeau took his first controversial position of the leadership race, coming out in support of the Nexen takeover. It’s a deal the majority of Canadians oppose, and there’s a very real risk many Liberals will accuse him of “selling out” to the Chinese.

That’s what makes it a brilliant political move.

In most leadership campaigns, the frontrunner puts their head down and tries not to offend. However, as I wrote in September, Justin has the media spotlight on him now, and he’d be wasting it if he’s only playing to beat Martha Hall Findlay and Marc Garneau – rather than Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. It’s almost a given Trudeau will win, so this campaign needs to be about inoculating him against the “lightweight” and “airhead” attacks we all know are coming.

With that in mind, Nexen is the perfect issue to plant his flag on. It shows Justin has guts, substance, and a desire to do what’s right, even if it means risking a public backlash. The thing is…there’s not going to be any substantive backlash to this position. Polls may show people oppose the deal at the conceptual level, but it’s not an issue the public understands or cares strongly about. It will be long forgotten by the time the next election rolls around – if the word “Nexen” is in your 2015 leaders debate drinking game, your Amish friends will be able to play along.

While the issue will fade, what people will remember is that Justin Trudeau showed some guts. It may not have been his “just watch me” moment, but it was an important first step in proving to Canadians he’s not just a pretty face.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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8 Responses to Not Just a Pretty Face

  1. Art

    He wants to sell Nexen but halt energy exports to China? What?!?!?!

  2. Andrew

    You had me at “if the word “Nexen” is in your 2015 leaders debate drinking game, your Amish friends will be able to play along.” :)

  3. Jim R

    CNOOC is basically the Chinese government. So the question is why would the Chinese government want to buy Nexen rather than the oil it produces? What’s in it for China? And is what China hopes to get out of it in Canada’s interests.

    I’m a fairly free enterprise kind of person, but this deal gives me pause.

    • CalgaryGrit

      There are definitely some valid questions behind the deal – and I’m far from an expert on this issue. I honestly can’t say whether Trudeau has taken the “right” or “wrong” position here…only that he’s taken a smart political position.

      But is there really a problem with exporting oil to China?

  4. bluegreenblogger

    I must admit I was surprised, but then again, that was likely the desired reaction. And you are right about there being no downside. For the Liberals in general, and Trudeau in particular, it is a good time to shake the trees hard to see what kind of support can be generated in un-expected quarters. Not many Albertans are going to run out tonight to buy a Liberal membership, but first (or early) impressions are important. And this is not about Martha or any other Leadership contestant, it is about the next general election. I am starting to see some very interesting method to the Trudeau campaign `madness“. I am pretty sure that your headline is correct, and there is a whole lot more behind that pretty face.

  5. Joanne

    WOW!!! Stunning! Not only is he gorgeous he is going to make a great Prime Minister, can’t wait.

    • DavidA

      Aaaaaaaaaaaand here we go. This explains why JT has 47% of the female vote wrapped up (according to Forum). I guess roughly half of them vote with their ovaries.

      Nice middle finger to the Suffragettes, Joanne.

  6. Pingback: Trudeau still has time to include some meat in his menu | Full Comment | National Post

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