Justin Trudeau

Liberals: The Next Generation

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 5 Comments

The Liberal Party is old.

I’m not talking about its history, but about the faces it puts before Canadians. The average age of Liberal MPs in Ottawa is 56, with Scott Andrews their youngest at 37. The second youngest is some kid named Justin, but at 41, even he’s old enough to remember most of Pierre Trudeau’s time as Prime Minister.

We all know the bizarre circumstances that led to the election of the “NDP 90210″ caucus in Quebec two years ago, but even the crusty old Conservative Party makes the Liberals look like your father’s party. Tory MPs are, on average, 3 years younger than their grit counterparts, they have 19 MPs under 40, and the last time they ran a leader older than his (or her!) Liberal counterpart was in 1974.

Part of this is no doubt because it’s harder to get fresh blood into the House of Commons when you’re shedding 30 seats every election. But the last time the Liberals gained seats, in 2000, of the 24 new MPs they elected, only Andy Savoy and Dominic Leblanc were under 40.

Obviously, the ascension of Trudeau changes everything. He boxes, he dances, he’s done pot. And, unlike recent Liberal leaders, he’s attracting an impressive collection of young candidates.

Cherniak on politics

Cherniak on politics

I recently interviewed two youngish Liberal candidates eyeing nominations – former blogging superstar Jason Cherniak (34) and former future Prime Minister Amy Robichaud (26) – and both cited Trudeau’s leadership as one of the reasons they decided to make the plunge. “I believe Justin Trudeau appeals to a new generation of Canadians,” says Cherniak. “Because of him, they are more likely to consider themselves as potential politicians”.

Why Open Nominations Matter

While that’s certainly true, it’s not like young Liberals haven’t been interested in running for office before. Back during my university days, in 2005, I came within one floor crossing of being the Liberal candidate in Calgary Southeast. The difference today is that there are actually winnable seats for young candidates to look at. With 30 new ridings and few incumbents left, the party finds itself in a “forest fire” scenario, where the devastation of the 2011 election has burned open space for new trees to take root. Moreover, the few incumbents left will be forced to fight in open nominations, something Robichaud calls “an important first step in attracting new liberals and new ideas” to the party.

The aforementioned duo are running in the fertile Liberal-red soil of the GTA, and both stand an excellent chance of winning their nominations. Cherniak has established himself as a successful lawyer, and has endorsements from former MP Byron Wilfert, MPP Helena Jaczek, and the former Mayor of Aurora. Robichaud has also secured the endorsement of her riding’s past MP, Michelle Simson, who praises her as having “intelligence, integrity and spirit”.

Amy Robichaud

Amy Robichaud

The “Youth Stigma”

Those endorsements speak to a cultural shift within the party, but younger candidates must fight against the stigmas of youth, during both nominations and general elections. “Age is often equated with immaturity and inexperience,” says Robichaud. “While I’m confident in the experience, knowledge, and dedication that I bring, politics is so often an arena where you only get a first impression.” Cherniak agrees, and adds that experience can sometimes “lead to inertia or bias, and stand in the way of good ideas”. Given the level of maturity and amount of stagnation we’ve seen from experienced politicians at all three levels of government in recent years, it’s hard to disagree.

One of the rare success stories the current group of young candidates can look to is former MP Navdeep Bains, who won a hotly contested Liberal nomination prior to the 2004 election, at the age of 27. I talked to Bains about his experiences, and he felt that while the community was largely supportive, there was a sense of “reluctance” by many in the party about him, due to his age. Then, as now, he feels the only way to overcome this is by winning people over via “hard work and convictions”.

Those are two things this next generation of Liberal candidates have in plentiful supply. Cherniak talks about reaching out to “Canadians who are losing faith in the system”, while Robichaud’s campaign has been all about going into the community and engaging constituents.


A Final Note of Caution

While Bains sees the value in having younger voices in Ottawa, he offers advice to prospective candidates. “There may be a romantic notion about being a member of parliament, but with a young family, there can be large demands,” he cautions. “As a father, having kids drastically changed my outlook; It became much more challenging to travel and do the job, to find the right balance.”

Wise words. Even Justin Trudeau hemmed and hawed about running for leadership, due to the demands of raising a young family. I think most Liberals, even those who had doubts about him, are glad he did. And just as Trudeau has breathed new life into an old party, the Liberal Party stands to benefit immensely from a rush of younger candidates in 2015.

How I spent my summer vacation

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 2 Comments

Summer vacation lasted a bit longer for MPs than for the rest of us. If you’re just tuning back in now as our parliamentarians head back to the House tomorrow, here’s what you may have missed.

JustinGardner

For Justin, this was very much the summer of love. He ditched the suit for a pair of cargo shorts, got his wife pregnant, went on tour, and spent a lot of time talking about pot.

Even though Liberal Party members voted to legalize marijuana at their last convention, I don’t think anyone expected much more than a decriminalization promise any time soon. After all, it was just two years ago that Michael Ignatieff urged youth to dig ditches instead of smoking “marijuana cigarettes”.

In a very good article, Paul Wells admonishes Trudeau for deviating from the economy, but I think there’s a case to be made for burning off the pot issue long before the writ drops.

By itself, I suspect legalization will have a minimal impact in the 2015 election – the stoned slacker vote is notoriously hard to mobilize, and even older Canadians recognize the need to reform marijuana laws. So don’t expect 2015 to go down in the history books as the Gonja Election.

At the same time, this policy will play a key role in helping Canadians form their opinions of Trudeau. The Liberal frame will no doubt be that Justin is “a man of the times”, not afraid to speak his mind and take bold positions. The Tories will counter that Justin isn’t serious and lacks the gravitas to the PM.

Those competing frames will have a larger impact on how Canadians vote in two years than whatever they think about marijuana.

harper gun
It should be no surprise that while the other kids were off having fun and talking about drugs, Stephen spent the summer with his head stuck in a book.

Of course, he also found time to wear a flight suit, fire a gun, and go camping in the north as part of what seemed like a perpetual attempt to change the chanel away from the senate expense scandal. Now Harper knows how the rest of us felt all those years when we lunged for the remote control every time Mike Duffy’s face appeared on TV.

With the Cabinet shuffled, all 14 new Ministers of Immigration in place, and a throne speech on the way tomorrow, Harper will very much be trying to reboot his government. But it’s likely going to take more than photo ops with pandas and cheaper cell phone bills to head off the inevitable “time for a change” sentiment. It may not be there yet, but I suspect it will be by 2015. After all, it’s been over a Century since a Prime Minister won four consecutive mandates.

mulcair mcquaig

Four of Tom‘s MPs were married this summer, so he spent a lot of time browsing the Bay gift registry and mastering the chicken dance. I’m not sure how those weddings went, but you can bet that if the projector broke down before the slide show, Mulcair would have been quick to blame Stephen Harper. And Jean Chretien.

I hope Mulcair had a good time at the weddings, because the rest of the summer was a bit of a drag. He got pulled over by the RCMP and then, without trying to be ironic, uttered the words “do you know who I am?”.

Sadly for Mulcair, polls suggest many Canadians would answer that question with a “no”.

That will change during the 2015 election. The “good” news for the NDP is they’re learning a lot about what not to do during campaigns. The bad news is they’re not only up against a rejuvenated Liberal Party, but a Conservative Party now dishing out consumer-friendly treats directly from the NDP cookbook. Mulcair isn’t going to win on his sparkling personality, so he’s going to have to find some empty turf to paint orange soon.

Royal Baby

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

trudeau family

In case you were worried the Trudeaus just weren’t photogenic enough already…

Justin Trudeau announces his wife, Sophie Grégoire, is pregnant with couple’s third child

Politicians in Cowboy Hats: Come Hell or High Water

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | 7 Comments

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 round-ups – or last year’s “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

Flood waters cannot stop the Stampede and flood waters cannot stop politicians from the annual ritual of self humiliation known as the cowboy hat photo-op. Indeed, if there’s one photo op even more irresistible than the Stampede, it’s a post-disaster zone tour.



The Flood Aftermath

Stephen Harper was the first on the scene, playing dress-up in a Canadian Forces flight jacket, complete with pilot wings. Harper defended his wardrobe choice by saying he was honouring the military – I tend to think a better way to honour them would have been allowing Afghanistan troops to keep their danger pay.

Stephen Harper, Naheed Nenshi, Alison Reford

Next up would be Thomas Mulcair, sporting the official Stampede “hell or high water” t-shirt – four words that in southern Alberta usually follow “I’m never voting NDP come…”.

Mulcair stampede

Justin Trudeau put on his coveralls, got his hands dirty, and made history becoming the first aspiring Prime Minister to ever sport a backwards baseball cap:

trudeau work

While I have no doubts the Tory war room was dreaming up attack ads to use this picture in, at least Justin didn’t ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans:

harper relief 2 - wish he'd worn coveralls



Stampede Round-Up

But we were told come hell or high water the show must go on, so it was time for the politicians to pick up a cowboy hat and flip some pancakes. Alberta Premier Alison Redford proved to be a bit over eager on this front, sending her pancake into orbit, in what I can only assume was an attempt to out-flip Danielle Smith.

redford flips pancake

Although Chris Hadfield was the Stampede grand marshal this year, it appears that Justin Trudeau once again managed to overshadow an astronaut. Because everywhere you looked this weekend, there was Justin. At one point yesterday the Calgary Herald had three separate Trudeau stories on their website – this likely isn’t the first time that’s ever happened, but I suspect it’s the first time none of the stories involved effigies.

trudeau stampede headlines

Mercifully, Justin decided to forego cargo shorts in favour of jeans and belt buckle. It remains to be seen if he’s a big thinker, but the “XL” tag on his hat at least shows he’s got a big head.

trudeau stampede

And here’s Justin – again – with Calgary’s mayor and international Twitter superstar Naheed Nenshi. I’m not sure I agree with the FastForward survey which named Nenshi the “sexiest Calgarian“, but he’s certainly the most huggable.

trudeau nenshi hug



Also Pictured

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the photo)

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the tip on this one)

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children's entertainer.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children’s entertainer.

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for "Best Dressed" this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I've seen pull off a "Stampede skirt".

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for “Best Dressed” this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I’ve seen pull off a “Stampede skirt”.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the "Worst Dressed" honours - it's a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the “Worst Dressed” honours – it’s a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

Canada Day Quiz

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Uncategorized | 15 Comments
We all know him as "Justin Trudeau's father" today, but there was a time when Pierre was just a lowly Justice Minister, needing 4 ballots to win the party's leadership.

We all know him as “Justin Trudeau’s father” today, but there was a time when Pierre was just a lowly Justice Minister, needing 4 ballots to win the party’s leadership.

Test your political skills with this 10-question quiz about the present – and the past – of Canadian politics.

1. You may not be aware of this, but Justin Trudeau’s father was also once Liberal Party leader. For half a point each, name the runner up in the LPC leadership races that elected Pierre and Justin.

2. There have been 5 by-elections since the last federal election. In how many has the party who won the seat in 2011 held it?

3. Within 5 percentage points, what percentage of Canadians now live in a province run by a female Premier?

4. Bob Rae recently announced his retirement from politics. In what year was he first elected to the House of Commons as an MP?

5. Complete the following Stephen Harper quote, uttered in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing: “Now is not the time to commit ______

6. We heard a lot about Nigel Wright this year. Who replaced him as Stephen Harper’s chief of staff?

7. Who did FastForward readers vote as Calgary’s sexiest man earlier this year?

8. With Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest exiting the stage, who is Canada’s longest serving Premier?

9. There was a brief flurry of excitement that the Liberals might win in Calgary Centre last fall. Sadly, this hope proved as fleeting as a Leafs’ third period lead. When was the last time the Liberals won a seat in cowtown?

10. For the very first time since he became Prime Minister, we’ve started hearing speculation about Stephen Harper retiring. Still, Harper is just 54 and could ride a divided opposition to a few more years in power. If he stays PM, in what year would Harper pass Mackenzie King as the longest serving Prime Minister in Canada’s history?

(answers to be posted shortly in the comments section)

Liberals Respond Justin Time

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Ads, Federal Politics | 53 Comments

When the Conservatives launched attack ads against Stephane Dion in January 2007, it took the Liberal Party three months to respond. Never again, they vowed. Next time we’ll fight back!

Just Visiting first aired in May 2009, yet we didn’t see a rebuttal until Labour Day .

So the first thing you need to know about the new Justin Trudeau ads, released today, is that the Liberal Party has learned its lesson (and all it took was the near destruction of the party!). In politics, you must define or be defined, and those who let themselves be defined wind up leading guest lectures rather than governments.

The form this counter-punch has taken is to briefly address the attacks then, quite literally, change the channel to Justin’s more positive message. It’s exactly what I called for last week – use the attack ads as a foil to further define Trudeau as the positive and optimistic candidate. Trudeau promised “hope and hard work” in his showcase speech, and this ad is right on message.

The classroom setting is a nice touch given the Tory ads attacked him for being “just a teacher”. I know it’s a very minor detail, but I dig the math on the blackboard, if only because it subtly makes the viewer think “serious math teacher” rather than “drama teacher who enjoys taking his clothes off”. Similarly, gently reminding Canadians that he’s a father projects a certain level of maturity. Like I said – define, or be defined.

If I wanted to walk from Math class to Biology, we could further dissect every line and detail of the ads but, at this stage, the important thing is that the Liberals responded and they responded on message. That may not sound like a lot, but for a party that failed to do this the last two times out, that’s a huge win.

This Just In: Voters Feel Negative Ads Are “Negative”

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Ads, Federal Politics | 23 Comments
Respondents describe the ads as "unfair", "negative"...and "hot!".

Respondents describe the ads as “unfair”, “negative”…and “hawt!“.

Trudeau’s predictable win, followed by predictable attack ads, has been followed by an all-too predictable poll:

In an EKOS Research Associates survey, 70 per cent found the ads “unfair” while 74 per cent said the ads were “unhelpful.”

Asked to describe the ads, 84 per cent said they were “negative.”

“The ads have backfired on the Conservatives, at least in the short term,” said EKOS President Frank Graves. “Many, many people think this was just the wrong thing to do at this point.”

Well, that settles it. Nothing to worry about, no need to respond. In fact, there are four other polls out showing the ads landing with a dud, which you can read here, here, here, and here.

Oh yeah, if you didn’t click on those links, they’re all from polls showing that attack ads against Ignatieff and Dion landed with a dud.

Justin Trudeau: Too Sexy For His Shirt, Too Sexy For Canada?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Ads | 32 Comments

The only thing more predictable than Justin Trudeau’s win in the Liberal leadership race was that it would be followed by Conservative attack ads. For those curious what the sequel to “Not a Leader” and “Just Visiting” would look like, the wait is over:

It should come as no surprise that the ad is repugnant, immature, and, as Stephane Dion would say – “completely unfair”. The central quote about Quebecers being better than everyone else is literally from a different century, and in the full interview, a 20-something Justin appears to be paraphrasing his father’s philosophy on why Quebecers don’t need special status.

We’ve come to expect out of context quotes from the Conservatives, but what is surprising is this level of slopiness. The companion ad uses the “just a teacher” attack, which merely gives Trudeau an opening to springboard onto his “what does Mr. Harper have against teachers” soapbox which he used to great effect last weekend. Oh, and that fake striptease footage that dominates the commercials? That came from a Canadian Liver Foundation fundraiser, where Justin’s little turn on the catwalk raised $1,900 to fight liver disease. Oops.

It’s safe to say the reaction to these ads will be overwhelmingly negative. But I’d remind people there was a chorus of criticism about the Dion and Ignatieff ads – they distorted the truth, they were “too mean” for Canada, they were sure to backfire. Some polls even showed Not A Leader landing with a thud among those who saw it. But those ads worked – even if no one wanted to admit they worked.

So it would be foolish for the Liberal Party to dismiss this latest assault with a wave and a laugh, or to assume the whole country has been innoculated against them by Trudeaumania. I suspect the core message – that Trudeau isn’t mature enough to be Prime Minister – will resonate with many Canadians. As Tom Flanagan would say, “it doesn’t have to be true, it just has to be plausible” – and no matter how ugly the packaging is, the message inside these ads is definitely plausible.

At every Liberal Party event I’ve been to over the past two years, someone has gotten up and said “we can’t let ourselves be defined by Conservative attack ads again”. Of course, Liberals said the same thing after the 2008 election, then snickered at the Just Visiting ads, confident they would backfire, given that Michael Ignatieff was far more popular and a far better politician than Stephane Dion. I don’t care how charismatic Trudeau is, he needs to hit back, and he needs to hit back immediately.

That said, I think lowering himself to Harper’s level, with a series of negative attack ads of his own, would be nearly as damaging as not responding. The challenge isn’t for Trudeau to define Harper, it’s to define himself – and by joining Harper in the mud, he’d dull the shine on his message of hope and optimism.

Rather, the Liberals need to open up the “leader defense fund” and get something on the air as soon as possible, where Trudeau talks directly to Canadians and addresses the ads – but then pivots to the positive. Have Justin remind Canadians the reason he’s in politics is to move beyond the nastiness that Stephen Harper revels in. Use the ads as a platform to share his vision, and talk about the future he wants for his children.

The Tory ads are clumsy and mean spirited, but we’ve seen clumsy and mean spirited work before. If Trudeau punches back quickly with a positive message then maybe, just maybe, these ads will serve as the foil he needs to prove he practices the type of optimistic politics Canadians long for.

Trudeau’s Win by the Numbers

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Featured Posts, Fun with Numb3rs | 15 Comments

trudeau-family15nw5Over the past year, there have been thousands of articles written about Justin Trudeau, his father, and his leadership campaign. Since it hasn’t been a big secret he was going to come out on top, we’ve also seen thousands of articles about what his win means.

So rather than rehash what has already been written, allow me to provide the cold hard numbers behind his victory.


NUMBER OF VOTES: 104,552

That’s more than voted in the most recent NDP (65,108) or Conservative (97,397) leadership races – indeed, it might very well be the most Canadians to ever vote directly for the leader in a federal leadership race. I say “federal”, because, despite what was claimed earlier today, the 2006 Alberta PC leadership race drew 144,289 votes.

Either way, I wouldn’t read too much into this. Both the BC and Alberta Liberals had high turnout leadership races in 2011, and it doesn’t appear to have translated to general public support. But at the very least, Justin Trudeau now has a lot of semi-engaged Liberals to draw from for donations and volunteers.



TRUDEAU’S FIRST BALLOT SUPPORT: 80.1%

It’s difficult to compare this total to delegated conventions – especially delegated conventions from the good old days. But, for fun, Trudeau’s first ballot support ranks behind Martin (94%), is comparable to Pearson (78%), and is decidedly ahead of St. Laurent (69%), Chretien (57%), Turner (46%), King (36%), the other Trudeau (32%), and Dion (18%). Trudeau performed slightly better than Stephen Harper, who received 69% of the votes and 56% of the points (after they were weighted by riding) in 2004.



WAS IT INEVITABLE?

Trudeau’s crushing triumph certainly makes it look inevitable in hindsight. Maybe it was, but we’ve seen “can’t miss” candidates miss before.

If you look at the Intrade stock for a Trudeau victory, it ranged from 75% to 91%, showing that at least some people were willing to bet against him. Back in December, I asked readers of this blog to offer their predictions on the race, and while every entry except one had Trudeau winning, he was only given an average score of 41% on the first ballot. Remember, these are people who follow politics closely.

Even a few days ago, my poll of readers predicted an average first ballot figure of 65%, and only one-in-ten thought he’d crack 80%.

Of course, the support was always there, even if we didn’t all see it. But speaking as someone who was convinced to vote for Trudeau based on his performance during this race, I think the candidate and the campaign deserve a certain amount of credit for the magnitude of his victory.



ABOUT THOSE POWER RANKINGS

Here are my final Power Rankings, with each metric converted to a percentage:

Total $ Donors Endorsement Media Facebook Twitter Power Rank
Justin Trudeau 63% 68% 90% 77% 84% 91% 78% (+3)
Joyce Murray 13% 16% 8% 7% 2% 3% 9% (–)
Martha Hall Findlay 11% 9% 1% 7% 10% 4% 6% (-1)
Martin Cauchon 9% 2% 1% 4% 3% 1% 4% (–)
Karen McCrimmon 2% 2% 0% 3% 0% 0% 1.7% (–)
Deborah Coyne 2% 3% 0% 2% 1% 1% 1.5% (-1)



Even though these power rankings weren’t intended to predict first ballot support, they came within 2 percentage points for every candidate:

Power Rank Actual
Justin Trudeau 78% 80%
Joyce Murray 9% 10%
Martha Hall Findlay 6% 6%
Martin Cauchon 4% 3%
Deborah Coyne 1% 1%
Karen McCrimmon 2% 1%


I’m sure some of that is luck, but this is definitely an exercise I plan to continue on future leadership races.

How I’m Voting

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 13 Comments

montreal debate

Unlike past leadership contests where I’ve been fighting on the front lines for my candidate, I’ve watched the federal race largely as a spectator. Being away from a campaign offers a different vantage point, and I’ve enjoyed blogging my opinions candidly, as I slowly made up my mind who to support.

With voting now open (this is your cue hackers!), it’s time to take stock of the race…or “jog”, or “victory march”, or whatever you want to call it.

I wouldn’t consider this post an endorsement – as Allan Rock, Sheila Copps, John Manley, Gerard Kennedy (twice), and Dominic Leblanc will tell you, the Calgary Grit leadership endorsement is generally the kiss of death. So by all means, vote for who you think would make the best candidate – this post merely reflects my thought process for coming to a decision.

The Long Shots

This leadership race is being decided by ranked ballot, so I’m sure a few Liberals will toss a symbolic first choice vote to Karen McCrimmon or Deborah Coyne. Both have conceded they cannot win, but both have demonstrated they would make excellent MPs.

McCrimmon has been this race’s version of 2006 Martha Hall Findlay – that spunky underdog who shows she belongs. She is the least refined of the candidates, but that gives her a genuineness that often gets polished out of politicians. Yes, she lacks political experience, but she has an impressive CV, as the first woman to command a Canadian Forces air force squadron. She’s exactly the type of person we need in the Liberal Party and the type of politician we need more of in Ottawa.

When Deborah Coyne floated the idea of running for LPC leader last spring, I felt that, although she couldn’t win, her presence would bring a lot to the race. Indeed, it has. She has shown herself to be one of the sharpest policy minds in the Liberal Party, and has not been afraid to challenge the other candidates – but always in a respectful manner. She has not looked at all out of place on the debate stage, and has demonstrated retail political skills far more impressive than what you would expect from a “policy wonk”.

Good Candidates – Just Not My Cup of Tea

There are four candidates with MP experience who are presumably in it to win it. Of the four, Martin Cauchon has dissapointed me the most – but only because I had high hopes for him. Had he ran for leader in 2006 or 2009, I would have been very tempted to support him. The man is well spoken, experienced, and a shrewd political mind.

However, I’ve had great difficulty understanding the raison d’etre of the Martin Cauchon candidacy this time around. While his Cabinet experience is an asset, his entire campaign has had a “back to the 90s” feel to it, hyping the Liberal record and playing the same tired songs we’ve heard before – Kelowna, Kyoto, gun registry, Iraq. He has relied on the type uber-partisan rhetoric that turns me off, pepering his speeches with phrases like “Conservatives don’t like immigration“.

Make no mistake, Martin Cauchon is a good Liberal and a talented politician, but the overall message of his campaign just never resonated with me. I really think it’s a case of Cauchon coming late to the race, and not having time to find his feet. After all, he was scrambling for signatures just hours before the deadline.

Joyce Murray has run a very strong campaign and has sounded confident in the debates. I was quite moved by the story she told at the Showcase of growing up in South Africa during apartheid then being exposed to multiculturalism in full colour at Expo ’67.

But regardless what you think of Joyce, it’s impossible to separate the candidate from the plan. While I don’t think it’s treasonous to talk co-operation, and I might even be willing to try a strategic strike during a by-election, the NDP has closed the door to this so it’s really a bridge to nowhere. More importantly, the Liberal Party needs to give voters a reason to vote for it, other than “defeat Stephen Harper”. A pact with the NDP would only add noise to any positive message we try to broadcast during the campaign.

In fairness to Murray, she has given Liberals plenty of other reasons to vote for her – a carbon tax, legalized pot, and a focus on the environment. These are all things I agree with, but, in the end, I have my doubts about her ability to win. Still, she deserves credit for putting big ideas on the table, and adding spice to an otherwise dull leadership contest.

trudeau findlay
My Top 2

I mentioned earlier that Martha Hall Findlay was the “spunky underdog” in 2006. This time around she has shown she is ready to be a national party leader. She is strong, confident, and knows her stuff. Her communication skills have improved dramatically, and she has been able to explain herself well in a range of settings – shouting over the noise to supporters in a pub, in sit-down interviews, in debates, and on the big stage. I know many in the party establishment are not fans, but the Liberal Party could use a strong female leader willing to shake things up.

For me, her strongest moment this campaign came during the second leaders debate when, in two minutes, she provided a history and explanation of the supply management system, rebutted 6 common arguments for the status quo, and gave an impassioned plea for change. She showed substance and a willingness to take on sacred dairy cows, all the while making one of the most boring subjects possible relevant to the daily lives of average Canadians. She is someone you can imagine as Prime Minister without giggling.

And then, there’s Justin.

His name has been bandied about as a leadership candidate to varying degrees of seriousness for over a decade. Every single time it’s been floated, Liberals I’ve talked to have either proclaimed him to be our Messiah (he was born on December 25th), or dismissed him as our very own Sarah Palin. I’ve always fallen in the middle.

I recognize Justin has tremendous talents and potential, but the things that have drawn a lot of Liberals to him – his name and his inevitability – are both turn-offs for me. While I have a Pierre Trudeau picture hanging in my apartment, we’re not going to get to 24 Sussex on a wave of nostalgia. And as someone who has never voted for a winning leadership candidate, I’ve always been drawn to the underdog.

In all honesty, I would have liked to see a bit more policy from Justin this race, if only to innoculate himself against the “airhead” attack adds, but it’s completely unfair to say he lacks substance. He stuck his neck out on the Nexen takeover. He has called for open nominations in all ridings next election, as part of a well thought out democratic reform package. He’s pro-pot, is against co-operation, supports supply management, and thinks the gun registry was a failure.

I don’t neccesarily agree with all those positions, but he has struck a chord with me on the Quebec question. There’s a huge temptation to carve off those NDP nationalist seats, but Trudeau has instead adopted the, uhh, Trudeau approach to federalism. He has been clear in his support for the Clarity Act. He has said “non” to another round of constitutional debates. You’ll recall he spoke out strongly against the “Nation” resolution in 2006.

In the final leadership debate, in Montreal no less, he tossed away his closing statement to expand upon his vision for Canada – of a Canada where Quebecers’ voices and values are heard, rather than a Canada that tries to “buy them off”. It’s a vision of the country I agree with, and it’s one that can be used to differentiate the Liberals from the NDP next election.

Of course, it’s a vision I also share with Deborah Coyne and a host of other Liberals, so let’s stop dancing around on policy and cut to the one issue Liberals care about more than all others – winning. The Liberal Party is in third place, and there’s a very real chance we could get squeezed out of existence if we don’t make gains in 2015. Faced with this landscape, the fact that I may not like Justin’s position on supply management becomes rather insignificant.

Even Trudeau’s harshest detractors will acknowledge he has rock star appeal, and is blessed with more potential than any Canadian politician to come along over the last decade. Their concerns are, quite fairly, that he’ll be branded as a lightweight, or that he’ll gaffe himself out of contention. And while there were a few awkward moments in the Fall, Trudeau has exceeded expectations. Not only has he avoided stumbles and debated policy with the best of them, there have been flashes of brilliance. The moment that turned me squarely towards Justin came at the end of the Mississauga debate, when Martha Hall Findlay went in for the kill, asking the frontrunner how he can possibly speak about “the middle class” given his upbringing. Trudeau’s rebutal mixed reason and passion, drawing on his experiences as an MP in Papineau. I’m sure Harper and Mulcair won’t be so clumsy, but if they are, Trudeau has shown he can deliver the much talked about and rarely seen “knock-out punch”.

The man has a rare ability to connect with Canadians and inspire. His message of “hope and hard work” is exactly what the Liberal Party should be offering to a disengaged electorate, and I have confidence the team around him will continue to help him grow as a politician in the coming years.

So Trudeau has earned my vote. However, I won’t call it an endorsement, simply because the dreaded Calgary Grit endorsement is the only thing that could possibly derail him at this point.

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