Ready Or Not, Here He Comes

Xavier Trudeau (left) has quickly emerged as the 2051 Liberal leadership frontrunner.

Today marks the 12 year anniversary of the first time Liberals recognized there was something special about Justin Trudeau. Justin’s moving eulogy of his father brought Liberals to tears but, Liberals being Liberals, it also made many of them wonder if one day Justin was destined to return to 24 Sussex. This was a kid worth keeping an eye on.

Flash forward six years. At the Liberal leadership convention in Montreal, Justin Trudeau became a rock star, with swarms of adoring fans following him wherever he went. By the end of the weekend, every Liberal in the country had a signed tambourine and a Facebook profile picture of them and Justin. By now it wasn’t a question of if, but when.

In 2007, he won a hotly contested nomination battle many thought he’d lose. In 2008, he was one of only a handful of Liberals to claim a previously unheld riding. In 2011, he was one of few to keep his head above the orange wave.

During this time, I suspect most Liberals secretly viewed Justin as “the next one” – that hot shot prospect you pin your hopes on. Like all prospects, the potential was there, but so was the risk he could bust and turn into the next Alexandre Daigle.

No one wanted to rush him to the majors this soon, and I’m sure Justin himself would have rather waited – but we’re in a situation where there may not be a Liberal Party for Justin Trudeau to lead in 10 years, so the time is now. Ready or not, here he comes.

The end result of this is a leadership race where no one really knows what to expect from the frontrunner. Yes, everybody has confidently written about how he’s destined to be the Liberal saviour or to go down in flames, but Justin is still very much an unknown so it’s all just speculation. A charity boxing match is not a gateway to the man’s soul. Just because he hasn’t been to outer space, it doesn’t mean he lacks substance or vision.

Justin Trudeau is a giant blob of untested potential who Liberals have been pinning their hopes on for many years. Yesterday, he finally got his call to the majors. As with all prospects, it’s likely best not to read too much into his first game, but it was an encouraging start. After the mandatory “gosh, Canada is swell” fluff, this part got to me:

But I said to Liberals after the last election that we need to get past this idea that a simple leadership change could solve our problems.

I believe that still. My candidacy may shine a few extra lights upon us. It may put some people in the bleachers to watch. But what we do with that opportunity is up to us.

All of us.

And when Canadians tune in, we need to prove to them that we Liberals have learned from the past, yes. But that we are one-hundred-per-cent focused on the future.

And not the future of our party: the future of our country.

I am running because I believe this country wants and needs new leadership. A vision for Canada’s future grounded not in the politics of envy or mistrust. One that understands, despite all the blessings beneath our feet, that our greatest strength is above ground, in our people. All Canadians, pulling together, determined to build a better life, a better Canada.

To millions and millions of Canadians, their government has become irrelevant, remote from their daily lives, let alone their hopes and dreams. To them, Ottawa is just a place where people play politics as if it were a game open to a small group, and that appeals to an even smaller one.

At this point, that’s nothing more than words, even if those words are being spoken by a leadership candidate with great hair. But they do show a certain level of self awareness about the state of the Liberal Party and politics in this country. Whether or not Justin lives by those words will be seen in the coming months.

If he does, he may very well live up to his potential.

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13 responses to “Ready Or Not, Here He Comes”

    • In fairness, I think he may have mentioned Harper/Mulcair once or twice, but it was in the context of “they’re not awful people, but I disagree with them”. Which is the right tone to take, in my opinion.

      • Agreed. Demonizing your opponent is one of the better ways to come off as a rabid partisan, which is likely a turn-off to the significant percentage of voters who have no real political allegiance.

  1. Reading stories on the National Newswatch site, many pundits seem to agree that Trudeau spoke mainly slogans and cliches. Liberal MP Scott Brison recently had an article in the National Post, a snorefest about “the importance of education” and other hoary political standards. Not long after Brison’s piece, Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier had an article in the Post about a Quebec man who invented a way to clean up the tailings ponds in Alberta oilfields, and how human ingenuity can solve many problems.
    Liberals are always talking to people who are followers. They need someone who can raise the level of political discussion.

  2. This could be good news for Stephen Harper.

    First of all, Trudeau is likely to be strong in places that will take seats from the NDP, not the Conservatives.

    Secondly, Harper can attack Trudeau on being his father AND on not being his father.

    On the other hand, Trudeau might peak at just the right time and thoroughly defeat him.

    • Well put. I think Justin will do well. Hard work, charisma and nice hair, however, will only go so far.

      Winning soft NDP votes will sustain and grow the party, but only in opposition. That’s the short-term game. In order to succeed, long-term, he’s going to have to peel back almost all of the whack of former Liberal voters that voted Harper last time around.

      That is going to be tough, but less tough than the alternative – obliterating the NDP’s slow gain over the past 10-15 years. The soft Con voters from the last election are much less set in their vote than the left-leaners that have migrated away from the Liberals over that period of time.

      There’s been a lot of focus on ‘vote splitting’ and all that jazz, but while the popular perception is that the NDP ate the Liberals’ lunch in the last election really all they ended up with was the package of crackers and cheez spread and the pudding cup. Harper devoured the milk, sandwich and fruit, but the focus always shifts to the sweetest prizes.

      The problem is that that success in wining back Conservative voters actually helps the NDP. The NDP needs the Liberals to have this leader even more than the Liberals do, just that most of them don’t get it.

      (That’s why – personal irrelevant rant coming on! – talk of vote splitting and uniting the parties drives me up the wall…it masks the fact that the Conservatives cleaned up in lots of ridings where “vote splitting” was completely irrelevant and where a weak Liberal party didn’t solidify an NDP win, instead driving more former Liberal voters to the Conservatives than the NDP. There will always be voters that will not vote for a left-centre-right party, which is what a united NDP/Liberal party or strategic vote would look like. I think sometimes people forget that in Chrétien’s heyday he was helped by Reform/PC conflict and a shattered NDP. – ok sorry irrelevant rant over.

  3. “On the other hand, Trudeau might peak at just the right time and thoroughly defeat him”.

    If voters are tired of the Conservatives and the economy is weak, it’s possible. But difficult. Chantal Hebert wrote that none of the cable networks in Quebec covered Trudeau’s launch live. Trudeau so far is a Toronto media creation, with Quebec and the west being harder nuts to crack.

  4. Trudeau should campaign on his experience. Only one living Canadian* has been in 24 Sussex Drive longer than him (he lived there for about 11 years by me reckoning).

    *His mom.

  5. Trudeau is likely to be strong in places that will take seats from the NDP

    Pundits have noted that he speaks in large measure to the left wing of the Liberal Party, and I would also point out that he used orange, not red, on his backdrop.

    His Quebec connection should draw many of the NDP seats into play for the Liberals. It’s not like the NDP are a well-established brand in La Belle Province.

  6. I used to be more or less ‘against’ Trudeau; besides his birthright, what’s he got that you or I or my neighbor doesn’t?

    I guess I’m a follower without principles, though: I read a poll saying 80% would vote for him. I’m so tired of petty divisiveness over politics; if that number’s true, if people all over really end up rallying that strongly to him ultimately, then I’ll be on the bandwagon.

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