Keith Beardlsey’s View From the Hill – Justin Trudeau – The Second Coming – Name Brand?

CFN – I gather from all the media hype that Canadians are supposed to be waiting with bated breath and pounding heart for the “Second Coming” IE Justin Trudeau’s non-announcement this week that he will enter the Liberal Party’s leadership race. I say non-announcement as I don’t know anyone who pays attention to politics who actually thought Trudeau would sit this one out.

When political parties are defeated, they always look for some messiah to step forward and return the party to power. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. Sometimes the party faithful reach for new blood, such as the Liberals with Michael Ignatieff. Other times they look back to the past and former leaders suddenly become the new savior, their original faults now over looked. Such was the case with the former federal PC Party when Joe Clark returned to lead them. In each case the messiah didn’t come and the party’s high hopes were dashed. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Bob Rae had stuck it out and beaten Ignatieff. Would the Liberals be in the same mess they are today?

Every messiah brings something to the table. Ignatieff had a stellar reputation as a philosopher, lecturer and writer. Joe Clark brought years of political experience and the satisfaction of being the Conservative that beat Justin’s father.

The messiah in this second coming brings lots of charisma and that is a good thing with Canadian politics being dominated by those who lack it. As well, Justin’s five years teaching experience will serve him well in the House of Commons where school boy antics are the norm. His years as the Chair of Katimavik will also prepare him to meet the long line of associations, groups and companies etc. who will be standing there cap-in-hand for a handout of taxpayers money. All in all these are solid credentials for a new messiah.

Was anyone surprised that we already have an opinion poll come out that said Justin Trudeau could win a majority? Considering all the brouhaha Trudeau has received from the media, no one should be surprised at that result? Maybe someone should compare how Iggy was viewed by the polls leading up to his leadership announcement and compare those results to Trudeau’s.

We read constant references to his family name. Supposedly this is a good thing for Justin, although for many of my generation we have a very different impression of his father’s legacy and my generation is one of the ones that votes. We don’t recall with any degree of fondness his father’s “Fuddle Duddle” or his giving protestors the Salmon Arm one finger salute.

Justin’s father left politics in 1984. That is 28 years ago. Many of our current voters were just a gleam in their parents eyes back then. For others a bit older, Pierre Trudeau is simply a chapter they had to study in history class. Other than media hype, the Trudeau name means very little to them. If his candidacy does attract a new generation of voters then that is a good thing, although there is no guarantee those fresh new voters will all go to any one party.

Once Trudeau does declare, the gloves will come off, both from other leadership contenders and from the Conservative and NDP attack machines. His mettle will be tested.  Some politicians thrive on this gave and take and the rough and tumble of political warfare, others recoil from it. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself.

In a partisan sense I hope he does well, I see anything that helps to split the left wing vote and offers more opportunities for the Conservatives to win as a good thing. But in a nonpartisan manner I have great respect for anyone who declares themselves a candidate for political office, including for the leadership of a party. In that non-partisan sense I wish him well.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.


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