View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Justin Trudeau Political Coronation? October 11, 2012

CFN – Justin Trudeau will have to wade through a political minefield over the next few weeks while he waits to see if anyone else will challenge him for the Liberal Party leadership. It is a tough position to be in, especially with the Ignatieff coronation serving as such a recent example.

However, the last thing Trudeau needs is another 2008-09 style coronation which in the end didn’t do Michael Ignatieff any good, nor the Liberal Party for that matter. Did Ignatieff’s coronation in May 2009 end the rivalry between his camp and Bob Rae’s supporters?

While it might be tempting for Trudeau to reference the divisive aftermath of the 2006 Liberal race, it is one talk point he should avoid using, least people figure a coronation is what he really wants.

Anyone who has spent time in the political world knows that true leadership contests can be brutal. Politics is as much a battle of ideas as it is of personalities. And when the contest is over, there are often a lot of bruised egos, sometimes damaged reputations and certainly there can be some bitterness. Repairing that damage becomes a true test of leadership.

One can certainly understand why Trudeau and his supporters might prefer a coronation. Leadership races can be brutal and very costly in time, effort and money. With a coronation Trudeau will have the added bonus of not having to present a lot of policy options. His policies won’t be scrutinized by the media nor will his political opponents in the other parties have a chance to pounce and tear his ideas apart. A coronation won’t even give those in his own party a chance to see what he is made of nor will it give rank and file Liberals an opportunity to see if his vision for the Liberal Party is where they want to go. Pretty good stuff if you are the front runner in an uncontested race and certainly you need some good talk points when the media asks your opinion about political coronations.

While Trudeau’s talk points have him focusing on the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign as an example of how divisive a leadership race can be, what he failed to mention was that once the votes are counted and a new leader is chosen, then it is up to that person to show true leadership and mend the bridges and heal the wounds inflicted over the campaign.

Was it wrong to have a contested Liberal leadership campaign in 2006 or did the newly elected leader fail in his task of bringing the opposing sides back together for the good of the party and the country?

Other parties have had tough leadership campaigns and survived. We have seen Harper in March, 2004 and Mulcair in March, 2012 go through leadership races and end up with united parties behind them. If they could do it why couldn’t the next leader of the Liberal party do the same thing?

If we want to look at a really bruising leadership race we can go back to the Brian Mulroney-Joe Clark battles. Yet when all was said and done Mulroney made a point of being inclusive. Clark received a high profile portfolio; other leadership candidates were also treated well. This helped to unite the party behind Mulroney and provided him with the political strength he needed to win two majority governments. Leadership is more than just winning and Mulroney demonstrated that it was possible to end up with a united party.

Everyone likes to win, but Trudeau should welcome a tough leadership race and that is what his talk points should be saying. Should he win such a political challenge, then he will have put to rest the whispers that he is a policy light weight, or just a pretty face or just living on his father’s name.

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.


Leave a Reply