The race for the Grit leadership, following Astronaut MP Marc Garneau’s withdrawal, is now about over. Despite diminished challenges from Vancouver MP Joyce Murray and Ontario MP Martha Hall Findlay, recent LPC leadership polls indicate that Trudeau has 329.6 endorsements points amongst fellow Liberals, accounting for approximately a 94.6 % share of the points. More significantly, Trudeau has a been dominating the likely-Liberal voter polls between his opponents in the LPC leaderhip race, garnering 72% to Joyce Murray and Martha Hall Findlar, whom had 7.2% and 5.2% respectively. The question now centers on whether Trudeau can challenge the NDP and Tories simultaneously and return the Liberals to their status as Canada’s “natural governing party.”
Today’s Canadian electorate is far different than the electorate of the late 1960s and early 1980s. The necessity of Trudeau shedding his apparent “pretty boy” image remains absolute for gaining the coveted prize of being Canada’s Prime Minister, in which having substance with a combination of style is essential towards achieving the Liberal desired goal. Apart from the fact that Trudeau’s campaign team has been reluctant to release any significant policy platform—a potentially dire or incredibly crafty decision—serves as an interesting tactic in the age unending political scrutiny from politicos on the blogosphere and Stephen Harper’s ruthless PMO. This can potentially signify preparedness from the Trudeau campaign, keeping in mind Harper’s successful brandishing of past Liberal leaders as “weak” or “only just visiting” with regards to Dion and Ignatieff. Instead of allowing early PMO attacks, Trudeau could be gearing up for the long-hall, awaiting his chance to challenge Harper during an apt to-be more interesting Question Period in the House of Commons. At this stage we can only wait and see. Irrespective of what will come, Trudeau must move to differentiate himself from both the Tories and the NDP in the policy arena, charting a new course from previous Liberal platforms that have been strikingly close to NDP far-left dogma.
The new and improved Liberal Party under Trudeau immediately from its inception must draw a line in the sand with regards to its centrist ideology. As already hinted, the Liberal Party in recent years under the helm of Dion and Ignatieff has shifted into a centralist form of the NDP, ignoring their successful run under Chretien with a more fiscally moderate, socially liberal and interest-based internationalist platform. Though, some of Trudeau’s rhetoric in recent weeks suggests his Liberal party will include a blend of moderate libertarianism with a social progressive twist. Harper’s success in 2005, 2008 and 2011, as one can recall, was not based on his “lovable” personality, but on his depiction to the Canadian public that he was the best option out of the worst candidates, someone who can steer Canada through dire economic circumstances. A future Trudeau general election campaign must break with the statist Liberal past and future NDP, recognizing that the historic East-West divide is unattainable to winning an election, considering Western electoral growth.
The new Liberals under Trudeau must recognize the importance of Alberta’s oil sands to Canadian interests, while not dismissing the progressive social ideals held dear to Quebeckers in the wake of an increasingly alienated population. His future campaign must also recognize the importance of Ontario manufacturing and technology to the lifeblood of Canada’s economy, which entails tough lobbying for continued U.S investment following increasing calls for protectionism south of the border. Trudeau’s future leadership must remember the value of Maritime Cod to the export markets, while not backing off from protecting northern territories from intrusion from states seeking access through the Northwest Passage. Again, these are very difficult tasks, and everybody cannot be pleased. Nonetheless it remains a starting point.
In essence, a future Trudeau leadership of the Liberal Party needs to be more than just nostalgia of name and legacy. The Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau must be transformative and transitional. This can come first by painting Harper and Mulcair as exactly what they are; simply different ideological flips of the same coin. The two grumpy men can be replaced by someone actually inspirational, but somebody with new ideas and policy. Name recognition can only go so far, it is what’s behind the name and party that counts.
– Cody Levine
(Featured photo: Justin Trudeau, Creative Commons, Flickr)