The October 2nd announcement that Justin Trudeau will seek the liberal leadership may have caused the hearts of many Canadian Liberals across Canada to skip a beat.
Ever since the Liberals were reduced to third party status in the last federal election, the party has been somewhat disoriented and in need of new direction. Many of the party’s supporters have been swept away by the Orange Wave thanks to “Bon Jack.” Even before that, the party has been plagued with weak leadership since the departure of Jean Crétien. Paul Martin’s sponsorship scandal that led to the end of liberal reign in 2006 as well as the brief and dull leadership of Stephane Dion combined with Michael Ignatieff’s political opportunism are all indicators of a declining liberal party.
Justin Trudeau claims that his father, Pierre Trudeau, left him with a wonderful country to live in. Although that may have been true, Canadians have left him with a dismal liberal party in need of a serious revival and the Canada that was left to us by Pierre Trudeau is long gone too. If Justin Trudeau seeks to re-ignite the liberal flame that had burned so brightly since 1867, he will have to contend with many challenges along the way.
The first one is dominance by the western-based Conservative Party of Canada, headed by Prime Minister Harper. Second is the NDP, who presents an alternative to the deteriorating Liberal Party and who has taken a chunk of seats away from them. This second issue has even more at stake than meets the eye. Trudeau’s brand name may steer some of NDP supporters back towards the Liberal camp, but is this really a good thing? In this case, the only winners will be the conservatives, as Trudeau helps to split the left-wing vote even further between the NDP and Liberal parties. Thirdly, Trudeau himself is an intellectual lightweight and does not even begin to approach the level of academia and sophistication that other candidates for liberal leadership bring to the table, never mind the other party leaders in Parliament.
But lets say that Justin is able to somehow snatch the Liberal leadership next April, then what? He will have tremendously big shoes to fill thanks to his father’s legacy. In order to really stand out as Canada’s Prime Minister he will have to do twice as much as his father did during his own time. This is an almost insurmountable task considering the fact that his father was one of Canada’s most controversial and beloved leaders of all time. This was a man who was responsible for repatriating the Canadian Constitution in 1982, which profoundly changed this country. This was the man who invoked the war measures act in response to separatism in Quebec and went toe to toe with René Lévesque in the 1980 referendum on Quebec sovereignty.
The hype generated by Justin Trudeau’s announcement is due in large part to the Trudeau name, which has nothing to do with Justin himself. If he truly wants to make his mark in the Canadian political landscape, he will have to stand out in his own right. If not, he’ll recede into his father’s shadow and leave the Liberals in just the same position, if not a worse one, than that which they occupy now.
– Matthew Eidinger