Justin Trudeau’s visit to McGill on Tuesday was one of those rare events on campus where students of all political stripes could agree on one thing: Trudeau is a joke.
Mr. Trudeau started off with his standard stump speech on his favourite theme: cynicism in politics. Cynicism and negativity in politics are topics that optimistic and hopeful students want to change. However, if one were to poll university students asking them what their biggest fear is, it would not be that a bunch of people in Ottawa like to shout at each other and make fools of themselves. Instead, they would probably say that they fear not having a job in the all-too-near future. While Mr. Trudeau did talk in very broad strokes on the need for more income equality for the middle class, he offered no policies on how to achieve it.
Normally, any examination of a candidate’s appearance on campus would include an examination of the various policies that were presented, along with a discussion of how they would affect students. However, this would be impossible to do for Mr. Trudeau’s visit, as he offered no specific policies on almost any topic. He did comment on education, saying that he would strive to send 70% of high school graduates to post-secondary education. And yet when pressed on specific policies that he would implement to achieve this goal Mr. Trudeau was only able to provide vague references to bursaries and scholarships that he would help create. That is a platitude, not a policy, offering no assurance to Canadians that he can actually achieve his goals.
His supporters on campus were also unable to provide solid arguments in his favour. After the talk one of Mr. Trudeau’s main campaigners on campus described him as the national unity candidate. He might as well call himself the pro-kittens candidate. There is not a single federal politician opposed to national unity, although various politicians might define “national” and “unity” in different ways. Beyond that, candidates who really want to advocate national unity do not say they would support a sovereign Quebec. Even ignoring that egregious statement, national unity is not something that a winning candidacy can be based upon, certainly not when every candidate in the race agrees on it.
Another issue is that nothing in Mr. Trudeau’s talk showed how he would be a better party leader than the other Liberals, let alone why he would be a better Prime Minister than a Conservative or New Democrat. Mr. Trudeau said that he would “crowd-source” and develop policies that the public seemed to want rather than offer any of his own, feeling that that would be too arrogant.
The problem with not wanting to act as if he were “smarter than everyone who ever came before (him)” is that Canadians generally want the Prime Minister to have the experience, leadership skills and intellect to make decisions on their behalf. Trudeau’s emphasis on crowd-sourcing underscores the fact that he has no unique skills or accomplishments to tout. Teaching is admirable, and a great public service, but the skills required to stand in front of thirty children and rote teach French verbs conjugations are very different from those needed to lead Canada through the myriad challenges that it will face in the coming decades.
The future Liberal leader needs to be someone who has the ability to create a message and then deliver it to Canadians. The previous experiences with Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff show that the other parties will magnify any cracks, actual or perceived, in a candidate’s leadership skills or personal integrity through attack media. Mr. Trudeau has thus far not shown that he can stand up to these attacks, or that he has something unique to provide for Canadians. Liberals must quickly decide whether electing a candidate based on his genealogy is a good thing, or whether more substantial qualifications are necessary to lead our nation.
(Featured photo: Justin Trudeau, Creative Commons, Flickr)