How did Canada’s most successful political party of the 20th century fall from a strong majority government to third-party status in just nine short years? Many people will give many different answers. However, the reality is that the Liberal Party of Canada is on the brink, fighting to maintain its relevance and existence.
After former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff drove Canada’s centre-left party to political embarrassment, he was promptly ousted and replaced by Bob Rae as interim leader. It was expected that Rae would solidify his position as head of the Liberal Party — until this summer, when he announced he would not run for permanent leadership. On April 14, 2013, a new leader for the LPC will be selected. Someone with fresh ideas, the ability to effectively renew the party and invigorate a jaded electorate will be necessary for the future success of the party.
Justin Trudeau, the young, vibrant Liberal MP from Papineau, Quebec, is the clear frontrunner in the race to become the Liberal leader. On October 2, he made rumours official by announcing his intention to run for leader to a roaring crowd in Montreal.
With the name recognition of his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the 40-year-old Montrealer already has a household name that sets him apart from other leadership hopefuls. Unlike political leaders of recent memory, Trudeau speaks with conviction and passion for his country — in both official languages. He carries an air of excitement, thanks to his youthfulness, vigor and near-celebrity status. Trudeau’s leadership and perfect fluency in French could be the key to winning back the former Liberal stronghold of Quebec, tapping into the seats of Canada’s second most populated province. More importantly, Trudeau has an uncanny ability to connect with Canadians on a personal level as a champion of the middle class. Unlike his flashy and flamboyant father or the listless Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Trudeau has the ability to be a sober voice of reason that exudes both vision and idealism.
Pundits point to Trudeau’s lack of credentials as a weakness. However, his father rose through the Liberal ranks in a matter of months — the elder Trudeau went from a backbencher to Prime Minister in less than three years. Justin Trudeau already has four years of political experience, and will have seven years in parliament under his belt before the next federal election. Trudeau has also proven he is a successful and tireless campaigner, having kept an incredibly tight schedule across the country in the 2011 federal election.
Though Pierre Trudeau is blessed with a largely positive legacy, Justin also carries the baggage his father left behind — massive deficits, the disastrous National Energy Program and his father’s overwhelming arrogance. This leaves Justin Trudeau the challenge of becoming his own man while living up to the expectations of the Canadian public.
With big-name Liberals such as Bob Rae, Frank McKenna, Scott Brison, Robert Ghiz, Dominic LeBlanc and John Manley declining the leadership run, there is truly only one candidate. Trudeau has the recognition, the bilingualism, the personal popularity, the balanced personality and the strong vision for Canada needed to succeed as an opposition leader or even a prime minister.
One could question if the Liberals could afford to hand leadership to anyone else. A recent Canada Press Harris-Decima survey indicates that if Trudeau was the party leader, Liberal support would be 36 per cent nationwide — higher than any other party and enough for a small majority government. To avert political oblivion and irrelevance, the Liberals should usher in Trudeau to renew the battered party, or face the collapse of Canada’s great governmental dynasty.