On Tuesday, it is expected that Justin Trudeau – Liberal MP for Montreal’s Papineau riding and son of Canada’s controversial 15th Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau – will officially announce his intention to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. The news was leaked last week, confirming what many Canadian political junkies had already suspected about Trudeau’s leadership goals.
Trudeau’s bid for leadership of the federal Liberals has brought a new excitement and fervour to what was once called Canada’s “natural governing party”. The upcoming leadership race is part of a major rebuilding campaign for the Liberal Party, which saw an electoral disaster in the 2011 federal election. The party saw its worst electoral showing in its history, winning a mere 34 seats, and lost Official Opposition status to the New Democratic Party. The party’s prospects may turn around if Trudeau carries the Liberal flag into the next election – a Forum Research poll conducted for the National Post after the news leaked showed that the Liberals would clinch the election with Trudeau at the helm with 39% support.
At this incredibly early point in the Liberal leadership campaign, such polls should be taken with a grain of salt. Trudeau faces a number of significant obstacles in obtaining the Liberal leadership. There are legitimate questions over Trudeau’s experience – he has only served in the House of Commons since 2008, and some have claimed that his education as a teacher is insufficient for Canada’s highest office. Additionally, the Trudeau name is both a blessing and a curse – while Pierre Trudeau was immensely popular in central Canada, many in Western Canada blame Trudeau Sr.’s National Energy Program for the economic collapse of the 1980s. Not to mention Justin Trudeau’s potential challengers, like former astronaut Marc Garneau or MP Dominic LeBlanc, both of whom are strong contenders.
Whether or not Trudeau triumphs, his entrance into the race will certainly bring much needed attention to the Liberal Party, a party that many have discounted from ever being a credible contender in Canadian politics again. Trudeau brings charisma and youthfulness to the often dreary realm of Canadian politics (and he beat up Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match). Canada is not usually a country that embraces political dynasties – but Trudeau may just save the Liberal Party from falling into the history books.