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Trudeau will seek leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party

For better or worse, Justin Trudeau is expected to announce next Tuesday that he will seek the leadership of the beleaguered Liberal Party in Canada.

Trudeau, the son of beloved former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, is the last, perhaps best, hope of an endangered party.  As John Ibbitson noted in The Globe and Mail yesterday, Trudeau’s assets make him an almost prohibitive favorite.

At age 40, however, the Montréal-area MP has been a member of the House of Commons since just 2008, and he will face doubts that he’s seasoned enough to become prime minister.

If he wins the leadership, he’ll first face the task of winning back supporters from the New Democratic Party, who made such incredible inroads in the 2011 election under the late Jack Layton that they far eclipsed the Liberals to become the Official Opposition and the main alternative to prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party.

Currently, polls show the NDP, under new leader Thomas Mulcair, within striking distance of the Tories and Liberals trailing in distant third place.  But a National Post poll today shows that the Trudeau-led Liberals would win 39% to just 32% for Harper and 20% for the NDP.  Those numbers, I believe, represent a best-case scenario for Trudeau — when he really represents nothing more than nostalgia for his father and before he’s had to contend through a long leadership fight and go head-to-head against not only Harper, but Mulcair as well.  Trudeau will have to sideline the NDP (or otherwise engineer a merger or alliance with the NDP) and then win not only a sizeable number of ridings in Quebéc, but also in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada.

There will be much more to say in the months leading up to the leadership race — it doesn’t start until November 14 and it won’t end until April 14, 2013.  Since the 2011 election that saw the Liberals reduced to just 34 seats, former (NDP) Ontario premier Bob Rae has served as interim leader.

There will a lot of rebuilding for whomever wins the leadership — and since Rae himself ruled out running for the leadership in a permanent capacity earlier in June, it’s seemed like the leadership is Trudeau’s for the taking, despite a number of candidates also expected to run — the most serious potential challengers to Trudeau include Dominic LeBlanc, a New Brunswick MP since 2000 and currently the party’s foreign affairs critic and, perhaps more intriguingly, Marc Garneau, a retired astronaut and former president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2006, who has served as an MP since 2008, also from Montréal, and is the current Liberal House Leader.  Each candidate will pay a $75,000 entry fee — it’s thought the steep price will limit the number of contenders to just serious challengers, and campaign spending will be capped at $950,000.

It’s difficult to fathom just how far the Liberals have fallen in just little over a decade.

Continue reading Trudeau will seek leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party

Rae won’t seek Liberal leadership in Canada

Bob Rae, the interim leader of the beleaguered Liberal Party in Canada and one-time premier of Ontario, will not seek the Liberal Party’s leadership.

It is an unexpected announcement — Rae had received better marks for his performance as interim leader than his predecessors Michael Ignatieff (who defeated Rae in 2009 for the leadership) and Stéphane Dion (who defeated Rae in 2006), and was seen to be the frontrunner in the race.

Attention has already shifted to Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the party’s most popular potential leader.

The 40-year-old Trudeau has represented Papineau, a Montreal district, since 2008.  Trudeau had previously ruled out a run at the leadership, but pressure is already mounting on Trudeau as the last hope for the once-great party of Canada’s center-left — and he is already ‘listening’ to that pressure in the wake of Rae’s decision.

Even as the party gears up for the leadership contest expected in early 2013, polls show the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party currently tied for the lead in national polls, with the Liberals still trailing far behind — ThreeHundredEight‘s May 2012 federal poll average showed the NDP with 35%, the Tories with 34% and the Liberals with just 19%.

Rae’s strong performance since 2011 as interim leader had made him a frontrunner alongside Trudeau for the permanent leadership.  Indeed, he’s seen as a stronger adversary for Harper than even the official opposition leader — Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, who was elected as the NDP’s new leader only in March 2012.

But a full-fledged Rae leadership candidacy would have been problematic on several levels:

  • In stepping down as interim leader to run in his own right, Rae would have destabilized the Liberals in Parliament at a time when the party can least afford it, with Mulcair now consolidating his position as opposition leader.
  • His interim leadership has not done anything to help the Liberals’ poll numbers, which remain as low as the party’s depressed support in the 2011 general election.
  • It is unclear that Rae, a twice-failed leadership candidate in his mid-60s, would be able to lead the party through the two or three election cycles that it is likely to take for the party to move up from 34 seats to Official Opposition and then back into government.
  • A leadership campaign would have undoubtedly dredged up his controversial record as the NDP premier of Ontario in the 1990s (he failed to win reelection in 1995), and it would also have subjected him to suspicions that he’s keen on engineering a merger with the NDP (which, for what it’s worth, might not be the worst idea for the Liberal Party).

All things considered, his decision seems sound, and it allows Rae to play the elder statesman in the near future as a new generation of Liberals emerge — a generation that seems to begin and end with Trudeau, but includes nearly a dozen of potential leaders: Continue reading Rae won’t seek Liberal leadership in Canada

Friday eye candy, Canada version

So here’s the oft-hailed future savior of Canada’s Liberal Party Justin Trudeau (son of that Pierre Trudeau, the 1970s and 1980s Canadian prime minister).

He’s shown here at a charity boxing match with Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau from Thursday.  Apparently, Defence Minister Peter MacKay (the leader of the Progressive Conservative party at the time of its merger with Stephen Harper’s western Canada-based Canadian Alliance) totally wimped out of Trudeau’s challenge.

Stats: 40 years old, 6’2″ and 175 pounds.  Not bad for someone who places top among voters in the 2013 Liberal leadership race, even though he ruled out a run six months ago.

Certainly a better bod than Bob Rae, Stephen Harper or Thomas Mulcair (but let’s see what André Boisclair is up to these days).