On Oct. 2 Justin Trudeau announced in Montréal that he will run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
“I choose, with all my heart, to serve the country I love. That’s why I’m so happy to announce here, tonight, my candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada,” the 40-year-old Montréal MP says in his speech.
Trudeau pushed westward to Richmond on Oct. 3 and delivered a speech to a packed conference room at the Radisson Aiport Hotel. He reminded supporters of his B.C. roots, reminding them that he lectured at Point Grey Academy and had a short lived stint as snowboard instructor in Whistler. Trudeau spoke of his mother, Margret, who was from West Vancouver, as well as his maternal grandfather, James Sinclair, a prominent B.C. MP.
Allan Warnke, VIU Political Studies professor and former Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia representing Richmond-Steveston, says that there were nearly 1000 supporters inside the crowded conference room. “A thousand people coming out to see a Liberal leadership candidate is impressive in Richmond,” Warnke says.
Warnke, who has conversed with the late Pierre Trudeau, described Justin as “being in a hurry” and stated that the young MP’s unsteady eagerness is sharp contrast to his father who Warnke described as cool, calm, and collected.
“The few times that I’ve seen him, his use of language presents him as someone in a hurry, he speaks fast and that is in sharp contrast to his father. I’ve met Pierre and talked to him and saw him in speeches and he was calm, cool, and collected—he was never in a hurry. It would be really good if Justin looked at some of those old clips. He could learn a lot,” Warnke says.
Warnke says that he personally believes that Justin Trudeau’s bid for Party leadership is premature and doubts whether the young MP will be able to generate support nationally due in part to his father’s past policies,
“I think he still has the prospects for cultivating strong support within the Liberal Party. There are enough liberals who want a charismatic young leader and they’ll gravitate to him. It’s if he takes over the leadership of the Liberal Party, then I have some fears on whether he can make a big break nationally and get support across the country. But there are also enemies in Québec who disliked Pierre Trudeau intensely. This is what Justin will have to inherit and how he’ll deal with it I’m not sure as a result he’s going to be that successful in terms of raising up the profile and prospects of the Liberal Party. They have a real serious problem now coming out of their third party status. I think he would have been better to hone his skills a little bit and maybe wait until next time. The temptation is always there when you have a whole host of people saying ‘yes we need you,’ it’s hard to resist that—you can’t really,” Warnke says.
He also says that Justin Trudeau will have to “bear the sins of his father” in regards to Western Canada. “I think it’s going to be very difficult because there were a lot of people who were very strongly opposed to Pierre Trudeau in the West, especially in Alberta with regards to the National Energy Plan (NEP). It’s one of those issues that despite the fact it was a long time ago in our history, still carries on to the present day. All of those factors where people were strongly opposed to Trudeau, I’m afraid that it’s going to reflect on Justin as well and Justin will probably end up being quite dazed about where this is all coming from.”
Justin Trudeau has publically stated that he is opposed to Enbridge Inc.’s controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, which could win him favorable support in B.C. where the project faces low public approval ratings.
“I have said in the past and I continue to reiterate today that I don’t think the Enbridge pipeline is a good idea,” Trudeau says. “My default position is: pipelines? Sure. But not there.”
Warnke believes that Trudeau’s opposition to the proposed pipeline will “touch a very large nerve” in Alberta. “It’s a reminder of the NEP because it involves oil. Let’s face it: Albertans want the project to go ahead one way or another. If Enbridge is closed, well, there’s even been a threat that they’ll ship it through the Mackenzie Valley or ship it through to the United States. Both president Obama and Mitt Romney support this. Any expression of an opposition at this stage, especially by Trudeau, will touch a very large nerve that’s going to bother a lot of people.”
Warnke believes that Trudeau’s appeal to the millennial generation could be his ultimate strength. However he warns that Trudeau’s style of boss politics is antiquated and that if he wants to win a federal election he will need to develop a grassroots following.
He concludes that Trudeau is “definitely at the outset a front-runner but it all depends on who else is running against him and the real candidates for the Liberal Party who have some clout have yet to come out of the woodwork.”