You’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen Justin Trudeau’s face adorning the cover of every major Canadian newspaper and politically-oriented magazine at some point during the past few weeks. Who could resist the story? The young, charismatic son of one of Canada’s most famous political leaders throws his hat (or should I say, coat) into the ring for the Liberal Party leadership.
My issue here is with the media, because while Trudeau has been made out to be Canada’s next crown prince in politics, virtually every other politician in the Liberal leadership race has been marginalized, or downright ignored. Granted, no other superstars have come out of the woodwork, yet, but there are other candidates in the running. Can sporadic observers of Canadian politics name any of Trudeau’s opponents? I had to check the names to write this editorial.
The casual observer would better-recognize the name Bob Rae. He’s the interim leader, and will not run for leadership. Mark Garneau, a retired astronaut, is also a high-profile Party member, but hasn’t declared candidacy yet. There is time before the race officially starts on Nov. 14, and there has been indication that he’ll run. He is likely the only candidate who can challenge Trudeau.
Here are some names for the understandably uninformed: Deborah Coyne, Alex Burton, and Jonathan Mousley. Trudeau has been on the cover of MacLean’s twice this year already—they can’t compete with that exposure. Even in an editorial posted to the Toronto Star website on Oct. 10, focusing on the lack of gender diversity within Canadian politics, citing a Trudeau comment. Editor Lorrie Goldstein failed to mention that there is a female candidate in the running. To read Goldstein’s article, you’d think that Coyne isn’t a candidate.
It’s a long road until the leadership convention at which the Liberal Party members actually vote for their leader (in Apr.), and it’s in the best interest of the Liberal Party that the other candidates receive at least some attention because if the party doesn’t elect Trudeau (his political history is brief, and it’s not fully clear what he’ll stand for), suddenly they’ve got themselves a mountain to climb if they want to win back Canadian voters.
So, who are these other candidates?
Deborah Coyne is a lawyer, writer, and was a professor at the University of Toronto Law School. She has an impressive resume of achievements including involvement in the constitutional debates over the Meech Lake Accord. However, Coyne’s personal history may draw the most remarks. She is the mother of Pierre Trudeau’s daughter. A google search for Coyne brings up nine stories on the first page. Five feature the Trudeau connection in the headline or description before navigating to the story. Coyne acknowledges that she’s a long-shot, but told The Canadian Press “I’m in this to make sure it’s an ideas-based campaign. I believe I have a vision and a program that will resonate with many Canadians.”
Alex Burton is a Vancouver lawyer and a Crown Prosecutor for the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General in the Organized Crime Unit and the Liberal Party’s president for the Vancouver-Kingsway Riding. A search brings up his personal website, followed by a string of websites for a deceased Texan radio personality. There are no relevant news stories on the first page. A further search found an article in The Province, in which Burton says “If we want new voices…then we need to be able to have the avenues for people with those voices…to be part of the debate.” This appears to be a campaign based on getting people talking and exchanging ideas, rather than a run for victory. However, the article (which is about Burton) is accompanied by a picture of Trudeau.
A search for Jonathan Mousley reveals that he works as a senior economist at Ontario’s Ministry of Finance, and has worked for the Chrétien government as a policy advisor to the Minister of National Defense and Veterans Affairs. The first page of the search, however, did not turn up any interviews with Mousley—or any articles focused on what he wants to bring to the party.
Do any of these candidates stand a chance against the Trudeau juggernaut? No, none have the fame or the charisma that make Trudeau a favourite, but no political party should be so exclusively focused this early in the nomination process. Right now, the media-given impression is that this is a race of one, and that’s not good for politics.