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I have yet to argue that the Liberal’s ‘prodigal son’ is without question the best candidate for leadership and have yet to endorse any candidate. But I do believe it has become brutally obvious Trudeau is not only the race’s clear frontrunner, he actually has a very realistic chance of holding the highest office.
At the onset of the Liberal leadership race, I identified three leadership heavyweights in my article ‘The Liberal throne is empty.’ Two of the five debates have now passed and I believe I was correct in pointing to Justin Trudeau, Martha Hall Findlay, and Marc Garneau as the three grits most likely to be crowned party leader. But one of these three has pulled ahead. When analysing recent events, it becomes apparent that this is now Justin Trudeau’s race to lose.
February 16’s Debate in Mississauga
Even more so than during the first debate, Mississauga saw the other candidates focus their attacks on Trudeau. Hall Findlay’s remarks on Trudeau’s upbringing stand out:
“You keep referring to the middle-class,” stated Hall Findlay. “You yourself have admitted that you actually don’t belong to the middle-class. I find it a little challenging to understand how you would understand the real challenges facing Canadians.”
Trudeau was ready for such a question, and answered it well. Trudeau argued he has used and will use his advantages to serve his community and country. But this misses the point. The fact is no candidates are taking cheap shots at Deborah Coyne, or Joyce Murray, or David Bertschi, or even Hall Findlay/Garneau. They are blatantly focusing their attacks upon Trudeau. This is because it has become apparent that Trudeau is the race’s frontrunner.
Marc Garneau’s Challenge
On Monday morning, Marc Garneau challenged Justin Trudeau to a one-on-one debate. Garneau argued that if Trudeau couldn’t defend his ideas in a debate with a liberal comrade, how could he defend himself against a Harper-style onslaught? This challenge was immediately met with scorn from the other candidates. Martin Cauchon tweeted “@MarcGarneau looks a bit desperate.”
But again this misses the point. Garneau realises that Trudeau is pulling ahead, to ensure that he is seen as the alternative he must attempt to challenge Trudeau directly and individually, thus uniting the opposition behind himself. He clearly attacked Trudeau in particular during February 16’s debate, and he must do more of this if he is to have a chance of winning.
George Takach drops out
On the same day as Garneau’s challenge, Trudeau’s lead was solidified. The race saw its first drop-out. George Takach threw his support behind Trudeau while stepping out of the contest. If Trudeau was not already heir apparent to the Grit Throne, he was after this development.
In the shorter term I expect there to be more attacks upon the race’s frontrunner come March 3’s debate in Halifax. In the longer term I expect there to be more drop-outs, and I expect it will become more clear who these drop-outs will be after the next debate. Depending on who the exiting candidate supports, Trudeau’s lead will be further fortified, or another heavyweight will become the clear alternative.
Trudeau as PM?
I also expect there to be a growing consensus amongst grits that Trudeau is a good choice for leadership. My article at the onset of the leadership race pointed to Trudeau’s inexperience, as did many critics. But experience is not necessarily needed to govern. Trudeau has roughly the same amount of experience as Harper when he won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance back in 2002. But more importantly Trudeau may have more experience than we give him credit. As much as we hate him for it, he was raised in a prominent political family. To argue this, I quote Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin:
“You want political seasoning? How about being raised since birth in the cauldron of power? How about living all your early life at 24 Sussex Dr., son of a prime minister? For a course in political immersion, it’s hard to beat. Years of foreign leaders and premiers and princes and kings traipsing through your living room. Heated debates at your dining room table. Daily life with Papa PM during the fight for the country in the 1980 referendum. Constitutional negotiations with the premiers just down the stairs from your bedroom. Foreign trips to broaden the perspective. Then, all the counsel and tutoring in his father’s post-prime-ministerial years.”
The whole op-ed can be found here.
Furthermore, Trudeau’s inexperience has not proven to be a factor in his highly effective liberal leadership campaign thus far. Add this with the fact that he is popular amongst young people (he has been touring high-schools for years in anticipation of this race), that he is charismatic, and he is the best well known candidate, it becomes clear he in fact could win an election.
Finally what Trudeau has been most criticised for is not having a plan on which to govern. But the fact is no liberal candidate will stick exactly to the plan they swear to now should he or she become PM. Civil servants assist in making actual policy, and thus a platform is actually not needed at this stage. Trudeau knows how to play frontrunner; a platform will only give competitors something to attack while his charisma offers them nothing.
by Dylan F