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“Alea iacta est,” The Die is Cast – the race is over and voting has begun. On April the 14th the next Grit leader will be unveiled.
Prelude to the National Showcase
Trudeau appeared to be the frontrunner upon casting his bid for leadership and appears to have maintained this advantage into the polls. Indeed during the convention, his speech was the most anticipated and applauded, although Hall Findlay and Murray also garnered some very visible support. The only major surprises during the leadership race came from Marc Garneau and Joyce Murray.
Marc Garneau: the unexpected dropout
Marc Garneau entered the race with a large supporter-base. At the onset I (like many) identified him as a ‘heavyweight.’ Garneau attempted to unify the anti-Trudeau vote behind himself by challenging Trudeau to a one-on-one debate. However this tactic had the opposite effect, Garneau appeared desperate. Most likely Garneau was desperate, with deep trust in the polls he saw Trudeau as the clear favourite and decided to bow out rather than risk party-division. There was a time when Garneau truly believed he could win; with an impressive resume and background I am sure he believed he had a very real possibility of winning. After all, Trudeau attended grade school whilst Garneau orbited the earth. But when Garneau saw has chances slip away, as a self-described “loyal soldier” he stepped in line behind Trudeau.
Saturday’s National Showcase was missing Garneau. George Takach was at the convention and the Trudeau after party, while Bertschi was rumoured to have attended the Hall Findlay after party. Disregarding a tweet against political cooperation, Garneau has been noticeably invisible since bowing out (pardon the contradiction of terms). Liberals should hope Garneau is simply too busy working as an MP to attend as he is a strong force in the party.
Joyce Murray: the unexpected rival
Joyce Murray is a unique candidate. She is the only one to advocate “one-time” political cooperation with the NDP and Greens. She is definitely the most left-leaning of the candidates, and many criticise her for this. Whether it was intended or not, but her banner during her speech appeared markedly more orange than the others.
I originally wrote Murray off after the first debate, her opening line was “I am a woman, of course I have a plan,” expressing neither her experience or aptitude. One of her points on her four-point policy platform is the legalization of marijuana, a policy that certainly has its merit but there are more pressing issues – the economy was NOT listed as part of her four-point platform. For reasons like this, I dismissed her as a fringe candidate, but I was wrong. As the only candidate to advocate for cooperation she has garnered much support from the minority of liberals who support this tactic. She has been identified as the main challenger to Trudeau. Because the voting is aggregated by riding, and Trudeau’s supporter-base was originally over-exaggerated, she even has a chance (albeit a very small one) of becoming leader.
Martha Hall Findlay: the true rival
I believe that to win the next election, the Liberal Party of Canada must garner votes from the Conservative base. To achieve this, the party leader must be popular in the West, but remain socially liberal. Martha Hall Findlay is just this candidate. She supports the oil-sands but believes Canada must regain its image as an environmental steward in order to get essential infrastructure like Keystone XL to pass. The exchange between her and Murray during the Montreal debate is truly amazing to watch. Although many peg her as right-of-center amongst liberals, she supports universal daycare and early learning, universal single-tier healthcare, national affordable housing, and environmental sustainability. During her speech she focused on the economy, which is currently the number one issue for Canadians and a policy area during the Chretien and Martin years where the Liberals were trusted. Her National Showcase speech echoed this: “We are the party of economic responsibility and fiscal prudence . . . the party of both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.” Hall Findlay has done what Trudeau has not, given straight substantive answers on any policy question.
Hall Findlay is the underdog, but as she pointed during her speech ,Pierre Elliot Trudeau was as well. She has remained a strong candidate throughout the race, and I am excited to see what she does in the party after the next leader is chosen, even if that next leader is not her.
Justin Trudeau: no longer untested
During the leadership race, Justin Trudeau held onto his lead, as such he is no longer untested. He proved to be a master of the political campaign and has a true talent for inspirational public speaking. As fickle as polls may be, and there have been a lot of fickle polls, one thing that nobody can deny is that he is popular amongst Canadians. He has proven to be an absolute machine at fundraising. There is also no doubt Trudeau invigorates young voters – a demographic that has yet to really come out to the polls in big numbers; at the National Showcase he made his way to the stage with Deadmau5’s “The Veldt.” As such I believe comparisons to Barack Obama are not unwarranted.
Assuming Trudeau is elected to lead, the Liberals are rendering useless the trademark of the Harper-campaign: the unrelenting attack-ads. Whereas Stephen Dion and Michael Ignatieff were not well-known to Canadians before leading the Liberals, Trudeau comes with name-in-hand. It will thus be much harder for Harper to paint him as something he is not. Whereas Dion was marked as “not a leader,” and Ignatieff was “just visiting,” Trudeau is already known as youthful and inspirational. Trudeau will face Harper just as the Conservatives have begun to crack. Scandals that were brewing for years are beginning to surface (i.e. robocalls and the in-and-out scandal) and Harper’s ‘muzzling’ makes him appear as an out-of-touch megalomaniac. True, the prodigal son has yet to comment on real policy, but his ideology is clear.
At the National Showcase, I was told an anecdote by a Liberal member. She had sat beside a Conservative Party insider during a flight. After a brief conversation the Conservative insider stated, “we know the red-wave is coming.” With Trudeau’s ability to rally, this notion may very well prove to be true.
His speech at the showcase was truly inspirational. He took aim at both the Conservatives and the New Democrats, showing the Liberal’s strength as the center-party. “Ours is a vision that knows economic prosperity and environmental health can and must go hand-in-hand in the 21st century. We will not ignore science or shy away from tough urgent issues like carbon-pricing, nor will we succumb to easy politics by demonising one sector of the economy or region of the country.” One line really stood out for me: “The biggest problem with Mr. Harper’s government is not that they are mean spirited, it’s that they are unambitious. What’s their economic message these days? That Canadians should be happy they don’t live in Europe? The Conservatives use our challenges as opportunities to demonise their opponents and divide Canadians, not to find solutions.” By choosing Trudeau, Liberals are making the right choice, although Hall Findlay is a true gem.
by Dylan F