The Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership race is coming to a slow boil after months on the political backburner.
With Justin Trudeau sitting pretty as heir apparent to a party that his family has shaped in no small way, it is easy to forget about the other contenders.
But there are other players in this race, and it seems prudent for people to learn a thing or two about them before surrendering Canada’s “natural governing party” to the Trudeau brand.
David Bertschi, Alex Burton, Deborah Coyne, Martha Hall Findlay, Karen McCrimmon, David Merner, Jonathan Mousley, Rene Roy — eight other candidates on the ticket, with their own distinct sets of ideas and experience.
Consider, also, the names that have been floated as potential candidates: Marc Garneau, Canada’s first man in space and present Liberal house leader; Jean Charest, former leader of the Quebec Liberals and former Premier of that province; Borys Wrzesnewskyj, former MP of Etobicoke Centre, whose defeat in the most recent election has been the subject of ongoing controversy.
This is not a small pond, and Trudeau is far from the big fish.
To be fair, it’s no falsehood that good looks and brand recognition are key to securing an electoral victory. And it is hard to deny that Trudeau the younger is in possession of both of those elements.
But where does he stand on foreign policy? National defence? How about the economy?
The fact is, Trudeau represents one gigantic X-factor. And that — even in an era when “change” is in — is just another word for “red flag” in politics.
Critics of this column will no doubt cite Trudeau’s editorial on the Nexen deal, which appeared in the National Post this past Tuesday, as an example of his stance on the economy and foreign policy.
Keep in mind, this is the first we’ve heard — in any serious sense — about economic or foreign relations policy from Trudeau, who has been a candidate for leadership since the beginning of October, and had been mulling a run for some time before that. It seems awfully convenient that we’re finally hearing from him on these topics now.
Liberals should be advised that, sometimes, people overlook brand names for the more sensible buy. And in the context of the modern Liberal party — decimated in the most recent election, struggling to rediscover its sense of purpose, in need of valid leadership to rally around — it’s hard to imagine Trudeau being the right call.
Especially when one considers the Liberal Party’s performance in Quebec — where Trudeau’s, and indeed the Liberal Party’s, strength has traditionally been situated — in the past election.
Especially when one considers the fact the Conservative government has been working to redistribute seats in the House of Commons and to better balance the political power of the West relative to the East.
It’s time for the Liberal Party to start courting the parts of Canada not named Quebec and Ontario. And Trudeau’s name carries too much baggage in the West to make it a feasible banner around which western Liberals can rally — even more so following the resurfacing of comments he made in 2010 about Albertan socio-economic politics and leadership.
There are candidates in this race that seem to genuinely care about what Western Canada has to say.
Alex Burton, a Crown Prosecutor operating out of Vancouver, has pledged to bring the West into the Liberal Party. He has spent weeks traveling across the country in an attempt to build a grassroots movement that he believes will put him over the top in this race.
Marc Garneau, should he throw his hat in the race (all indications point toward Wednesday as the day he will launch his campaign), has been spending a significant amount of time in western Canada, getting a sense of where support lies for the party out here. He has a track record of cool-headed politics under his belt, and is experienced in leadership roles.
Both have either issued clear policy statements on their vision for the Liberal Party of Canada moving forward, or have a long standing track record of their beliefs and political positions available for all to see.
I am not going to endorse any specific candidate in this column, but I will go on record to say Trudeau would be a bad choice — perhaps not in the future, but certainly in the present — even if his party forms a government in the next election.