The Soapbox: Time to watch Liberal leadership race is now

Justin Crann
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Marc Garneau — the first Canadian in space — is one of nine Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidates and considered one of the race's frontrunners.

The campaign has been relatively quiet so far, but over the next three months, Canadians will be hearing quite a bit about each of the nine candidates in line for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC).

Beginning Sunday, there are five debates and a national showcase on the agenda before the vote for leader begins. For politicos and Liberal Party members and supporters, the dates — which should be worthwhile to note — are Jan. 20, Feb. 2, Feb. 16, March 3 and March 23 for the debates; the showcase will be held April 6.

Canadians should be following this race closely, in no small part because of the tremendous role that this party has had in the formation and progression of Canada from a historical perspective. The LPC is not referred to as “Canada’s natural governing party” without reason.

And now, while the campaigns begin to take shape, is the perfect time to start tuning in.

This race involves nine candidates, but there are only a few viable individuals in that mix.

Justin Trudeau is commonly regarded as the frontrunner, in spite of an apparent lack of platform. 

It seems likely that a great deal of his success has to do with his personal charisma and a degree of nepotism within the party; recent polls have had him not only ahead of the others in the race, but some even suggest he could form a Liberal government to succeed the Harper Conservatives in the next federal election.

The inherent problem with polls is that they can be incredibly misleading, and can swing very quickly. 

Trudeau has shown a remarkable propensity for inserting his foot firmly in his mouth, and that is a liability in a leader — just ask his two most recent predecessors about the consequences of political gaffes.

Further, he has shown a tendency to lose his temper, and an inability to take a stand on issues of import.

Liabilities have a habit of stacking up and forming a nasty sort of impression, and Trudeau’s will likely do so sooner than some may expect, should he win the leadership of his party.

The race’s runner-up candidate is Marc Garneau. He comes equipped with an impressive resume:  he was first of only a handful of Canadians to ever go to space, he has headed the Canadian Space Agency, he has served in the Canadian Navy.

Equally impressive has been Garneau’s willingness to take leaps with his position statements and speeches. 

He has taken the fight on the economy to Stephen Harper and presented a viable economic strategy — something that at least one of his predecessors in the past decade failed to do.

He has proposed a system of political reform that could result in a fairer and more democratic approach to Canadian elections — though some have criticized it as not going far enough.

The most important point to be made is that he has at least taken stances, something that Trudeau has failed to do. 

A brief visit to Garneau’s campaign website yields detailed discussions and transcripts of his speeches that paint a pretty clear picture of what he’s about.

The same can be said of some of the race’s dark horse candidates, including Deborah Coyne and Joyce Murray, but not Trudeau.

There is a lot of appeal to a brand-name candidate, because name recognition plays such a huge role in the success of any politician. So, too, does hair, according to some studies.

But there are some — myself included — who like to hope for more and better out of Canadians, and especially Canadian Liberals, than just grasping for the most shiny object.

People should be considering the substance of these candidates and the potential context of the upcoming federal election.

And when they do, they may discover that there is only one truly viable candidate in this race.

Organizations: Liberal Party of Canada, Harper Conservatives, Canadian Space Agency Canadian Navy

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Michael Wilson
    January 19, 2013 - 20:09

    Justin Trudeau and the liberals pretty much know Harper will win, barring disaster, the next election in 2015. If Trudeau wins the convention his big test will be 4 years later, over 6 years from now. He will be a seasoned veteran in his late 40s, while the conservatives will probably have an untested new leader. If the liberals think long term, Trudeau is the best bet.