All evidence indicates that bearing the Trudeau name isn’t a liability in Quebec

Being in the Liberal party on the other hand…


(Paul Chiasson/CP)

Justin Trudeau was his usual schmaltzy, painfully earnest, bilingual self last night, and good lord did the crowd eat it up. Outside of church or your average Justin Bieber concert, you rarely see so many enraptured faces and hands clasped over hearts. And you know what? Good for him. Even though there is a certain Gouda quality to his delivery, and even if his frequent cozy bromides to Canada may set one’s teeth on edge, this much is true: Trudeau believes every word that flows out of his mouth. When he says he loves Canada, over and over, it’s not because he’s trying to convince you of as much. It’s because he really means it, perhaps more and more every time he says it.

In Quebec, that is part of the problem. At least, so goes the prevailing wisdom in the province. The thinking is this: much like his father before him, Trudeau is an Ottawa-first centralisateur who sees Quebec as just another province. Not only did he stifle Quebec’s collective will by running a campaign of fear during the 1980 referendum, he had the gall to jam the Charter of Rights and Freedoms down the province’s gullet in its aftermath. Pierre Trudeau, said red-headed separatist firebrand Pierre Bourgault in 1990, “never ceased  to violently attack Quebecers.” And like his father, Trudeau fils will only embarrass himself and his party if he tries his hammy I-Love-Canada schtick outside a few cloistered ridings on the island of Montreal.

Nationalists like Bourgault birthed the theory that thanks to their long memories and freakish sense of betrayal, Quebecers despised Trudeau (and by extension the Liberal brand) en masse. Alas, it doesn’t really square with the facts. Trudeau won a majority of Quebec seats (if not always the popular vote) in each of his elections, despite his well-known reputation as a separatist-baiting so-and-so. Sure, his party took a bath in the province in the wake of the repatriation of the constitution, but that had arguably as much to do with high debt and a morose economy as it did bruised feelings in Trudeau’s province of birth. And anyway, if there was a hate-on for Trudeau, it was pan-Canadian in nature: in 1984, two years seven months after Trudeau took his walk in the snow, Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives trounced the Liberals across the country.

Ah, but Trudeau’s legacy continued to haunt his party’s fortunes in Quebec, right? Not really. In 1993, despite the advent of the Bloc Québécois, Jean Chrétien still managed to win 33 per cent of the vote in the province. During the next two elections, Liberal fortunes in the province rose: 38 per cent in 1997, 44 per cent in 2000. For sovereignists, it was almost worse than losing ground to Trudeau; they were losing ground to Trudeau’s bagman. And the Bloc has never reached the 50 per cent threshold in voter support, despite Gilles Duceppe’s inclusive-sounding “Quebec values in Ottawa” spiel.

If Trudeau has a problem in Quebec, it isn’t his love for what he called the “magnificent, unlikely country” he wishes to one day govern. It’s the Liberal Party’s attempts to try and sell that magnificent, unlikely country back to Quebecers. Quite simply, the Sponsorship scandal ruined the Liberal brand in the province, and it has yet to recover. Strange but true: forking out $100 million to various advertising and branding agencies without much oversight and with even less results isn’t such a hot idea. Just ask Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. Neither Liberal leader was involved in the Sponsorship Scandal, yet both suffered from its fallout in Quebec nonetheless. (With 24 and 14 per cent of Quebec’s voter share, respectively.)

The collapse of the Bloc and Quebec’s cynicism-free embrace of the NDP show that being a Canada-loving federalist like Jack Layton isn’t a liability at all. Just the opposite, in fact: according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll, 30 per cent of Bloc Québécois voters thought Trudeau was the country’s best Prime Minister, and only eight per cent thought he was the worst. In this respect, the Trudeau name isn’t nearly the liability Quebec nationalists would like to think. Unfortunately for young Trudeau, the same can’t be said for the party he hopes to lead.


All evidence indicates that bearing the Trudeau name isn’t a liability in Quebec

  1. NEP, separatists, adscam…..all history

    Things only old people remember….and even most of them don’t care about it anymore.

    Stop dragging deadwood around….this country needs to look ahead, not behind.

    • Ya, nobody cares about a few hundred million dollars stolen, or an economic policy that damaged the country so badly we’re still paying for it 30 years later!

      • Noop they don’t. So give the Con bullshit a rest.

        • So you’re saying that disliking theft and liking a healthy economy is “Con bullshit”? Brilliant!

          • YOU are the poster boy for Con bullshit, AND a troll.

            And you know I won’t play with you….so ta ta.

  2. Best column i’ve seen on JT’s chances i’ve seen so far [ i haven’t seen many, but i have a feeling this will still stand out]. Quebecers may????be the most tribal of all the provinces[ take a bow AB and NL] when it comes to love/hating their own. Trudeau senior may have been a vendu in many eyes but he was also a proud Quebecer who made it clear if the day ever arrived he would be on the Quebec side of that tragic divide. Same i think for JT.
    So, maybe JT has to carry the whole of the LPC on his back. Everything depends on how he approaches it and what the NDP’s response is going to be. In any case rumours of corruption never seemed to stop Quebecers choosing provincial liberal parties down the years, nor some pretty malodorous iterations of the PQ either for that matter.

  3. “in 1984, just over two years after Trudeau took his walk in the snow, Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives trounced the Liberals across the country.”
    PET took his “walk in the snow” on Feb 29, 1984 (I can still picture Iona Campagnolo tut-tutting “We should have guessed.”). It was just over six months later when Mulroney avalanche swept across the land.

  4. Justin, tear down these French Fascism walls.

  5. I live here, and it still amazes me that the Quebecois (with as you awesomely say the “freakish sense of betrayal”) STILL have not forgiven the Liberals a $100 million propaganda scam — especially when you consider the Conservatives’ $100 million propaganda scam in Tony Clements’ riding, or even worse, the PQ’s $500 million (half a BILLION) propaganda scam to invest citizens’ money in things like ‘promoting Quebec fashion’. I mean, who is anybody here to throw stones for corruption? (and tellingly, to me the scandal is not that Liberal Canada spent the money, it’s that the Quebec ad firm did NOT do the work! Soooooo typical)

  6. Go Justin GO ! Put the separatists in their place.

  7. I think Trudeau will get Quebec, I don’t doubt that. I think Mulcair is history.

  8. OMG…people in Quebec can’t stand this moron. Well, aside from his primarily immigrant riding who appears enraptured with him. If he becomes Liberal leader and potentially Prime minister I am not sure what will be worse…a moron at the helm or his wretched wife as first lady. Save us!!!!

    • Somebody sounds not a little jealous; also kind of immigrant-dissing.