Justin Trudeau: Where to now? - Macleans.ca

Justin Trudeau: Where to now?

John Geddes on three key themes in the Liberal Party leader’s acceptance speech


(Blair Gable, Maclean's)

If you were listening for hints of policy in Justin Trudeau’s acceptance speech in Ottawa as he won the Liberal leadership today, then you must not have been paying attention to his campaign.

Still, there was content of a sort. Three strategic aims, all well worth keeping in mind, stood out in Trudeau’s generally low-key text. He framed Liberalism as the sunny alternative to gloomy Conservatism; asked Quebecers to think of themselves as  builders of Canada; and scolded Liberals for letting their intramural squabbles undermine their electability.

1. Here was a key moment as he tried to draw that advantageous Liberal-vs.-Conservative contrast (throwing in the NDP for good measure):

“Canadians want to be led, not ruled. They are tired of the negative, divisive politics of Mr. Harper’s Conservatives, and unimpressed that the NDP under Mr. Mulcair have decided that if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. Well, we are fed up with leaders who pit Canadians against Canadians, West against East, rich against poor, Quebec against the rest of the country, urban against rural.”

That’s obviously broad-strokes partisan positioning. But Trudeau’s personal brand strength might be his inspirational quality, which he’s clearly trying to convert here into a message of unification.

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The latest Nanos poll has 30 per cent of Canadians picking him as the most inspiring federal leader, ahead of Harper’s 17.8 per cent and Mulcair’s 11.6 per cent. But he trails them both badly on the question of which leader has the best experience (Harper, 41 per cent; Mulcair 17.6 per cent; Trudeau, 8.6 per cent), so it might be harder for him to be heard as credible when talk turns to more precise matters of policy.

2. He took a turn in his speech, in French, to address Quebecers directly. During the leadership race, he sparred with also-ran contender Martin Cauchon on their home province. Cauchon argues for openness to some future constitutional rapprochement, which Trudeau resoundingly rejects. He alludes here to not opening up that issue:

“Let’s leave it up to others to continue the old quarrels and the old debates that lead to discontent. Let’s leave it up to others to partake in unfettered rhetoric and petty politics… Quebecers, let’s be builders again. Let’s build Canada together again.”

Then, without saying the words “separatist” or “sovereigntist,” he seemed to suggest their reluctance to embrace federalism is just a matter of seeing Canada’s scale as unwieldy:

“There will always be skeptics. There will always be people who say our country is too big, too full of differences, to be properly governed and for everyone to be properly represented. Well, I think they’re wrong.”

It’s hard to guess how the specific elements of Trudeau’s plea for Quebecers might be heard. But there’s no doubt the province is intrigued by the Montréal MP with the legendary last name. A Leger Marketing poll conducted late last month found that with Trudeau as leader, Liberal support in Quebec would stand at 32 per cent, ahead of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois tied at 25 per cent, and the Tories far back at 12 per cent.

The Liberals have just eight seats in the Quebec now, compared to the NDP’s 57 and the Conservatives’ five. So no matter how much Trudeau’s rhetorical line of attack concentrates on Harper, his party’s true adversary for a potentially large swath of seats in Quebec is clearly Mulcair’s NDP.

3. Starting April 15 in the House of Commons, when he must square off against Harper (and rise after Mulcair) in Question Period, Trudeau will be seen largely in terms of how he fares in comparison to the other party leaders. But arguably as big a task will be making sure he doesn’t allow the sorts of internal divisions to emerge that have the potential to plague any opposition leader.

Perhaps his sternest moment today was addressing Liberal who remember such rifts in the recent past:

“Canadians turned away from us because we turned away from them—because Liberals became more focused on fighting with each other than fighting for Canadians.”

Oddly, though, the Liberals were most noticeably divided during their last long run of success, when the clear existence of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin camps didn’t prevent the party from ruling and running successfully with Chrétien as PM and Martin as finance minister.

During the failed tries of Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, the party was less obviously divided. Their successive election losses came less as a result of Liberal in-fighting than because the party was united behind unpopular leaders running on confusing platforms.

For his part, Trudeau has shown in the past few months that he has plenty of potential to be popular. But on whether he has even the beginnings of a notion of the sort of platform that might propel a solid campaign in 2015, there was little indication during his leadership run and nothing more in his acceptance speech today. He’s likely got a couple of years to fill in the blanks.


Justin Trudeau: Where to now?

  1. How many decibel places Justin?

    • Thank you for your sterling contribution to Canadian political discourse.

      • In November 2010, Trudeau told a Quebec television show that he was
        tired of Albertans running the country and that, whether it was Jean
        Chretien or Brian Mulroney, Canada is better off when Quebecers are
        running the country.

        “Canada isn’t doing well right now because
        it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It
        doesn’t work,” Trudeau said in French to interviewer Patrick Lagace on
        the Tele-Quebec program Les francs-tireurs (The Straight Shooters).

        Lagace then asked Trudeau if he thought Canada was “better served when there are more Quebecers in charge than Albertans?” Trudeau
        replied: “I’m a Liberal, so of course I think so, yes. Certainly when
        we look at the great prime ministers of the 20th century, those that
        really stood the test of time, they were MPs from Quebec… This country
        – Canada – it belongs to us.”

        • “Canada isn’t doing well right now because
          it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It
          doesn’t work,”
          Only an Albertan would dispute this fact.

          • Canada is doing much better than it would have if the Lib/NDP/Bloc coalition had been successful in their coup attempt.

          • That’s known as counterfactual history and, as such, it’s essentially unprovable. Come back when you’ve got a compelling argument.

          • Well dog, I know you were too busy to notice with the ticks and fleas, but that coalition of the left demanded much more stimulus spending than actually happened.

          • There was no coalition. Counterfactual history. Irrelevant.

          • The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement on Monday to form an
            unprecedented coalition government, with a written pledge of support
            from the Bloc Québécois, if they are successful in ousting the minority
            Conservative government in a coming confidence vote.

          • I’m not sure why the word “if” gives you such trouble.. it’s such a small word.

          • You leftards are a joke, the intent was very clear.

          • “Only an Albertan would dispute this fact.”

            I’m not an Albertan, however Alberta is a very fine province indeed.

            And JT’s statement is not fact, it is his opinion, which he is entitled to no matter how wrong it is.

          • only an idiot would believe it.

          • Seems to me that there are a whole lot of Canadians outside of Alberta who’d dispute that fact. Just see the # of CPC MPs elected outside of Alberta to get a clue.

        • Notice how JT doesn’t mention Paul Martin?

          • Notice how Cons never do, either? He’s the one who built the budget surplus the Cons essentially had p!ssed away even before the economy cratered in 2008.

          • When the Liberals were in office we saw
            massive cutting of transfers to the provinces for Health, Education
            and Social Services, the raiding of the pensions of the Public
            Service, the RCMP and the Military, the illegal appropriation of some
            $54 Billion Dollars paid by workers and their employers into EI,
            myriad scandals involving graft and corruption by the Liberal Party,
            the most notable being ADSCAM, and one of the most infamous quotes
            coming from Justice Gomery saying of the Liberal Party, ‘they are
            criminally organized”.

            The Liberal Party is toast, there is no
            way back.

            Will Shiny Pony suggest a national
            carbon tax or cap and trade or both?

            Will JT start showing up in the HoC now that he’s leader of “da turd pardi”?????

            And when will the Liberals pay back that
            missing $40 Million from ADSCAM?

            What about the $162 Million Taxpayer
            Dollars Paul Martin’s CSL received while he was Finance Minister?

            Liberals………criminally organized indeed.

          • The fact remains, the Liberals demonstrably did a better job of managing the economy, particularly on Martin’s watch as Finance Minister, than the Cons have done since, even taking the 2008 crisis into account (the Cons had already emptied the till by then)

            And as for ethical lapses, where should I start with respect to Cons’ moral elasticity?

          • You’re wrong dog, but then you probably believed the polls when they predicted that Paul Martin would win the largest majority in Canadian history, that is until days before the election.

          • Cuts Harper was calling for – and more while opposition leader – troll.

          • Roll eyes……………when did Harper ever call for any of that?

          • It’s a well known fact [except to conbots apparently] that Harper regarded the the Martin cuts as not being enough. He certainly didn’t oppose them at the time.
            As for what his specific views were, do your own research…just try to avoid the temptation to cherry pick if you can possibly resist – which i doubt.

          • There we see kcm2 run aground on that “lee shore”.

        • You do realize that from a pure democratic standpoint, what he says makes perfect sense, right?

          After all, there’s more people in Quebec than there are in Alberta. So if we have a government in charge from Quebec, it’s going to represent more Canadians more accurately than a government from Alberta. Just like having Albertans control our country better serves Canada than having a government comprised of Nunavummiut.

          • Nice attempt at Liberal bafflegab……..fail.

            Canadians know exactly what JT meant.

          • From a pure democratic standpoint, how about we let voters decide? Oh right, that’s not working out so well for your guys, is it?

  2. In his speeches, Trudeau accuses Harper of being ‘negative and divisive’. I find those words ‘negative and divisive’ in themselves. He is doing what he accuses Harper of doing. Hypocrytical, no? Also, he doesn’t specify in what way Harper is being ‘negative and divisive’, but we all know examples when Justin has been that way.

    • Pointing out someone is using “negative and divisive” politics is not engaging in them. It’s one thing to be critical of a politician’s policies and methods; quite another to run slanderous personal attacks against him. There’s a big difference between debating the issues and trying to manipulate people’s emotions with propaganda.

      Justin believes in representing all Canadians and all provinces. Not pitting different groups and regions against each other to divide and conquer the electorate. Canadians will have a clear choice in 2015.

      • Yes, but he’s promised to be all sweetness and light and positiveness!
        I haven’t seen examples of Harper pitting regions against each other. Have you?

        • He said he would run a positive campaign, not a negative or divisive one. He’s defining his terms, explaining the ground. What words would you want him to use to accurately describe the actions of his adversary?

      • when Harper states facts about Trudeau, it’s an attack but when Baby Trudeau does it, it’s debate?

        • Of course. These are the same people who’ll claim that Junior calling a cabinet minister a POS on the floor of the HoC is a fine example of “positive politics”. Or saying that anybody from Alberta isn’t fit to run the country is NOT being divisive, simply because they believe it to be true.

          You can’t really ask for any intellectual honesty on these boards. The Harper Derangement Syndrome is strong in these ones.

    • “I find those words ‘negative and divisive’ in themselves”

      How is speaking the mere words, using accurate words, merely using language which describes the actual actions of your adversary, the actual facts of the situation so problematic? What words would you rather he use to describe someone who is negative and divisive? What neutral, or even praiseworthy words would you prefer he use to describe someone who is negative and divisive?

      I am so curious why you seem offended by the use of the words. What part of your brain gets so fired up with electrons when someone doesn’t lie to you?

      • He sure spent a lot of his speech slamming Harper. Also, examples please of Harper’s divisiveness and negativity. Trudeau thought Canada should be governed by Quebecers, not Albertans. Is that divisive and negative?

        • I asked why you have such an emotional reaction to the words themselves… Why so defensive about the mere use of the words?

      • no one, i mean no one was more devisive then little justins pappa. from the french language act to the energy program to the metric system this country was pitted against each other like never before. i doubt very much if hollywood boy justin is going to do any better. i for one will not chance it

        • I asked why there was such an emotional reaction to the words themselves… and you bring up decades old resentments and fear…

          • when i think of negative and divisive the name trudeau springs to mind. i guess that is where the emotion comes from. i am about five decades old. i remem ber those times. east against west, french against english, socialism against free enterprise muticulturelism etc etc.

            east aginst west, french against english, socialism against free enterprise

          • If age in decades is any kind of authority, I have 6 of them. Yes, Trudeau 1.0 overstayed his welcome. The opposition was weak.

            If decades old memories are any kind of authority, I was very much against his very autocratic repatriation of the constitution – in critical hindsight, one of the great points in the history of this nation.

            Stephen Harper also has decades old resentments and uses them, and feeds you the fear of them while saying he doesn’t.

            I remember a nation which was a world leader, open to new ideas, sceptical but not rejecting of the values of Capitalism enough to open trade relations with China and Cuba, a nation which freed its citizens from religious dogma entrenched as law, which gave citizens the liberty of its’ bedrooms and of their bodies.

        • “The metric system?” That’s what’s divided our country? Anyhoo, you better change your moniker because you’re about to see a whole lot MORE Trudeau over the next few years. I hear the conservatives are so dazzled by him that they are releasing ads to showcase his hair. And Canadians will lap them up like thick rich dairy cream. Mmmmm.

          • sigh. hard to argue with dumb. that’s what is scary. there’s enough idiots like you around to vote him in.

  3. Trudeau is right not to dictate policy. Canadians are sick of Harper’s autocratic, top-down approach ruling Canada from the PMO, even scripting every word that comes out of the mouths of his ministers and MPs.

    When it comes to good leadership, less is more. A good leader is a good manager — a good captain. He delegates responsibilities, putting the talents of his team to good use. He does not micromanage or believe power gives him the right to “make all the rules.” He does not foist his pet projects and policies on his team.

    A good democratic leader listens to the concerns of the people before building his party’s platform. He incorporates policies his party voted for during conventions. He also listens to what the experts have to say.

    Justin is offering Canadians a very different style of leadership and a very different way of building a party platform. He doesn’t have to resort to sleazy attacks. His leadership and vision will put Harper’s to shame.

    • The reason Justin hasn’t come up with any policies is that he hasn’t a clue.

      Cue the latest incarnation of the Liberal Red Book, same old regurgitated clap trap.

      • Nonsense. Trudeau’s main leadership-race planks were Democratic Reform and increasing the rate of post-secondary education and worker training from 50% to 70% (provide the skilled workforce and the value-added businesses will come.)

        He has also come out in support of Alberta’s goals to sell its resources to the US and Asia and says the pipelines are a priority. Instead of dictating to the provinces like Harper, Trudeau realizes that the job of federal leader is to work with ALL the provinces as equals.

        “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 demonizing one sector of the economy or region of the country.”

        Justin also vows to end Harper’s foolish “war on drugs” Republican import and decriminalize marijuana.

        Democratic Reform: Trusting Canadians
        1. Open Nominations
        2. Loosen the Grip of the Prime Minister’s Office on Parliament
        3. Enact Electoral Reform (Preferential Voting)
        4. Ban Partisan Government Advertising
        5. Embrace Evidence-Based Scrutiny (independent, third-party oversight)

        Investing in Canadians (raising post-secondary education and worker training to 70%)

        That is a lot of policy for starters. More than Harper and Mulcair proposed while running for leadership. Trudeau could win on that alone. But much more to come…

        • Sadly, no mention yet of unicorns.

          • Con cranks are completely incapable of participating in a rational, adult conversation.

          • You’re soooooo rational Ron, living in your land of fairy tales, lollipops and unicorns.

          • “You’re soooooo rational Ron, living in your land of fairy tales, lollipops and unicorns.”

            Oh, you are so clever! Did you come up with that one all on your own? Uh, no. You aped what you saw someone else write.

            But I assure you, your dim witted smear is what actually has no basis in reality. Trudeau’s goals are moderate and achievable. The 21st century will be marked by rapid technological change. In order to keep up, Canadians will need to have the right skills. Skilled workers are paid more and have better benefits, which means they are less reliant on government. They will also build a stronger economy that has higher GDP and productivity growth.

            Those are the facts. Your inability to comprehend them does not make them any less real.

          • Having a rational adult conversation includes things like costing, and having an actual plan to reach targets. What you (and Trudeau) are doing, are simply promising everybody everything, without any clue as to how to achieve that. Your point #1 is about the Liberal Party of Canada, and has nothing to do with the government. #2 is a completely subjective and arbitrary statement, same with #5. “Investing in Canadians” is a fine sounding platitude, but where’s the money going to come from, and how will it be spent?

            So, as usual, it’s no substance from the LPC, just promising the moon.

          • Nonsense. No leader candidate has put out a platform that was costed out during the leadership race. Not Harper, not Mulcair, not anyone. It’s hypocritical to demand that of Trudeau. In fact, Harper has a majority and nothing he does is costed out. He refuses to release public budget documents to the public including the Budget Officer he appointed who launched a lawsuit to gain access.

            But if one wants to cost out the above mentioned planks: Democratic Reform will cost next to nothing. Ending the idiotic “war on drugs” will save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars a year. Stay tuned for more details on how the Liberals will strike the right balance in tackling the skilled-worker shortage and crumbling middle class that has occurred during the last 7 wasted years of incompetent governance.

    • I agree.

      First, he was conducting a classic front-runner’s campaign in which there’s no upside to committing to policies and, with the Cons waiting to pounce, lots of potential risk in doing so. Anybody among ranks of Con supporters who finds that cowardly (hello, Francien) needs only to be reminded of the many Con candidates in safe ridings who virtually hid during the last election and didn’t even show their faces at all-candidates’ events.

      Second, it would be presumptuous on Trudeau’s part to foreclose on any policy options before engaging in debate and discussion within the party. With the election two years away, there’s lots of time for him to do that.

      Personally, I’m reserving judgment on JT but I give him credit for a well-conducted leadership campaign. But now the heavy lifting begins.

      • yes he is very good at appealing to certain voter blocks at key times. visiting the crooked so called hunger striking indian chief, speaking at the islamic festival, flopping his hair for giggly women etc. etc.. would he win an election? maybe. would he be good for canada? not at all. how can you trust a double dipper to run your country?

        • Where was St Theresa…thought she would be there to place a tiara and a feather on the annointed ones great head

        • Your categories show you for what you are: a bigot. Maybe you would prefer that “indian chief(s) …islamics …. [and] giggly girls” not be allowed to vote, eh, go back to the good old days when only white men could vote here? Back your comment with some substance: tell us why JT would be bad for Canada?

          • yeah yeah yeah,bigot racist . the desperation cards people pull when they have nothing to say. acrooked indian chief is a crooked indian chief. do not trust someone who plays nicey nice with a crook. islamics? i fear what he’ll promise them to get their vote. sharia law anyone? remember my point was he appeals to voting blocks. giggly girls are giggly girls. we all love them, trudeau plays them.
            why he wouldn’t be good for canada? i thought that was obvious. he doesn’t like people from the west (alberta) running our country. “only quebecers know how”. so he is a bigot. not good. and you thought i was.
            he is what you call a double dipper. on the public doll as a mp yet charges fees to talk at schools. where is the moral? where is the servitude to the young people of our society, which he claims to serve, that he has to charge fees? the man lacks character. all i’ve seen and heard of him seems like such an act. maybe he knows we all love hollywood.
            last but not least i lived through his father’s reign and i see in justin the same arrogance that pierre had and pierre was terrible for canada as a whole. maybe great for certain parts but as a whole, terrible.
            i could go on but sleep beckons. have a good night.

  4. i want JustinTrudeau to run the country that was entrusted to me by the Divine Being.

  5. From CTV;

    And even when he was elected to Parliament on

    Oct. 14, 2008, he didn’t stop selling his time to the highest bidder.

    In fact, he raised his rates.

    Three weeks after his election win, he gave a talk to Rogers Media,
    one of the biggest companies in Canada, and one of the most highly
    regulated by the federal government — and charged them a cool $20,000.
    That became his new standard fee.

    Trudeau became his party’s critic for youth and post-secondary
    education. He sat on parliamentary committees that dealt with
    universities and schools.

    Yet, during that time, he continued to bill universities tens of
    thousands of dollars for the pleasure of his company. Since he entered
    politics, he billed universities and colleges $77,000 to meet with them.
    And in return, Trudeau was lobbied five times from universities,
    including those he had invoiced. (Opposition MPs have only had to
    disclose their meetings since 2010, so there may be more.)

    Universities are rich. High schools and elementary schools are not.
    But since starting his Liberal career, Trudeau has billed schools
    $205,000 for speeches.

    It’s not just a conflict of interest. It’s an intolerable burden on
    schools, that scrape together his speaking fee from money that should be
    going to textbooks or extracurricular activities.

    Once word got out that Trudeau the politician was for sale by the
    hour, other industries lined up, too. Banks. Industry lobby groups.
    Economic development corporations. They ponied up $311,000 to Trudeau
    after his political career started.

    Altogether, Justin Trudeau raked in $966,500 from private clients after he pressed start on his political career.

    • A good many of those talks were fundraisers, and the number of them drop right off after he became mp; but you already knew that didn’t you! You also knew they were cleared by the commissioner, troll..

  6. Justin should be given a hardhat, steel toed boots, a set of coveralls along with some work gloves, then made to put in a twelve hour shift pulling pipe on an oilrig. That’ll straighten him out real fast.

    • If he did I am sure he would last much longer and work much harder than Harper or Kenny or Baird. None of those appear to have much familiarity with strenuous physical work, and likely would be skiving off as soon as the first opportunity presented itself.

      So if you think that demonstrations of capacity for hard physical work are important in a leader, have at it. I suppose if that’s the basis for your choice of a leader, you probably must really like Vlad Putin.

  7. I question how united the party was behind either Dion or Ignatieff. There were a lot of silly stunts going on then in caucus, particularly amongst the Quebec MPs (I’m looking at you Denis Coderre).

    • Still, the Chretien and Martin factions are locked in their macabre dance of death.

  8. Here we have in one corner folks Harper the Hammer destroyer of liberal leaders past – in the next corner the Contender Tommy the Beard devourer of socialism and and graduate of anger management – and the up and commmer hisself Justin the Just Watch Me Kid – it’s going get dangerous out there folks. A grudge match to be sure – the outcome is anybody’s guess and even vegas won’t give odds !!! – reminds me of the final scene from the Good, The Bad and the Ugly – the young kid quick off the draw with stylish hair and roguish charm Justin The Good, Harper as Lee van Cleef (no doubt The Bad and Tommy (why doesn’t he shave the beard? – I don’t get it surely he knows the curse – dancing on a broken chair in front of the grave that is unamed :) – who will it be this time cuase it sure aint goona end like the movie and that’s the only thing you can bet on!

  9. So, yet another LPC leader who’s only principle is to regain power. When will this stuffy old party learn that people want to vote for something they can believe in?

    People have a general idea of where the CPC stands on important issues, same with the NDP. But the LPC? They stand for whatever they believe to be most politically expedient. If you doubt that statement, take a look at who they just voted as leader.

  10. I enjoyed the write up about Margaret Thatcher (April 22, 2013 edition) by our former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. However, I think it would have been kind of you to correct his grammar mistakes. “I’ve told the story of Mila and I….” (of I?! shouldn’t that be “of me”?)

    “…went back to the official dinner, 35 heads of government,…. (My goodness; I had visions of 35 heads on serving platters.)