10.01.2012 09:12 PM

In tomorrow’s Sun: what Justin Trudeau should say

My fellow Liberals, my fellow Canadians: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address had less than 300 words. This hypothetical address has about 500. Like Lincoln’s speech, I immodestly hope mine will be remembered.

Every word I speak here today will be the truth.

Canadians are sick of falsity. They are tired of false outrage, and false claims of accomplishment, and partisanship before citizenship. So here is the truth.

My party has lost its way. Arrogance, entitlement, indolence: All of these things contributed to our loss in 2006, and every loss since. We used to believe in great things: A strong central government. Empathy, diversity, creativity, honesty.

Most of all, we used to believe that government could be a force for good in society, and that we owed an obligation to each other.

To help the poor, and the helpless, and the sick. To help shoulder the burden of our fellow citizens, while helping them make their own way.

We became indifferent. We became self-important. We treated Canadians’ money as if it were our own. We fell victim to petty tribalism and, ultimately, a civil war. We abandoned our principles. We started to look for quick fixes.

There are none. If there were simple solutions to the impossibility of daily existence, the improbability of Canada, those solutions would have been found by now.

They don’t exist. Canadians know that. Liberals need to know that, too.

The immensity of the challenges that lie ahead leaves me humbled, and afraid. How do we pay for health care, with a population that grows increasingly old, and provincial treasuries that grow increasingly smaller?

How do we ensure that people receive the services they need, and not just the ones they want? How do we reconcile this: A federal government enjoying structural surpluses, and most of the provinces facing a future like Greece? How do we contain regionalism and resentments in a nation as big and as diverse as this one?

Another truth: The government we have is not as evil as we regularly suggest that it is. On social issues, on his response to the global recession, on appointments, the prime minister has surprised me. I give him some credit.

But I will not hesitate to criticize the PM when he deserves it. I oppose many of the things he favours. But I do not hate him. There has been too much hate in our politics, in recent years. The prime minister bears responsibility for some of it.

I also reject the solipsism of too many Liberals and New Democrats, who believe that progressives can win when we are a house divided. We cannot. To New Democrats who unconditionally accept federalism, and free markets, and the equality of regions, I say: Let us work together.

Finally, I say this: I am not my father. I miss him, and my brother, more than you can ever know. But it is unfair to expect that every son is like every father. He gave me a privileged upbringing, and my name. But the rest is up to me, not him.

These words are the truth. I am Justin Trudeau, and I am running to be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.


  1. Philippe says:

    That would be a solid f***ing speech.

  2. reformatory says:


    Every able bodied Liberal. Strap on your boots. We’ve got some work to do. Roll up your sleeves. Grab hold of the shovel. Infighting and tribalism are a thing of the past. From now on….. all hands on deck. Game Face… we’ve got a country to reclaim!

  3. God I am glad you use your powers for good and not evil. Its a pity you are not the leader……………but, it would put a kink in the practice schedule for SFH. Like it would be hard to say to say in Parliament-Guys I won’t be here for two months the band is doing a road trip. Talk amongst yourselves….

  4. Dude Love says:

    Why start with an American reference?

  5. Jean-Paul Murray says:

    First-class speech, but no Gettysburg Address…

    Wouldn’t use “solipsism” in a speech to a general audience…

    Also, the second sentence makes it sound like it’s Lincoln’s speech that wants to be remembered, not Lincoln who wants the world to note more than a little.

    I think one “has” an obligation, one doesn’t “owe” an obligation.

    “Increasingly smaller” sounds contradictory…

    Wouldn’t have speaker say he’s “afraid.”

    My two cents…

    • Kaplan says:

      Nice work, Warren. But it feels a little Aaron Sorkin-ish. Not the worst thing in the world, but it doesn’t quite work for me.

      “Aafraid” jumped off the page at me too. It’s nice to be humble, but you’re overdoing it here. It’s ready made attack ad soundbite.

      And in this speech, he’s asking a ton of questions, and posing no answers. Now, we don’t need a long, detailed policy speech, but he’s got to show he’s got the answers, a framework, an ideology, a way of shaping his views. In this, I see nothing.

  6. Sean says:

    Excellent piece Warren.

    A few things I am fairly certain about. No matter what he says, virtually all of the media will pronounce that he blew it. On Weds. morning, about 9 of 10 newspapers will run stories about how he has the wrong advisors, that doesn’t know what he is doing and his campaign is dead before it begins. The following week there will be a poll out which shows that he would win approximately 160 seats with 40% of the vote, Tories at 35%, NDP 20%.

  7. At first I didn’t get it. Nice 300 words.

  8. GFMD says:

    Surely the conservatives would take the first few paragraphs and run it continually as “Trudeau in his own words”

  9. VH says:


    If nothing else, Justin Trudeau’s leadership bid tells Canada that the Liberal party has got its mojo back.

    With all due respect to you (as always) but perhaps there’s a more positive way to communicate that merger idea?

    Right now you’re saying that the next leader of the Liberal party should just up and announce to the world that his party
    “cannot win” without merging with a party that has never ever won and never ever will.

    That just does not resonate with a “I’ve got my mojo workin'” message.

  10. !o! says:

    Why’d you get out of federal politics? Just curious.

  11. Jon Powers says:

    This is why I read your stuff, Mr. K. You interest me, and continually surprise me, although you usually piss me off. That being said, if the Liberal Party took your advice, this conservative might actually vote for them. In my opinion, however, JT is not the man to make this happen.

  12. james curran says:

    Well, I don’t think this will be his message. I’m certain something about the diversity of Canada and its peoples will be in there. Definitely there will be a mention of Sophie and the kids and his brothers. Probably something about the recent politics of division. And as Impolitical said, there will be something about the middle class. I do like your “American President” ending of the speech though.

  13. JStanton says:

    … that was fun.

    Trudeau could actually pull off a speech like that (which, incidentally, is nicely worded) without sounding pompous or insincere,

    He is still a tabula rasa, and can be anything he cares to be. It’s an enviable position to be in, for a politician, but it’s a narrow window of opportunity. If he doesn’t come out with something extraordinary to shape his brand, then Harper’s assassins – and those within the LPC – surely will.

    I remain optimistic though.


  14. George says:

    Wow. THAT was a speech. I don’t particularly care for Justin, but if he delivered that speech and meant it – I might be convinced…because everything you say in it is true. That’s the kind of honesty, accountability and plain-speak (minus the use of the word “solipsism” LOL) we need in political leaders. Maybe you should be running…?

  15. Jon Evan says:

    An honest speech. There is only black or white. Good or evil. So, if the present gov’t is not evil as you say then it is good. Logically then we should keep it :).

  16. Paul says:

    Good one Warren,

    I like the part about acknowledging Harper has done some good. If Trudeau wants to win, he needs to appeal to the many Canadians who voted for Chretien and vote for Harper. Canadians know that we are better off than much of the industrialized world – if JT acknowledges it, he builds trust. We won’t listen to another politician who spews the same bullshit thinking that it will generate votes – the Liberals and NDP already have those votes. I think Canadians want a leader, not a politician.

    In the age of social media, the most authentic win.

  17. Dan says:

    Sounds like a speech someone would give before crossing the floor to the NDP.

    But it’s a Liberal speech someone would give before cutting social security and health care.

  18. Peter says:

    To New Democrats who unconditionally accept, federalism, and free markets, and the equality of regions…

    Both of them?

    A good piece. I particularly liked the reference to tackling healthcare, which would resonate in a demographic he has to attract—the suburbs. Too much “progressive” focus reflects urban core thinking, which you already hold. The suburbs are by no means as politically or demographically uniform as many urbanites believe, but they do have different priorities, as the bikepath-loving voters of downtown Toronto found out. Plus they are huge and growing while the urban cores aren’t. The left can often appear openly hostile to them, especially on environmental issues. I know healthcare can seem to be an ideological minefield with the Dippers singing odes to Tommy Douglas to distract people from absurd and dangerous waiting times and block every effort at reform, but they are fighting a losing demographic and technological battle. It’s an issue that has weakened Quebec nationalism considerably and any politician who can grab onto it will find widespread support.

    • steve says:

      It may not be true but I believe it. Incredible breakthroughs in medical care are happening everyday. If these are cures and not just controls the healthcare problem will largely disappear. So my plan is to increase health care funding to maintain the status quo until the effect of technology makes health care sustainable. I will change Canadian patent laws to make sure the evil drug companies do not continue to fleece Canada.

      • Peter says:

        Steve, you make me think of my late father, who quipped that mine (the Boomers) was the first generation determined to live until ninety and then die in perfect health. Have you checked out the average age of those in a typical doctor’s waiting room or hospital emergency clinic? Are you so naive as to believe increased longevity has only upsides?

  19. Dan F says:

    We will look back on today as the day the wind shifted, again, for the Liberal Party.

    Just as in 2003, in the last days of the Chretien years, the wind (and the staffers) shifted from Parliament Hill to Queen’s Park as Dalton began his years as Premier, today we witness the beginning of the decline & fall of the Ontario Liberal Party (although they may hang on just a bit longer, as the Federal Libs did under Martin) the momentum, the brains, the enthusiasm is headed back to the Federal scene for what we can only hope will be a renewed energy and a restoration of the brand across the country. It will be a few years until the next Federal election, and Dalton might hang on for a while longer as Premier, but today is the day the winds shifted, for Ontario and Federal Liberals.

  20. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Lead with the heart and then the gut.

  21. BradleyG says:

    When stating “The medium is the message”, McLuhan believed that it was not what we said, but the way we said it that mattered most; the words we use are not as important to the way we choose to say them. Tomorrow we will “see” what Trudeau “says”.

    His tone of voice, his appearance, his credibility, his authenticity will be tested tomorrow as he delivers his leadership speech explaining his values, the country’s values and the future path he believes Liberals must take.

    Tomorrow may be his Gettysburg or his Waterloo. I truly wish him well and hope he reads your message.

  22. steve says:

    I would add a couple of points.

    Good government makes great nations. The Conservatives are philosophically opposed to good government, they deliberately sabotage public institutions to make their point. On the other extreme you have the NDP who do not understand that government needs to be limited and can not do everything. Government should provide equal opportunity, but can never promise equal outcomes.

    The Liberal party has always been about best outcomes. We support practices that are grounded in common sense. The biggest mistake the Conservatives have made is to start a US style war on crime, a decade after most US Conservatives have concluded their practices are totally counterproductive. Crime rates are dropping worldwide. The only area that is a growth industry for law enforcement is a futile war on drugs. Prohibition of alcohol was a terrible mistake. It corrupted every level of society, especially the justice system, and propelled petty crooks from the gutter to the boardroom. Today Mary Jane is holds the same destructive power. I will legalize Pot. This will save $5 billion a year in administration of Justice, without making one Canadian less secure. Revenues from tax will also equal $5 Billion a year, and a large proportion of this will come from foreign tourists. Half of all Americans 21 to 30 years old will make Canada their number one choice for a holiday. What is the opportunity cost of giving an otherwise productive citizen a criminal record for pot? What is the opportunity cost of millions of schoolchildren smoking pot instead of studying. Legal pot will push underage use rates way down to the same level as alcohol. Finally Canada will reap enormous industrial benefits as entrepreneurs reap the rewards of a a virtually free supply of hemp, all the fibers and oils leftover after the buds are picked. Cotton will not survive climate change, hemp was made for it.

  23. Nick H says:

    In what bizzaro world does “unconditional acceptance” of “free markets” have ANYTHING to do with progressivism? What planet do you live on?

    • steve says:

      I interpret it as appealing to dippers who believe free enterprise is the solution not the problem. In my mind Mulcair is one of those.

  24. Not bad, not bat at all.

  25. P Brennan says:

    Justin may be recognized name but what about David McGuinty. He is charismatic.

  26. Philip says:

    If Justin gives a similar speech tonight, after the standing ovation, the very next sound will be that of thousands of tiny Conservative heads exploding. I have a feeling Harper is going looking over his shoulder a lot these next couple of years waiting for a Brutus to make an appearance.

  27. Tiger says:

    Doubt he could deliver that line about the PM — I don’t think he believes it.

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