04.13.2013 06:20 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: the new Liberal era begins

OTTAWA — In a convention hall on Sunday, Justin Trudeau will be named leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He’s been after the job formally for months, and now he’s got it.

What, one might reasonably ask, was he thinking?

It’s not like the post is a coveted prize, after all. Trudeau has inherited a party that is a shadow of its former self. From the Natural Governing Party — at one time, the most successful political machine in western democracy — to what it is now: A rump, in third place, in a distant corner of the House of Commons.

In every election since Jean Chretien left a decade ago, the Liberal party has lost ground. From a majority to minority government in 2004. From minority government to opposition in 2006. From that to the party’s worst showing in 2008. And then, in 2011, the depths, to third place — far behind the NDP and even further from the ruling Conservatives.

Since Chretien left the helm in December 2003, when the party was reigning near 60% approval in the polls, the Liberal party has struggled with everything. Fundraising. Policy. Membership. Caucus. Communications. Election readiness.

On virtually every front, the Liberals can be forgiven for feeling that they are cursed.

The diminution of the Liberal party has taken a decade. It has been the direct result of Stephen Harper’s obsessive desire to destroy the party. It has been the result of bad decisions about strategy, and bad decisions about leadership.

It has been the result of lingering tribal wars between blue Liberals on one side (Messrs. Turner and Martin) and red Liberals on the other (Messrs. Chretien and Trudeau Sr.).

It has been the result of arrogance and complacence, and believing that taxpayers’ money was its own.

All of these factors, and more, have contributed to the Liberal party’s decline over the past decade. It will therefore take a decade to climb back from the edge of the abyss.

No one knows this better than Justin Trudeau, who has said — publicly and privately — that one of his assets is his age. He knows the job that lies ahead will take many years to successfully complete.

The Trudeaumania II media coverage that has swirled around him will start to subside. Trudeau must now turn his attention to the mundane stuff of politics: Getting money, getting new members, getting new ideas and new blood. If he doesn’t, his tenure will end in failure — and, possibly, the death of the Liberal party itself.

It’s not fair to hang all of that on Justin Trudeau, of course.

He is human, and he will make mistakes. But — his faults and foibles notwithstanding — there is clearly something about the man that appeals to Canadians.

An extraordinary Nanos poll published Friday, for instance, found 30% of Canadians found Trudeau “the most inspiring leader,” a figure that was more than Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair’s scores put together. And he wasn’t even leader yet.

The Conservative Party’s infantile attacks on minutiae — like Trudeau’s substitution of “decibel” for “decimal” in a Global TV interview — reveal the extent of their concern.

When the only ammunition the Conservatives have is a verbal slip-up — and when your own party’s leader referred to Trudeau as “minister” twice in the House of Commons! — your party needs to go back to the drawing board.

The Conservatives will, of course, and they will unleash a negative barrage against Trudeau that will exceed whatever Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff were forced to endure.

So will the New Democrats, who see Trudeau as an even greater threat.

Trudeau, meanwhile, will soldier on because he must.

He wanted the job, and now he’s got it.

Good luck to him.

62 Comments


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    Ty says:

    Maybe referring to Liberals who preferred Turner and Martin as “blue” (ie, not real) Liberals is part of the problem.


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    Michael S says:

    Conservatives are robocalling with STOP JUSTIN TRUDEAU asks for money! Whee!


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      Graham says:

      And the Liberals are calling asking supporters for $5 to create a fund to fight the CPC’s Justin Trudeau infommercials that are coming.

      What’s your point?


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    JimS says:

    When Trudeau robo-called me during last October’s by election in Waterloo shilling for Dalton McGuinty and bad mouthing the NDP as being divisive, he not only lost my respect, he liquidated any credibility as a progressive.

    This was a by-election being fought largely over the OLP’s taking a sledgehammer to teachers’ civil liberties with the imposition of Bill 115. For Trudeau, a former teacher, to stand with the Ontario Liberals against teachers (he also stood with Charest against students in QC) was reprehensible.

    In his last speech to the LPC in Toronto he said he was proud to be part of the “teaching profession”. What a liar!

    By turning his back on Proportionally Representative voting system, which barely a year ago he described as an absolute necessity, only further undermines his progressive credibility.

    Lastly, as an unabashed supporter of Keystone pipeline, he reveals himself to be simply the smiley face of austerity and neo-liberal economics. Thus, any shred if credibility on the progressive file gone.

    Trudeau is just a fabricated leader with a hidden agenda controlled by anti-progressives propping him up.


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      JacobK says:

      Ummm….. don’t attack the messenger if you can’t refute the statements made. JimS sounds like a really red liberal or pink dipper and is making valid points that may not please you, but they are still valid points.


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        Woody says:

        JimS’s views are shared by many teachers in Ontario. While I don’t agree with all of JimS’s statements, one thing is for sure: JT should not have been robocalling the electorate in KW. That was a misstep.


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      bluegreenblogger says:

      It is useful to know that failure to endorse PR over any other reform is a defining characteristic of `progressivism`. I presume you are now trying to get the rest of the world to agree with your definition. good luck with that project


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    Lance says:

    To risk a Game Of thrones, analogy, Trudeau is “The Prince That Was Promised”. Maybe now the Liberal Targaryens can win back the Iron Throne.


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      Sean says:

      In that analogy, the Liberals are most definately the Starks. Winter is coming.


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    Sean says:

    He looks great on T.V. and for that he will move 60 – 100 seats without lifting a finger. That is all that matters now. Organization, candidates, fundraising, ideas, strategy… These are all dead things of the past. Part of a bygone era only to be discussed in history classes at dreary old universities and in the silly columns of Ivison, Coyne and Hebert.


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      smelter rat says:

      Bingo.


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      Michael says:

      ding ding ding….we have a winner


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        Cath says:

        winner….we have a ding dong (until he proves otherwise).
        I think that’s the caution in WK’s column.
        The easy part’s done.


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      frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

      I voted for the man, happily…..but its a sad state of affairs when a persons appearance in the media means more than what they have to say…….Lester Pearson would have a helluva time getting elected leader today.

      Unless M. Trudeau addresses the lack of organization in the party, at least out West, it will continue to be a dead zone for the party.

      Unless you have gone against the Conservative machines that exist in most western ridings, to think that we can get by on M. Trudeau’s popularity and charisma is folly.

      Until such time as we have online voting(and hopefully in time we will), you still need enthusiastic people on board to do the grunt work that gets our candidates elected.

      For now, Im happy he is(at least in my riding) increasing interest in the party.


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      bluegreenblogger says:

      nonesense. He may, or may not move seats based upon a screenshot, but that is no basis on which to build a Party. It takes many thousands of people to win an election, the leader can set the course, but it is the combined efforts that actually count. I doubt that you are representative of Liberals, at least I hope not, because that is basically an excuse to hang around picking our noses because the messiah has come, and serious efforts are not required any more.


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    Colette says:

    Speaking of verbal slip-ups, check out the Youtube video of Harper trying to say “useless election” in French. It’s hilarious! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-P08sAY1P4


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      CM says:

      The man is verbal Ambien


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        Michael Bussiere says:

        You know, anybody who makes wisecracks in the media or in opposing camps should remember this guy is fluently bilingual and in effect has twice the vocabulary and language skills as someone who is not. So, a little word slip-up is hardly a sign of anything significant. Harper should remember his friend W could barely string a sentence together.


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    Joseph Couture says:

    Regaining its former self, for the Liberals that is impossible. They may need a new name or assimilate the NDP. There is a long road ahead and JT will need a lot of luck and extremely capable advisers, young, honest,and hard working, completely devoted and committed.


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      MCBellecourt says:

      Well, ya know, from what I’ve been reading, young Trudeau seems to have the motivational speaker thing down pat. It sounds like, that if anyone can bring people together to share ideas (and bring them onside), it’s gonna be Justin P. Trudeau. I’ve sure been noticing the vitriol coming out of the Paid Conbot Peanut Gallery.

      Con heads are a-poppin’!! Pass the popcorn and douse the lights, it’s showtime!!


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        billg says:

        Well, we are 3 for 3 over the past 6 years…


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          Cath says:

          any statistics out there on how well former educators do in government? Leaders of Parties? Seems that’s where those searching for candidates like to troll – school boards. Taking the Ontario Liberals (and NDP, PC too) as an example, lots of educators and former school boarders there.
          What’s the attraction?


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    dave says:

    I have realized for some time that once a Prime Minister’s office is formed around one name or another, that that PMO has combined legislative and executive powers. That PMO is staffed by non elected characters; its secretiveness allows lobbyists way too much say in what does and does not happen in legislation; it renders our legislators and legisltures redundant. Our elections seem an cumbersome way of electing one governor and a PMO. It happens both at the federal level, and in provinces.
    I get that.

    Still, it bothers me to see so much of our political discussion and debate come out as a variation of “My Dad can beat up your Dad.’ JT can beat up TM, and TM can beat up ST, and and EM doesn’t matter, and on, and on. This cowboy western approach keeps us from facing and dealing with issues that most Canadians would rather see faced and dealt with.


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      Ty says:

      You’re getting it reversed.

      The stupid theatrics happen because Canadians are mostly fine with the status quo and don’t want issues addressed.


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        dave says:

        You may be right. A candidate/party would tend to do what works. Of course, this confirms Samuel Johnson saying that a political party is just a group of job seekers.

        Could be that a candidate/party could show leadership, break this feedback loop, and address issues, educate us on our self governance. I understand that there was once an election campaign in PET’s riding in which Trudeau and whoever he was running against had debates that were truly enlightening to those who got listen to them. It can happen.


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    Graham says:

    Warren, a few points:

    Regarding his decibel – decimal mix up, my issue wasn’t the mistake, it was the attempt by Global to correct it on his behalf. When they released the written transcript, they inserted the the word decimal.

    As for polling, you more than anyone should know how useless it is during and election, nevermind 30 months out. Do I need to cite all the incorrect polls at the municipal, provincial and federal levels the last 5 years? All the Liberals went crazy over Friday’s Nanos poll showing the Liberals ahead by 4. Funny none of them wanted to talk about Abacus Data’s poll, also released Friday with a larger sample size, that showed the Conservatives ahead by 6.

    And just for historical reference – the Liberals have polled ahead of the Conservatives three times since 2006. When Dion was elected leader, 2008 just before the election was called, and when Ignatieff was appointed leader in 2009.


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      Cath says:

      Graham – have the Liberals ever polled from third party status? I can’t get my head around the fact that the Liberals see Harper as the guy they have to beat, when IMO they’re looking the wrong way. Mulcair and the NDP IF they can manage could do the LPOC more harm couldn’t they?


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    Bill Temleman says:

    Given that Harper’s support is rock-solid at about 33-35% of voters, and the NDP think they can form a government in 2015, and neither J.T. or Mulcair want to cooperate to defeat Harper, all this hearty Trudeaumania is for nothing. Harper will win at least a minority in 2015. Wish that wasn’t the case, but could someone please explain how the numbers could turn out differently? I just can’t see anything less than at least another Con minority, sadly. What am I missing here? Please prove me wrong…


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    JacobK says:

    I assume the winner must get over 50% of the vote and if s/he doesn’t get it on the first ballot there will be a runoff vote?

    Let’s assume Justin gets 45% on the first ballot, can the other candidates who are diametrically opposed to him throw their support to another candidate but not Justin? Can a Stop Justin opposition succeed?

    If he wins on the first ballot, his win will be called a popularity contest win and coronation. The others will look stupid.

    How can the losers swear support for Justin’s leadership since he is perceived as being not worthy nor competent as a leader? Perhaps a complete turnover in Liberal party ranks and riding nominations will rebuild the Liberal party on firm footing.


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      Michael says:

      There is no second ballot. The other candidates can not throw their support behind anyone. This is not a delegated convention.

      All voting has already taken place. When the voters cast their ballots they ranked the hopefuls 1 through 6. If on the first ballot no one gets 50%, the last place person gets dropped and his or her ballots get re-distributed based on how those voters ranked the other candidates. (ie your vote then goes to who you ranked #2).

      This process continues until someone has 50%.


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        JacobK says:

        So the Liberal executive already know the result of the vote and all we are waiting for is the announcement, that Justin has won?


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      JacobK says:

      If Trudeau wins on the first ballot with say a whooping 77% of the vote, what will be the consequences of such a route? What will happen within the Liberal party after giving Trudeau such a powerful mandate? Just asking.


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        Graham says:

        Popular vote means nothing here. Each riding is assigned 100 points. if someone get 65% of the votes in say, Brampton – Springdale, they get 65 points. First one to 15,401 points wins.

        Trudeau for example could get 75% of the vote and still lose if his support is concentrated in a limited # of ridings.

        Example: 10,000 people could vote in Brampton – Springdale, 9,000 for Trudeau so he would get 90 points. 100 people could vote in Melville Sask, with 90 voting for Joyce Murray.

        Despite Trudeau getting 100 TIMES the votes Murray did, they’d be tied with 90 points.


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      Moe Lavigne says:

      It’s a preferential ballot… 1st choice, 2nd choice etc. There has to be a winner.


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    Joey Rapaport says:

    Finally, some real competition for the Cons!!


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      JacobK says:

      Trudeau, Mulcair, Harper….. a three-way fight but are we looking at a flyweight, a middleweight and a heavyweight contestants? 😉


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        bluegreenblogger says:

        I prefer to think of them as fit, unfit, and seriously unfit, lol.


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    Moe Lavigne says:

    Looks like a few Conservatives are going crazy too! Nanos has a very good track record even if their sample is smaller than most. Of course one poll doesn’t mean much, but the trends of his polls do… LPC up, CPC down and NDP down. IMO, good polling number do matter in that they help in the recruitment of good candidates who DO help win elections.


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      Graham says:

      Take a deep breath and review your history. EVERY party gets a jump in the polls around the selection of a new leader.

      It’s even called the New Leader Bounce.

      The Liberals bounced ahead of the Conservatives when Dion was made leader and again when Ignatieff was.

      As did the NDP with Mulcair.

      Happens at the provincial level too. Ontario PC’s jumped ahead of the Libs after selecting Hudak, as did the Wild Rose in Alberta over the PC’s.


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        Moe Lavigne says:

        The LPC’s trend line has been up since mid 2011, long before Justin was a prospective leader. If you think this bounce is so inconsequential, why are you protesting so much?


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          Graham says:

          I suggest you look at the polls again.

          They did indeed get a bump mid 2011. Do you remember what happened mid 2011?

          They got a NEW LEADER, albeit a temporary one in Bob Rae. Then they fell back to the low 20’s.


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        Moe Lavigne says:

        104,000 voters. It’s the number that should be concerning the other parties more that the latest polls. That’s an awful lot of potential contributors and volunteers. I think the supporter category was a great idea. A few people will/should be eating crow on this one.


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          Graham says:

          Why would that 104,000 number be worrying? Assuming all 33,000 MEMBERS of the Liberal Party voted, that means 71,000 came from the “supporter” category and may have no real loyalty or ties to them. They could just have been part of the “twitteraty” participating because it was the flavour of the minute. Can the Liberals hang on to them is the question.

          Sure Mulcair’s election had 65,000 cast a vote and Harper’s had 97,000, but they were MEMBERS of their respective parties.


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    Candy Davies says:

    The Globe and Mail ran the headline today, “Why Justin Bieber’s visit to Anne Frank House has people rolling their eyes.” Bieber’s shallow and vacuous comments speak for themselves: ” Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

    In the same paper, Canada’s other enfant terrible – Justin Trudeau. Like Bieber, the Dauphin lacks historical literacy and intellectual depth – the only difference is, Trudeau has ghostwriters to carefully cloth the emperor’s intellectual nakedness – although, Trudeau, like Bieber, loves a shirtless photo-op. Will Trudeau get a monkey? Nobody knows. The Harpers have Chinchillas.

    True believers herald a new Golden Age of Liberal hegemony built around what they believe is a wildly successful personality cult. For those of us that have actually fought in wars, seen death camps, witnessed massacres and genocides, the Mr Dress-Up school of politics rings as brilliantly hollow as a Monkee’s song.

    Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party. He is not the leader of Canada, the Free World, or the wise.


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      smelter rat says:

      Oh FFS. Seriously?? You’re going to compare Justin to the Beebs? Is that you Gord?


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    Graham says:

    He spoke for 30 minutes after winning, and didn’t SAY anything. It was cute when he said “There are no more Chretien Liberals. There are no more Martin Liberals. Those days end here. We are just Liberals”

    Yeah, good luck with that, junior.


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    Domenico says:

    Trudeau. Real. Like his hair.


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    Graham says:

    If the Liberals aren’t careful, ths all out media love fest for Trudeau might just push as many people away from the Liberals as it draws to them.

    This whole “race” has been a sad commentary on what our society has become. If his last name wasn’t Trudeau and ran the campaign he did, Marc Garneau would be the Liberal leader right now.

    Trudeau is our very own version of Kim Kardashian.


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      smelter rat says:

      Says a member of the Harper cult.


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    Graham says:

    I love how he accuses Harper of divisive politics when it was PET who introduced the politics of division to Canada.


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      smelter rat says:

      Is that the best you’ve got? I can smell your fear from here.

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