QJPolitics: It's all in a name

David Hadwen is QJBlogs’ Political Columnist. He’s a fourth-year history major with a specific interest in American Politics. Follow him on Twitter @David_Hadwen.

Nobody seriously doubted that Justin Trudeau would run for the leadership of the Liberal party. Now that the race is underway, few seriously doubt that he will win. Those who were hoping for a nuanced or differentiated message from the Liberal candidate were disappointed. His talking points seem familiar. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Trudeau is insistent that Canada needs a strong sense of federalism and a strong middle class. Listen to him and he’ll tell you that the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party are unhealthy alternatives to Liberal common sense and aren’t serving the country as a whole.

Justin Trudeau has been an outspoken critic of Stephen Harper’s government in recent years and should be given credit for these impassioned efforts. That being said, it’s his last name that has him anointed. The Liberal party hopes to milk the Trudeau name, especially in Quebec where the next election is most unpredictable. Early signs are good for the Liberals on this front as polls have them gaining support in Quebec. The Liberals have made gains nationally since Trudeau’s announcement, but polls this early before an election are to be taken lightly.

A lot is riding on Trudeau's slim shoulders as he follows in the footsteps of two failed leaders and attempts to rebuild support for a party that seems to have lost touch with Canadians. Cynical commentators will note that the party that is most decried for its attitude of entitlement will probably select a leader whose biggest credential is that he is someone’s son.

Bob Rae closed the last Liberal party convention by applauding the party’s new direction. What were the bold new components of the party’s platform to come out of that convention you ask? They were a resolution calling for the legalization of marijuana and changed membership rules.

The specter that looms over all these developments is Stephen Harper’s shadow. It bodes very well for Mr. Harper that the Liberals seem to be gaining in the polls by stealing support from the New Democrats and not from his Conservative party. However, the path forward is not a cakewalk for Harper either. The Prime Minister has angered many Canadians year and half of his majority government in the first year. Criticism for Harper came to a head when he pushed through his omnibus budget and the Northern Gateway pipeline. His potential sell-offs to China and secretly negotiated “free-trade” agreements are all issues that will test Harper’s capabilities as a politician.

Thomas Mulcair and the New Democrats are left to try and claw back popular support and stave off Trudeau’s appeal in Quebec. The NDP lost a great leader in Jack Layton and his absence is being felt.

It seems that Justin Trudeau is the catalyst in the current balance of Canadian politics. Can he energize a stagnant party? Can he present himself as capable of guiding the Canadian economy while continuing to take support from the New Democrats? Some have cited Trudeau’s boyish good looks as an advantage but these seem like tall tasks for a pretty face.

This is the last QJPolitics column of the year. Check us out again in January. If you have a suggestion for a topic, email journal_blogs@ams.queensu.ca.

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