Politics is more about timing than it is skill. Being the right person in the right place at the right time is more conducive to political success than being the wisest, best-educated or most prudent individual in the world.
With Bob Rae’s decision to respect his oath not to seek the permanent Liberal Leadership position, the window of opportunity for Justin Trudeau has become a titanic gaping hole in the side of the Liberal caucus. There’s little doubt that Trudeau can become Liberal Leader if he wants to, but the question “should Justin Trudeau run for Liberal Leader in 2013?” appears to have been largely ignored.
In January, during the Liberal biannual convention I heard Mr. Trudeau speak for the first time to the Young Liberal Caucus. I was unimpressed, finding myself craving to leave what seemed like a one-man production of Les Miserables produced by a high school drama teacher going through a mid-life crisis. If he was expected to be a statesman, then I his exaggerations and flourishing calls to end the impoverishment of Canadian youth to be, if nothing else, substantive.
Five months ago, I would not have wanted Justin Trudeau to be the Liberal Leader, the Prime Minister or my own member of parliament. Honesty, however scarce in politics, is a still a quality I value highly, and he seemed to be lacking it.
Last month I saw Mr. Trudeau speak for a second time in Calgary. No drama. No exaggerations. No pomp. He had a conversation with an adult audience about why there is not just a place, but a need for the Liberal Party and centrism in Canada. His thesis (if I can call it that) was that domestic nation-building is always superior to ideological demagoguery. For forty-five minutes, with no typed speech or hand-written notes, Mr. Trudeau came across as a well-educated, sincere, concerned Canadian. Maybe Les Mis got a new producer.
Justin Trudeau has the enthusiasm, the appearance of sincerity and intelligence, and most importantly the name that can put his name in a serious conversation to lead the country. But he’ll need more than a collection of traits to become Prime Minister, and I, like most people, believe that is the point of becoming Liberal Leader.
The Liberal Party has become reactionary. What was the last big idea that came out of the Party? A small credit for University Students that would be the equivalent of subsidizing the cup-holders in a new car? If the Party wants to return to power, it must start behaving as an innovative government. Trans-Canada transportation innovation, a national progressive energy policy, a (serious) re-commitment to the Kyoto Accord, a method of dealing with high prices for groceries on reserves or correcting the correlation of youth unemployment and debt. Big ideas exist, but to bring them to fruition is a challenge the Liberals must take on.
My answer to the initially stated question is that Justin Trudeau, more than any other Liberal candidate should become Prime Minister if he wants to demonstrate that the Liberal Party is one of brokerage and prudence, but also one of progression and innovation. Only this way can he bring the derelict Liberal caucus from the periphery of Canadian Government and back into good, accountable governance, one where question period actually means something, where bills are given an opportunity to be scrutinized, and faith in the political system as a whole is restored.
Yes, Justin Trudeau can become leader. Yes, Justin Trudeau can become Prime Minister. He will need to decide for himself whether he is ready to take bold stands on issues, and support innovation at a time when Party and Country needs it most. Otherwise the fence he sits on will sink under the weight of an already disinterested and disheartened Canadian electorate.
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