Is Trudeau a dream rival for Harper in 2015?
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 12:47PM EDT
The working theory inside the relentlessly-revving Conservative election machine is that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will be Stephen Harper’s dream rival in 2015.
As Trudeau’s leadership launch tour shows, his appeal will be strongest in the MTV corridor – that being Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – which is precisely where the NDP has taken root with ambitious plans to grow.
(Trudeau’s pitstop in the Liberal dead zone of Calgary this week is merely a symbolic gesture to show fearlessness in the face of the political adversity created by his father, Pierre.)
The way the Conservative electoral wizards calculate it, a successful Justin Trudeau leadership bid will create new fault lines in NDP bedrock and perhaps even fragment the dueling opposition enough to steal a few new seats for the true blue team.
They should be careful what they wish for.
I’ve watched Justin Trudeau in enough settings to suspect he’ll exceed their expectations of him as someone who is all Grit with no gravitas.
I’ve seen him deliver a flawless speech on education and innovation without glancing at notes or using a Teleprompter.
I’ve watched him handle tough questions from senior executives without drawing an obvious blank or talking himself into policy trouble.
I’ve had lunch with him where his views on boosting federalism in Quebec sounded, at least to this anglo’s ears, reasonable enough to bridge the linguistic solitudes.
And when he co-hosted Power Play last summer, his news judgment at the story meeting was solid and his questions of rival MPs and journalists insightful.
So it would be foolish for the Conservatives to write off Justin Trudeau as a pale imitation of his father, betting he’ll quickly prove to be all pretty-boy style and no leadership substance.
True, he’s running for the leadership five years ahead of his intended schedule for political advancement.
He definitely needs more question period experience than being critic of post-secondary education and amateur sport.
And the skeptics are correct - if his last name was anything but Trudeau, there wouldn’t be much more than derisive laughter to greet his official entry into the race.
But in three years when they head to the polls, Canadians will have had nine consecutive years of Stephen Harper as a polarizing prime minister.
They may be fed up and looking for kinder, gentler alternatives.
If Trudeau doesn’t bomb in the House or prove inept at herding those hissing Liberal cats still engaged in a Chretien-Martin feud, he could well reposition the Liberals as a credible government-in-waiting.
Mind you, even with a successfully reawakened Trudeau-mania, any Liberal resurrection is undoubtedly a two-term project.
Expecting the former prime minister’s first son to knock off the high-octane, deep-pocketed, attack-ad specialists inside the Conservative re-election machine in 30 months or so would take a miracle.
And just being born under a Christmas star doesn’t make Justin Trudeau a political messiah.