Trudeau enters Liberal leadership race: 'I love this great country'
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 6:59AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2012 10:40PM EDT
Justin Trudeau made his bid for the federal Liberal leadership official Tuesday evening, confirming weeks of speculation and taking the next step along a path set by his father some 44 years ago.
The 40-year-old Montreal MP broke the announcement in a YouTube video posted to his website, and then minutes later at a rally in his Papineau riding, after his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, introduced him to the crowd.
"I love this great country; I want to spend my life serving it," Trudeau said.
"This is why tonight I am offering myself for the leadership of the Liberal party of Canada."
Trudeau said the road to success will be “one long, Canadian highway.”
“We will have ups and downs, breathtaking vistas and a few boring stretches. And with winter coming, icy patches. But we will match the size of this challenge with hard, honest work.”
He said he decided to announce his leadership candidacy on Tuesday because that would have been his late brother Michel’s 37th birthday. Michel was killed in an avalanche in 1998 while skiing in British Columbia.
Trudeau, the eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has shown a knack for capturing the excitement surrounding his father’s legacy and mixing it with his own telegenic charm.
The idea of Trudeau following his father’s footsteps into 21 Sussex Drive has been around nearly his entire life. But Trudeau’s famous surname was noticeably absent at Tuesday night’s rally – the red background behind him was emblazoned only with his first name.
Trudeau said he wants to reconnect the Liberal Party with ordinary people across Canada, especially the middle class.
"A thriving middle class provides realistic hope and a ladder of opportunity for the less fortunate -- a robust market for our businesses, and a sense of common interest for all," he said.
He added that the Conservatives and the New Democrats have not responded well to Canadians’ economic struggles over the last few years.
"What's the response from the NDP? To sow regional resentment and blame the successful. The Conservative answer? Privilege one sector over others and promise that wealth will trickle down, eventually," Trudeau said.
"Both are tidy ideological answers to complex and difficult questions. The only thing they have in common is that they are both, equally, wrong."
At a brief news conference after his announcement, Trudeau said he’s running for Liberal leadership “because I believe in an option that is not polarized around the edges, that is not bound to an ideology but is looking for the best possible ways…to serve all Canadians.”
Trudeau was born on Christmas Day in 1971, while his father was in the early years of his time as prime minister.
He became a high school teacher before running for parliament in 2008. He elected to run in the hotly-contested riding of Papineau, rather than the Montreal riding of Outremont, at the time considered a Liberal safety net.
Trudeau then survived the NDP wave that swept across Quebec in the 2011 election, increasing his margin of victory.
Trudeau, a father of two small children, is one of the Liberal Party’s brightest stars, drawing crowds to fundraisers, as well as participating in a charity boxing match earlier this year, at which he beat Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau.
For all his success, however, criticism remains that Trudeau has not been challenged on his vision or position on key issues.
Many critics say that no one even knows what Trudeau’s views are on major economic and foreign policy matters.
But his campaign adviser, Desiree McGraw, said Trudeau will be an effective, “pragmatic” leader who can engage Canadians of all generations, especially the youth.
“There is no part of this country that is off limits,” she said of Trudeau’s reach on CTV’s Power Play Tuesday night.
As for the Trudeau legacy, “Justin is his own man,” McGraw said. “He has proven that.”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has already said he will not be vying for the party's top job.
So far, constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne -- who is the mother of Justin Trudeau's half-sister Sarah -- has announced she is running for the leadership position.
Manitoba paramedic Shane Geschiere and economist Jonathon Mousley have also gone public with their intentions to seek the top job.
Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc was also reportedly interested in leading the party, but sources have told CTV’s Roger Smith that Leblanc will likely support Trudeau instead.
Among those who are said to be considering throwing their hats in the ring are MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau, Vancouver MP Joyce Murray and former leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay.
The Liberal leadership campaign officially gets underway in mid-November.
Trudeau is expected to make appearances in Calgary, Richmond, B.C., and the Toronto area in the coming days.
With files from The Canadian Press