Kevin Libin: Are Canadians ready for another taste of Trudeaumania?
Greg Pender/Postmedia News
He doesn’t have the Beiger haircut, but at least Trudeau is the second most popular Justin in Canada.
Kevin Libin September 30, 2010 – 8:45 pm
While Canadians this week marked the 10th anniversary of the death of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Tuesday was just another day for his son, Justin Trudeau. The Liberal MP for Papineau spent the day in Saskatoon. He was speaking to a youth forum at the University of Saskatchewan. His dad’s legacy was something he thinks about not especially on anniversaries, he said, but every day. Naturally, it would suit him splendidly if the rest of us did, too.
The debonair late-thirties politician with the mane of Pantene hair and the wide-open-collared shirt has managed since entering politics in 2008 to leverage his family’s looks, sartorial panache and iconic name to build a national profile well out of proportion to that of the typical rookie opposition backbencher. This week in Saskatchewan he also revived his father’s trademark policy brand: the “Just Society.”
“I think the Just Society still remains an important thing to look for,” he told the wide-eyed pupils. But the concept had evolved, he said. It was now about the equality of opportunity.
“When my father was fighting for the Just Society, it was about recognizing the rights of all individuals, and that was with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
“I think if there’s a Just Society we need to fight for now, it’s a society that goes beyond the rights of the individuals and recognizes the value of all individuals.”
Mr. Trudeau, it is no secret, is leadership material, at least in the eyes of those in the Liberal Party who still moisten at the mention of the surname and see glints of Trudeaumania in his dash and style. It is not a reckless thought. Mr. Trudeau no doubt senses it himself, as he’s doggedly crisscrossed the nation in recent months, hitting dozens of community halls, from Truro to Oakville, Regina to West Vancouver. Whether the Canadian public sees it, and is hungry for another go round with the Trudeaus, is another matter entirely.
Certainly wherever he goes Mr. Trudeau seems to bring with him his special aura. Headlines in the local press have called him the “new ‘it’ man,” called “Trudeaumania alive and well,” said he “brings sexy back,” and gasped at his “rock star bienvenue.” Teen girls have proved “adoring.”
This is not, likely, over his ideas.
Unlike his dad, Justin Trudeau did not bring with him to Ottawa a rich trove of policy analysis and writings. A drama teacher thrust into the spotlight after delivering a eulogy (written with assistance) at his father’s funeral, he joined the Liberal party only months before contesting the Papineau nomination. He did fight harder than his father to break into Parliament.
But his public comments, when they occasionally stray from the official Liberal party line, tend to emphasize stock praises for getting youth involved in politics, the importance of environmental stewardship, and how we can all make a difference if we try. The Just Society mention was notable in that it was the first glimpse of what the man’s own policy plan, even if it, too, is borrowed.
But the Sixties in which Pierre Trudeau sold Canadians on his vision of a “Just Society” — which was tacked easily onto everything from bilingualism to individual rights — was a time of vast social change, notes Andrew Cohen, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute.
“It was a radical time,” he says. “Think what was happening in 1968. There was an upheaval. Vietnam was being fought on the streets of America; Civil Rights; feminism; the Pill.”
What’s more, Mr. Cohen notes, the social changes it brought are entrenched. The Charter, gay rights, the institutionalization of multiculturalism and the French culture: for better or worse, there isn’t much left by way of sweeping projects for leveling social playing fields.
Leveling the economic playing field among individuals, as Mr. Trudeau appeared to be alluding to, on the other hand, may evoke for some the fiscal policies of the late Pierre Trudeau, with his rampant deficit spending, wage and price controls, and industrial nationalism. That economic legacy, though, is something the Liberals have been trying to distance themselves from for decades. When Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff today criticizes the Conservatives for irresponsible deficits, you know that the Liberal party has officially buried the fiscal ideologies of Pierre Trudeau, even as they lionize his name.
“I think a lot of the economic egalitarianism is passé in Canada,” says Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political scientist. “Canada became a more conservative country because of the reaction against Trudeaudism, I think. People saw that it could bankrupt the country. Mulroney wrestled with it, with only partial success, and it was left to Jean Chrétien to finally put the stake through it.”
Still, Justin Trudeau would appear to be targeting young voters above all, who conveniently are without memory of the harsh economic reckoning sown largely by his father’s work. They are socially liberal and, as Barack Obama’s youth-mobilizing presidential campaign would seem to suggest, economically idealistic.
The trouble is they tend not to vote: only 20% of Canadians between 18 and 25 voted in the last federal election. Mr. Obama did reverse, at least temporarily, the trend to youth apathy in the States, Mr. Flanagan points out, but Justin Trudeau, for all his aesthetic appeal, has neither the oratorical skills nor the ethnic mystique of Barack Obama.
What he does have is magnetism, looks and a dynastic name, which means something in the land of the Martins, Mannings, Lewises and Lougheeds, as much as in the land of Kennedys and Bushes. And the Liberal Party’s latest constitution gives its youth members as much voting power as any other party member under its one-member one-vote system. Justin Trudeau’s trade in his father’s legacy, whatever its political wisdom, doesn’t have to win over Canadians for now. To get to the party leadership, he need only win over a plurality of star-struck Liberals.
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8:56 PM on September 30, 2010
I think young people don’t vote because they are faced with the ugliness of Neo-Consersavitism and all of its selfishness and greed and they see people like Harpo and Flaherty and are revolted. A few more years as these self-centered dinosaurs are retired and Trudeau comes to the front, you will see a new wave of “Just Society” and caring for the poor. The scum of Neo-Conservativsm as laid down by Ronald Reagan and Mulrooney and Harris and Harpo and Flaherty will and the suffering caused by them will be undone.Score: 2
9:18 PM on September 30, 2010
“The debonair late-thirties politician with the mane of Pantene hair and the wide-open-collared shirt has managed since entering politics in 2008 to leverage his family’s looks, sartorial panache and iconic name to build a national profile well out of proportion to that of the typical rookie opposition backbencher.”
Geez kevin did you write this with your pants around your ankles?
Although to the text of article, who better to lead the hordes of shallow thoughtless youth to the polls but a shallow thoughtless drama teach… errr politician.
Personally I don’t desire to have youth vote makes its presence known, simply because I don’t want more deluded narcissists polluting the electoral process with judgement based on whether or not the candidate ‘brings sexy back.’
The emotionally dominant, intellectually stunted vote is already filled by most leftists anyways…Score: 3
9:38 PM on September 30, 2010
Drop the voting age to eleven and he will be Prime Minister with a majority. Raise it to forty and he may only get distant family member’s vote.Score: 2
9:59 PM on September 30, 2010
Good l0rd not another social engineer trying to mould the nation into their warped perception of a socialist utopia! The nation will never recover from the last one and then we have another megalomaniac in line.Score: 3
10:11 PM on September 30, 2010
God save from another socialist liberal. Charm or oratorical panache is not substance. We have seen nothing from JT other than he bears the name of his father. He has his work cut out for him through competition from other sons of Liberals who have benefited from nepotism of a sort.
Although we have a constitutional monarchy at least these tax and spend wannabe’s have to compete for the top job, rather than inherit it, unless your name is Iggy.Score: 1
10:36 PM on September 30, 2010
Trudeau was never beloved by Canadians, only by Liberals, socialists, and communists. Amongst Canadians who actually contributed to society, he was roundly loathed. His drive to socialism opened the debt floodgates and introduced the accursed nanny state. He attacked the Canadian identity, warred against Canadian values, antagonized our closest ally, gave comfort to our enemies, and brought in the foolist Charter. Although Justin may not be quite as much a communist as his father, it is unlikely he will do anything other than give far-leftists something to reminisce about.
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Kevin Libin: Are Canadians ready for another taste of Trudeaumania? | Full Comment | National PostIn Canada on September 30, 2010 at 23:38