Twelve years ago, late Sun columnist Douglas Fisher wrote about Justin Trudeau’s possible ascent to the top of the Liberal party.
A select quote: “Justin Trudeau is so lacking in experience. As a nation, we are witness to the repetitious embarrassments of a current party leader, ruined through inexperience and ignorance of history and regional particularities. A neat appearance and nice talk could not hide shortcomings for long.”
It appeared in, among other papers, The Whitehorse Star in 2001 and was recently dug up by a crack researcher.
OTTAWA – This column recently sketched 10 possible candidates to succeed Jean Chretien. The attendant odds I gave each one were long to very long, except for Paul Martin. Shortly a punchy letter came from a Mr. Baldwin of Ottawa:
“None of your longshots will be the next Liberal leader. It will be Justin Trudeau,” he wrote.
Why so? Because Liberals have liked men relatively new to politics as leaders. See Pierre Trudeau over Bob Winters; Mike Pearson over Paul Martin Sr.; Louis St. Laurent over Jimmy Gardiner; W.L. Mackenzie King over William Fielding.
Does Justin want the job? Baldwin thinks so.
“Has he not taken a year’s leave of absence to go on a cross-country speaking tour? He’ll be great at photo-ops and the florists will love him.”
My first reaction was peevish. Justin Trudeau is so lacking in experience. As a nation, we are witness to the repetitious embarrassments of a current party leader, ruined through inexperience and ignorance of history and regional particularities. A neat appearance and nice talk could not hide shortcomings for long.
Would the Liberals, in particular the Liberals of the parliamentary wing of the party, rush to Justin?
Perhaps they might. Certainly Justin, as son of the Liberal icon of these times, caught the attention and imagination of the populace with his funeral oration last October. His subsequent exposure through televised speeches and interviews has underlined a winning presence, however callow or fuzzy his spoken themes may have been for critics.
So it’s likely Justin, as a candidate, would quickly draw a following, not perhaps from long-seasoned Liberals but from younger Canadians in general and many older ones to whom his late father is the greatest of our PMs.
Ironically, neither in appearance nor content does he recall his father. Rather, he is very much like his mother’s father, the late Jimmy Sinclair, a Liberal minister in the last St. Laurent cabinets. Jimmy was tall, dark, handsome, well-spoken, and gregarious, given to arm-waving gestures (as is Justin).
There have been two parallels: Avram or “Avi” Lewis, and Benedict Mulroney.
Avi is the son of Stephen Lewis, a former NDP leader in Ontario, and Michelle Landsberg, a fierce feminist and veteran columnist of the Toronto Star. Avi’s wife is the well-known journalist, Naomi Klein. He is also the grandson of the late David Lewis, an oratorical genius who once led the federal NDP.
As host of a regular discussion show weeknights on CBC-TV, Avi comes through as superbly articulate, well-informed and confident – even brazen.
Several of my acquaintances whose politics began in the CCF, the NDP’s antecedent party, have called me to rejoice in Avi Lewis. One of them rates his gifts as high as those of his paternal grandfather. That’s praise! Another said it was simple: “Avi’s got it.” And he thinks the NDP must push him to be leader, preferably nationally, but if not there, in Ontario.
Ben Mulroney, a son of Brian Mulroney, has had much less notice than Avi or Justin, but his contract for considerable TV work may change that.
My hunch was that the politicking child of Brian and Mila would be their second son, Mark, but Ben’s presence is winning and his manners impeccable. Indeed, he matches those qualities which have made Catherine Clark, child of Joe and Maureen, a magnet to the political media.
With more showing, Ben Mulroney may firm up as a prospect to Tories hungry for a fresh and charming personality as their leader. At present, the obvious replacement for Joe Clark is another “son of” – MP Peter Mac-Kay, 36, the son of former Tory minister Elmer MacKay, once a big booster of Brian Mulroney. In four years in the House, Peter has become one of the most poised, able MPs on the opposition side.
What seems a popular readiness to welcome the offspring of former leaders does indicate there is a public memory of past politics and it isn’t always negative. As a phenomenon, it may herald a turning of public mood from longevity in politics to freshness and youth.