Trudeau pulls to front of Liberal leadership race

Mar 4, 2013 | News

By Amber Daugherty

Justin Trudeau has pulled ahead to the front of the pack in the Liberal leadership race after Sunday’s debate in Halifax.

After the debate, his team announced Trudeau’s campaign had acquired over 150,000 supporters. That number doesn’t include the supporters drawn from the other seven leadership campaigns.

“To be fair, simply because one camp signs up as a supporter doesn’t mean that person will necessarily vote for him or her,” Akaash Maharaj, former National Policy Chair for the Liberal Party, told Humber News on Monday.

“However, the numbers they have released dwarf anything that all of the other candidates are likely to have recruited,” he said.

During Sunday’s debate, other front-runner and former astronaut Marc Garneau challenged Trudeau’s lack of specifics and youth, a message he has been touting for a few weeks.

Trudeau, in return, blasted Garneau for his overly negative campaign. He pointed out his has been positive because that’s what he thinks Canadians want to see.

“It would be ill-advised for a front-runner to run anything other than an extremely positive campaign,” Maharaj said.

“Ultimately, a positive campaign tends to favour those who are already in the lead,” he said.

“He does not need to recruit supporters through the use of specific policy proposals and by not having specific policy proposals he does not tie his hands for the real battle to come, which is of course the general election.”

Trudeau has been running his campaign as though he was going to win it, Maharaj said. His message has been about the unity of the Liberal party, saying at the debate the Liberals don’t want to see the party “turned in on each other.”

Trudeau has been a favourite since he announced he would be running for the leadership position.

“I thought Trudeau had it in the bag before he even declared,” Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto, told Humber News on Monday.

“I think they’ve just been going through the motions pretending there’s some sort of race going on but there isn’t.”

Trudeau has gotten a lot of media coverage during the race. He’s the youngest candidate running and has been referred to as a celebrity because of his father, Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau.

“A lot of people find him charismatic, or just physically attractive,” Wiseman said.

Michael Den Tandt, national political columnist with Postmedia News, wrote in a column Monday that Trudeau will bring a new approach to government, “as his marketing will have it, ‘youthful’ and ‘engaged,’ as opposed to ‘closed’ or ‘top-down.’”

The released numbers show many Canadians agree with that, and think Trudeau can bring something back to the hard hit Liberal party. Den Tandt said as far as the race goes, it’s over, and that “the threat of complacency, for the remaining weeks of this campaign, will be [Trudeau’s] greatest obstacle.”

“Surprises might come up but nothing that is going to shake [Trudeau] off the throne,” Wiseman said. “It doesn’t matter what he does now. I don’t think it even matters if they throw him into jail, he’s going to win overwhelmingly.”

But many say it’ll be hard for Trudeau, should he win this race, to come toe to toe with Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair, especially if the entire Liberal party is counting on the young candidate to revive their party’s brand.

“The Liberals had the very same hopes and expectations of Michael Ignatieff that they now do of Trudeau – some sort of Messiah who’s going to take them to the Promised Land,” Wiseman said.

But there’s still two and a half years away from the big debates. In the meantime, Wiseman said Trudeau just has to stay at the front of the group, so that after winning the race, he can really start preparing for the fight to be prime minister.

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