In a stunning victory predicted by no one, some nobody named Justin something-or-other came out of nowhere to become the leader of the federal Liberals. I mean, seriously, Justin Trudeau? Who dat? The media has been strangely silent.
Even my non-Canadian readers can probably recognize the sarcasm. The truth is that the Canadian media has been all over Justin Trudeau like white on snow for years and the leadership convention the Liberals held was a waste of everyone's money and time, because Trudeau's coronation was assured the moment it became clear Michael Ignatieff would lose the last election--which was about thirty seconds after the writ dropped.
The Liberals, the once (and future, so they devoutly believe) Natural Governing Party of Canada, have veered wildly between a farce and a tragedy since they were inexplicably (to them) booted from office in 2006. The sense of entitlement, and their refusal to recognize same, positively oozed out of the party over two ensuing elections: the reaction to each loss was a kind of comic bewilderment. How can you elect those...barbarians? They figured if only they had the right figurehead leading the party, they'd be welcomed back with open arms. To that end, they first tried Stephane Dion, on the grounds that their last major success story, one Jean Chretien, was almost as incomprehensible to half the country.Dion bombed. So they moved on to Michael Ignatieff, a Serious and Intelligent Personage who had neither the patience nor the ability to engage in political warfare. Ignatieff seemed to believe that his job was to teach Canadians the right and proper (Liberal) Way, and the condescension was palpable.
Stephen Harper, who has condescension down to a fine art in other contexts, made light work of Ignatieff and his party in the last election: for the first time ever, the once-proud, still far too proud, Liberal Party of Canada was reduced to third party status.
Enter Trudeau Junior.
Polls seductively suggested that with Trudeau as leader, the Liberals could not only get back into power, they could do so with a majority. The Liberal rank and file, forgetting that polls are fickle things, endorsed Justin with a will, despite knowing precisely dick-all about how the man proposes to govern the party and the country.
This was actually smart politics on Justin's part: a blank slate can be filled with whatever people want on it. But now he has to illustrate some substance behind the style, or Harper will eat him for breakfast and shit him out by lunch time.
Trudeau's biggest problem is his party's irrelevance over the past near-decade. Harper has shifted the political climate rightward and the political clout westward. (It would not surprise me in the slightest to see Harper agitate for the capital of Canada to move to Calgary.) And and Trudeau is a name to strike hatred into the hearts of a substantial subset of the western population.
The Liberals are also not popular in Quebec, where the surname Trudeau has a pointed history. The trick Justin's going to have to attempt to pull off is to make the electorate forget his last name. That might be difficult, since the name and a full head of fluffy hair have propelled him to where he is.
If I sound disdainful of the Liberals, that's because I am. They've made it very hard not to be. If I sound like I relish the thought of endless Conservative governments...trust me, I don't.
I initially supported Harper. I'll admit it freely, not just because you can see the support by visiting old Breadbin posts. I still don't think the man is as evil as he is commonly portrayed, and I don't automatically oppose everything he proposes, or does, for that matter. But quite frankly, any good the man does is more than offset by his autocratic governing style and his complete disdain for science, facts, and reality itself. We need a new government in this country. Don't believe the attack ads insinuating that only Harper's Conservatives know how to run an economy: historically, the economy has done better under left-leaning governments in democratic countries, and with a few notable exceptions, Liberals and New Democrats leave the books in better shape than they found them.
Had Jack Layton lived, I truly believe he would have been our next PM. But his successor, Mulcair, has failed to capitalize on the momentum that carried the NDP to Official Opposition status and his chances are essentially nil. I don't hold out much hope for the Liberals, either, especially since I think Trudeau will garner just enough support to effectively split the anybody-but-Conservative vote. That will allow Harper to cruise up the middle to another majority.
Unless the Liberals and NDP unite.
There's been some babble about this possibility, but Mulcair shut it down when the NDP success looked like it might continue and you can damn well bet Trudeau won't entertain the notion when the polls tell him he can win on his own. After years of thought, I still can't decide how I feel about the prospect of a united left. I've watched the American two-party system falter and I've noted with alarm increasing polarization of politics here in Canada. The last thing I want to see in this country is two political parties. That is, it's the last thing I want to see until somebody tells me the only alternative is one-party government under Harper's Conservatives...
I want to see Justin Trudeau beat all expectations. I don't think he will.