Justin Trudeau launches leadership quest in Canada

There’s an concept of history and leadership out there, called “the great man” theory. You know, really charismatic or forceful personalities can shape events – even change history. For good for ill. (Think Washington – or Hitler.) It’s not a new concept. Nor does everyone ascribe to it.

A political candidate may – or may not – actually be a great man or woman. But the power of popularity does play into the outcome.

While most attention today is focused on the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, this post is actually about a possible “great man” moment in Canada.

Justin Trudeau. Photo Jean-Marc Carisse via Wikipedia Commons. CC some rights reserved.

After a lot of encouragement, speculation (and a whole summer of mulling it over) last night Justin Trudeau announced he’ll run for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party here.

Barrels of ink are being spilled about this in Canada. As one might expect, opinions are all over the map.

In Box readers surely know Justin’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was a Liberal Prime Minister in Canada for two separate “terms” (That’s not the right word, but it’ll have to do for this purpose.)

Trudeau the father was a sensation, generating something called “Trudeau-mania”. (Think Beatle mania, on a scaled-back level.)

Pierre Trudeau had detractors too – especially out west where an unpopular federal energy policy generated a bumper sticker that read  “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark!”

Is Justin Trudeau just a pretty face with a famous name?

OK, he’s spent five years as MP for the Montreal riding of Papineauis. He can box. But (some say) he’s still young and untried.

Is he up for the heavy lifting of revitalizing a party in serious disarray? If successful, could he actually carry an election and lead the country?

Getting back to the party level of this question, is the Liberal Party only lacking a dynamic leader? Or does the party need a deeper overhaul than that – as the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson argues?

Post-Media columnist Stephen Maher writes that this Trudeau enters the scene as a very famous wild card.

If Canada’s Liberals do bounce back, will that just leave the Conservatives in power, because center and left-leaning voters in Canada would then split between the Liberals and the NDP?

Some observers say parties on the liberal/left in Canada must unite to win. But Trudeau says he’s not considering mergers.

It’s early days to know any answers to those questions. Announcing a run for party leadership also requires actually winning the job (That’s set to be decided in April of 2013 at a party convention in Ottawa.)

But, after years as a “maybe”, Justin Trudeau is now an official player on Canada’s national political landscape.


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