Friday, February 23, 2007

Justin Time

I have some mixed feelings about Justin Trudeau running for the Liberals. I know I wouldn't be blogging about this if it were Justin Tremblay or Justin Laframbois going for a Liberal nomination in a Quebec riding. But, for all intents and purposes, it might as well be, since I know nothing about Justin Trudeau's politics.
I know he's articulate, far more so than most MPs. He's a federalist, which, to me, is a good thing. He's bilingual. Plus there, too.
He's also saddled with the fact that he's the son of one of Canada's most troubling, and, some might argue, most destructive Prime Ministers. The country has never healed the wounds that Trudeau inflicted on Canada, not just on Quebec-Ottawa relations, but also his near-deliberate alienation of the West. Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper became Prime Minister in large part because of the shockwaves caused by Trudeau.
It's wrong to blame Justin Trudeau for any of that. He was a kid when his father left office.
But, as Trudeau himself says, the family name carries baggage. Others might say it's a sign of membership in the lucky sperm club, as Canada (and the U.S.) becomes more and more of an oligarchy, dominated by a political aristocracy. Ottawa is now filled with the sons and daughters of the famous: Paul Martin, Peter MacKay, Belinda Stronach, Stephan Dion, Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae are children of former cabinet ministers or senior bureaucrats, or, in Stronach's case, a flambouyant multi-millionaire, and, in Duceppe's, a famous Quebec actor.
The media loves nepotism and familiar names. That's no surprise, since the family hand-up is one of the defining aspects of Canadian media culture. Ask Graham Fraser, David Frum, Danielle Crittenden, Leah Maclaren, Colin Mackenzie, David Halton, John Honderich, Paul Berton, Jane Taber, and so many others.
I finding it amazing that Justin Trudeau has chosen politics. The scrutiny will be brutal, the expectations, both positive and negative, will be unrealistic, and the chance of crushing failure will be very high. I expect this will also be a strain for his mother. Were I his friend, I would have tried to talk him out of it.
And I expect the entry of Trudeau into politics and the fawning over him by the CBC and its dial-a-quote hacks will antagonize Westerners and soft nationalists in Quebec.
It will be hard for Liberals and liberals to realize, and truly come to grips with, the fact that Justin Trudeau is not Pierre Trudeau. Justin Trudeau does not have his father's academic training, such as it was. He has not been toughened, as his father was in Quebec politics, before entering Parliament. He seems very, very young.
I wish him luck. Certainly, he'd make a better MP for Papineau than the Bloc incumbent. Still, Quebec voters have a way of trashing Liberal star candidates, no matter how smart and successful they are.
Just ask Marc Garneau.

No comments: