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Justin Trudeau, Liberal Boy Wizard?

He'll need to cast a significant spell to enchant voters and vanquish You-Know-Who.

By Bill Tieleman 19 Jun 2012 |

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at or visit his blog.

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Justin Trudeau, marked since birth? Photo by Trudeau pour Papineau, Creative Commons licensed.

"'There are all kinds of courage,' said Dumbledore, smiling. 'It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.'" -- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

A young man of noble parentage is called upon to fulfill an historic role.

He is sent to learn wizardry, spells and dark arts at a special school where only a handful of the chosen few are taught by a strange collection of misfit magicians.

The popular young man enters an ancient contest of strength and skill and, despite being heavily outmatched by a tougher, bigger opponent, wins the battle.

While at the school, a sinister and enormously powerful enemy arises to threaten the very existence of all that is good and right.

Will this young man emerge as the hero, defeating these forces of darkness and vanquishing forever the snake that enables their evil deeds?

Or will Justin Trudeau decline the leadership of the federal Liberal Party?

More Muggle than magic?

To read some pundits, one would think the 40-year-old Member of Parliament for Papineau is the party's own Harry Potter, their only hope to battle the Lord Voldemort of Canada -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Yet while former Liberal prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's son may have cast a spell on his party, it remains to be seen if the country can be similarly enchanted.

Certainly Liberals can't be blamed for seeking a hero after suffering through four leaders with feet of clay: their last prime minister, the weak-kneed Paul Martin; failed opposition leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff; and now departing interim leader Bob Rae, who will not run in next year's convention.

On the plus side, Trudeau has the name, the excitement factor, is fluently bilingual and easily draws media attention.

His Twitter account has over 136,000 followers and on Facebook more than 44,000 "like" his page.

And he is the Liberal Party's biggest fundraising draw, much in demand across the country.

On the minus side, however, Trudeau has not distinguished himself at Hogwarts -- err, Parliament -- or before that as either a leader or an expert on anything.

His biggest claim to fame is winning a three-round boxing match against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau that he was expected to lose badly. Perhaps as impressive as Harry Potter's Quidditch game victory, but far from the young wizard's greatest achievement.

And Trudeau has proven prone to embarrassing gaffes, like when he said Harper staying in power could convince him to vote for Quebec separation.

"And I always say that if I ever believed Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper and we were going against abortion and going against gay marriage, and we were going backward in 10,000 different ways, maybe I'd think of wanting to make Quebec a country," Trudeau said in a radio interview in February.

The ill-advised comments, which surprised even his nationalist host, forced a furious round of "I love Canada" statements from Trudeau -- and unwanted support from Bloc Quebecois members as well as criticism from Conservative MPs.

By comparison, Pierre Trudeau was an accomplished justice minister when he became prime minister and had enjoyed a notable career as an intellectual, law professor and editor.

Daunting fight ahead

The Liberals have seemingly forever tried to fix structural party problems with hasty duct tape solutions -- new leaders instead of new ideas, change at the top instead of a change in approach.

Perhaps Trudeau can both inspire confidence and use that to fundamentally alter his party to be competitive in the 2019 election. Certainly it would take magic to overcome both the governing Conservatives and opposition New Democrats under Thomas Mulcair in 2015's vote.

But with two young children at home and a life ahead of him, Trudeau may bravely tell his friends in the party that their daunting task needs hard work from many, not a young wizard trying to work his untested magic at the top.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Elections

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