Daniel Veniez: There are good reasons why Justin Trudeau is the Liberal front-runner

Let's face it: nine people on a stage can't have a "debate". Yesterday's federal leadership gathering wasn't one, either. But it was slightly more entertaining than the first two.

Six of these candidates should step aside and call it a day. They have no prospect of winning and they've made whatever point they wanted to make. Their vanity project has run its course and 15 minutes are up.

That includes the self-described "smart", "courageous", "tough" Martha Hall Findlay. She has made the centerpiece of her campaign trashing her former colleagues as being "afraid" and not having "substance". The irony is that the only policy she has unveiled is eliminating supply management. She did muse about raising the GST, but wisely backtracked on that one.

Hall Findlay has lost more elections than won, and this is her second run at the top job. Her record as an opposition MP was undistinguished. She lost a seat she should have won, and it took her six years to pay off her debts from her last-place finish in the 2006 leadership contest.

Despite this reality, Hall Findlay continues to suggest that her "substance" and "experience" is what we need. No thanks. Why she thinks she should be leader of the Liberal Party is a mystery.

Hall Findlay and others persist in their tiresome calls for "specific policy" and "substance". Yet, they should know that the days of three guys around the Leader in Ottawa writing a platform and releasing it like the Sinai tablets are long, long gone. Canadians are all grown up. It's about time Liberals started treating them like it. Otherwise, we're on our way to extinction as a party.

The other candidates are part sideshow, part curiosity, and unquestionably a distraction. Nice people, perhaps, and maybe even decent MPs one day. But they are far from remotely electable national leaders. Only three can legitimately claim to have earned the right to stay for the next rounds: Justin Trudeau, Marc Garneau, and Joyce Murray.

While I may differ with Murray on some of the content of her program, she has proven herself to be one tough cookie and a very serious candidate. Besides her track record of actually winning contested nominations and close elections, she has positioned herself squarely as an important voice on the "progressive" wing of the party.

Murray has a thoughtful, comprehensive, and cohesive set of ideas. And whether I like it or not, Murray has shown a lot of guts to be the lone voice and intelligent advocate for cooperation with other parties.

Garneau was a disappointment in this debate. He appeared to step out of character—perhaps on the advice of whoever is advising him—and go for the jugular last week in a vain attempt to stop the Trudeau freight train. He appeared to feel it necessary to prop himself up by diminishing Trudeau. It didn't work. It just made him look small, floundering, and somewhat frantic.

Better for Garneau to focus on his strengths and champion his ideas. Unfortunately, on that front, like Hall Findlay, although he talks a lot about "substance", a cursory view of Garneau's website shows that he hasn't released a single number to suggest how much any of what he is proposing would cost and how he would pay for it. Not one.

If Garneau is to recover from this, he should return to being the intelligent, content-driven statesman. His stature and gravitas is important to the Liberal Party and he shouldn't jeopardize it by trying to best Martha Hall Findlay in the cheap shot department.

As for the front-runner, Trudeau, he continues to impress. He has remained calm and composed all week. He never seems to panic, takes it all in stride, and stays focused on the bigger game. His understanding of the country is far superior than many give him credit for. His hopeful, optimistic, pragmatic Liberalism is entirely consistent with where most of us are.

The political operators that watch and organize these things still don't seem to get the Trudeau phenomenon. It has nothing to do with being famous for being famous, as his critics charge. It doesn't seem to have occurred to some that Canadians just might like Trudeau's ideas. Clearly they do; otherwise he wouldn't be leading the pack by every metric that matters.

Trudeau attracts massive crowds everywhere he goes. That's no coincidence and no fluke. It happens because they like what he has to say and want to hear more. And people really are, as he said yesterday, sick and tired of being cynical. They want to believe that we are better than they've been seeing out of Ottawa. Deep down, they know we are. Trudeau is the only candidate who seems to hear what Canadians are saying and is reflecting back to them the kind of leadership they so crave.

Trudeau is bypassing the Liberal Party and reaching for the hearts and minds of a broad-cross section of Canadians. He knows full well that the Liberal Party didn't create Canada; Canada created the Liberal Party. And if Liberals want to be relevant and successful again, we had better create room for Canadians in our party.

In the broad scheme of things, this is as significant, profound, and yes, "substantive" as it gets.

Daniel Veniez was the Liberal candidate in West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country in the 2011 election. Reach him on Twitter at @danveniez.

Comments (18) Add New Comment
D
Such drivel
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Rating: -21
iSheep
The only candidate with a realistic chance of dethroning King Con of the Con Men.

At least JT would never sign away Canadian sovereignty in Vladivostok Russian to Communist China like the Con Man.

Laugh at this video...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTIOMJT5ubg
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Be the Change
I agree, Garneeau tried to show the public
that Trudeau was inexperienced, instead of
informing public how his experience would
make him a good leader.

If he feels his credentials are what is needed
in a leader,why did he focus on dimishing Trudeau's credibility as a new leader?

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PJ
I just remember the 40 years of liberal mess,every year it seems there was another gravy train going to lib. supporters,and mony dissapearing.Then the national oil scandal wich just about sepperated Canada.Why not keep what we have for a while,as he seems to be doing a good job.We know the media dislikes him because there is no scandals to report,and CBC becaus of their cutbacks.
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Mr.Soft
J.T. is a worm.
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Pearl Gregor
From my vantage point, it seems that cynicism and all things negative have been popular long enough. I shall take out a Liberal Party membership and vote for the candidate who can potentially change the ideologically, partisan snipping and name calling that passes for political conversation in the past ten or so years. Snipping, one liners, and attack ads are simply masking the serious issues facing Canadians young and old. And I shall not vote for anyone who slurs others, spins belief and gossip as fact. Nor someone without the ethics necessary to research the facts themselves or have a staff who can. Spin and innuendo must go. Ideas. Research. Information. This is supposedly the age of Knowledge. That is what is needed. Knowledge does not have loyalty along Party lines!
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kitt
PJ you cannot rewrite history and your speel is not the facts of what happened.
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For cooperation
Considering your terrible electoral record Veniez you shouldn't talk about others!
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Mario Novati
I like Trudeau as next Prime Minister of Canada. He gain few more votes after the debate of Feb, 16th, after that stupid remark of Fendley. She MUST be cancelled from the list of contender because she make a very bad intervantion. Too late to said "I am sorry".
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Rating: -13
Mackenna
Is Daniel a high school junior? He should have titled this dreck "Justin Trudeau's competition are LOOZERS."

I've yet to see much substance from JT. So far he seems to be pandering to the lowest common denominator: Harper supporters. He also flipflops on his alleged principles continuously and relying mainly on advisors because he's inexperienced.
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Dave Turchynsky
Who can blame any of them for not getting into specific details? The CONservative attack dogs are just waiting for something to gnaw on.
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Jayne Huddleston
Absolutely agree. Best assessment of Saturday's debate I have seen.
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BikerCK
Choose the one that's had to both meet a payroll and fire somebody who really needed the job. That's the kind of hard, real world experience the job requires. Sorry, Trudeau may be a great guy, but completely unprepared for the job of running the country.
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Marcia Cullen
Good analysis. I was surprised at the attention that Martha Findlay seems to generate. She seems to get ink talking about lack of substance without feeling that she should show any herself.
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Land Ho!
Pearl Gregor, good points made. We need someone that knows how to use a bucket & a mop, someone that can clean up the nauseating puke fest that has become Canadian politics.
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cuz
I guess he'll do if you only care about money, family name, and looks. Did I mention money?
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Ron S.
Frankly they are all losers. After all they are LIbERalS. Snoooore.....
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Natty
As much as it's a shame to admit, looks do matter in politics. It's the JFK effect (JFK notably beat the older more experienced Richard Nixon after a notorious televised debate. Prior to the airing, polls were running pretty tight).

Attractiveness, youth and charm can go a long way in swaying voters. The Liberals know this and use it to their advantage. At the end of the day, isn't politics just a popularity contest?
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