In defence of Justin Trudeau

By: Kristy Rydz

Can we stop with the Justin Trudeau bashing, already?

I can’t handle one more headline about his coronation as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada due to his ridiculous good looks or his last name.

I’m not necessarily saying they’re wrong—I’m just tired of hearing about it.

Yes, the man is blatantly attractive with better hair than most women I know.

And his father, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, led, shaped, and, for some, hindered our country for 15 years.

And no, he hasn’t come out with a bullet-point, bulletproof platform full of well-rounded policy positions. But there isn’t an election until 2015. Why would he? Especially when he clearly didn’t need to do so to win the leadership of his party, which he won decisively with 80 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Further, they chose him. Chose. They chose him for their own reasons, as they’re allowed to do in a democracy. It’s also relevant to mention that this leadership race drew more than 104,000 voters. That’s more than the 65,000 who cast a ballot in Tom Mulclair’s NDP victory last year and even surpasses the 97,000 Conservative Party members who voted in Stephen Harper’s 2004 leadership win, making Trudeau’s victory the most participated in leadership vote in Canadian history. It can be argued that the vast difference in numbers can be attributed to the Liberal Party’s choice to allow supporters, also known as non-card-carrying Liberals, to participate in their vote for free. That said, the NDP and the Conservatives could have done the same thing to drum up interest and support. They chose against it.

Regardless, I have no qualms that the youthful 41-year-old isn’t the epitome of political experience and knowledge.

But you can’t deny it—the guy has charisma.

I’ve been drawn to him since I listened to him wax about the environment, Katimavik, and empowering youth to change the world at the University of Winnipeg many moons ago as a newly elected member of Parliament.

He had big, lofty ideas, but not a whole lot of substance. Which is why I’ve had my doubts about Trudeau’s potential as prime minister material.

However, you know who else had big, lofty ideas? Remember that guy to the south of us who ran on hope a few years back? Despite the current turmoil in his U.S. administration, President Barack Obama won that 2008 election.

Obviously they have different educations and life experiences but that doesn’t inherently make one a better leader than the other. It’s all about how you use what you have, where you’ve been, and how well you can translate that into an emotional connection with voters. For better or worse, Trudeau himself, along with his father’s legacy, has that connection in spades.

Others are drawing comparisons between Trudeau and Obama in their use of social media to mobilize the grassroots population and invigorate the youth vote.

As a fierce proponent of youth voter engagement, I can tell you that Trudeau has already put forth a solid campaign aimed at young people via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc., by knowing where to find them and speaking to his swelling base of support by leaning on that emotional connection. You feel like you know him and that he wants you to know him.

Compared to a government led by a man with a communications iron fist and inhuman hair who has been hacking at social, environment, and historic programs for years, Trudeau looks like a savior of epic proportions not only for his party but for us everyday, bleeding heart liberals, too.

According to recent polls, if we were to have a federal election today, the Liberals with Trudeau at the helm would take power with the Conservatives serving as official Opposition. While it’s very possible it might be a post-convention bump in numbers, at this point, the momentum is Trudeau’s to lose.

So, to all those spewing criticism about his lack of substance, leadership qualities, and intellect, I say let him fall on his face. If his success is really tied to superficial aspects, it will all come out in the wash and he will join the recent list of failed Liberal leaders.

But when it comes down to it, politics has always been a popularity contest. Understanding that, why wouldn’t Trudeau play to his strengths, keep his opinions close to his chest until he needs not, and make the most of his natural appeal?

I’d say he’s a pretty smart guy who knows he’ll have his share of critics without opening his mouth just yet.

Kristy Rydz is a writer and editor in Winnipeg.