Canadian dynasties in Spring

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In a month where the UK readies itself for the funeral of an unmatchable leader with the passing of Margaret Thatcher, Canadians have voted to endorse Justin Trudeau, the son of one of the country’s most influential statesman. Justin is now the leader of the progressive national Liberal Party that his father led to numerous victories.

Known as a charming intellectual and the inspiration for the term “Trudeaumania” during his rise to power in the late 1960s, Pierre Trudeau was both the passionately adored and vehemently despised leader of the Canadian Liberal Party. He served as prime minister from 1968-1979 and again from 1980-84. Under his leadership, the movements towards fundamental freedoms, democratic guarantees and equality and language rights were cemented in the Canadian Constitution with the Canadian Charts of Rights and Freedoms.

Regardless of political leanings to the left or right, Pierre Trudeau was an extremely important Canadian who shaped the country irrevocably. It was under his leadership that the French language was recognised as official and equal to that of English, aiding to resolve much animosity felt by culturally oppressed French Canadians. Canada’s multicultural policy was made official, which continues to distinguishes the country from the melting pot philosophy of its Southern neighbour, as a nation that recognises a plurality of cultures as a multicultural policy within bilingual framework.

It was also under Pierre Trudeau’s directive that the National Energy Program (NEP) took effect, which created life-long foes of many Western Canadians towards the Liberal Party. The NEP attempted to use oil revenues from Western Canada to ease the cost of oil for Eastern Canada. The NEP was seen as an intrusion by the federal government into provincial jurisdiction and did not work due to falling energy prices.  (It is often forgotten that it was also the Liberal Party under Jean Chretien in the 1990s that helped spearhead exploration of the West’s oil resources with the establishment of the National Oil Sands Task Force, and the implementation of a tax write off for capital expenses for energy projects).

With the hindsight of time and irreparable damage to the national Liberal Party in Western Canada, Justin Trudeau has been able to advocate for the West as a key part of Canada. Something that should and does worry the national Conservative Party and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who without any dispute, lacks the charisma, personality, and star power that comes hand-in-hand with the Trudeau name.

Justin Trudeau - Canadian Liberal Party Leader
Justin Trudeau with his wife, Sophie Gregoire, son Xavier and daughter Ella-Grace.
Much like the Labour party in the UK, the Liberals in Canada have been dominated by significant leaders whose policies have differed widely and commentators are avidly watching to see how Justin Trudeau will differentiate himself while still joining the fragmented party together. In the last election the Liberal Party suffered a humiliating defeat under Michael Ignatieff. In the eleventh hour, many supporters and disaffected Eastern Canadian Bloc Quebecois voters supported the further left option, the New Democrat Party (NDP). As a result, the NDP gained official Opposition status for the first time in the Party’s history with its own charismatic leader Jack Layton at the helm.

The next federal election is 2015. Whichever party succeeds will need the support of French-speaking Quebec, and arguably inspiring leaders do better. It was the NDP’s determined and tireless Jack Layton who turned the tide for the NDP, sadly passing away soon after the surprise victory from cancer. Now with Justin Trudeau’s victory, many will be watching closely, from close and afar, to see if he will be able to build his own legacy for the Liberal Party.

Already, the campaign lines are being drawn with Justin Trudeau stating in his acceptance speech that Canadians are tired of negative divisive politics, the predictable mainstay of the Conservative Party’s approach under Harper. Stating, “Canadians want to be led not ruled” true indeed, and perhaps more important for Trudeau’s future battling the next election, they will also need to be inspired. An intangible feat to which he already owns a substantial advantage.

To see the speech that formed part of the speculation for Justin Trudeau’s potential as a future Canadian politician, see the eulogy given at his father, Pierre Trudeau’s state funeral in 2000 here.

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