Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Marc Garneau, Justin Trudeau & the end of the Liberal leadership race

Justin Trudeau, "a strangely pretty 41-year-old former snowboarding instructor"
Today, Marc Garneau, the second strongest candidate in the race to lead the federal Liberals, called it quits. He conceded the obvious: he can't win.

More than that, it was obvious that Trudeau was going to take the leadership on the first ballot. The other six candidates in the race weren't even going to be able to muster 50% between them.

With Garneau out of it, there's no longer a real race at all. Barring some catastrophic accident or extreme act of self-destruction before the vote, Justin Trudeau is now the new leader of the federal Liberals.

Which leads us to Terry Glavin's excellent opinion piece published in the Ottawa Citizen about Justin Trudeau...

The Trudeau effect by Terry Glavin
Everybody’s laughing at Italy this week. Silvio Berlusconi is back. Italian voters have somehow managed to give their comically corrupt 76-year-old former prime minister a clear shot at keeping the country’s centre-left coalition from the Lower House majority it needs to properly govern the austerity-wracked country. Ha ha. Idiots.
But this sort of thing can happen to the nicest of democracies. There are rules that apply here, and Canadians should not be too quick to mock. After allowing its leadership race to degenerate into a sort of cross between a beauty contest and a reality television show, Canada’s very own Liberal Party, for instance, is on the verge of handing its crown to someone it would not be entirely wrong to call a largely talentless and insufferably foppish celebrity drama queen.
This is not a nice way to describe Justin Trudeau. It is also one thing to be Italy’s best-known patron of teenaged prostitutes and quite another thing to be merely a strangely pretty 41-year-old former snowboarding instructor who would be wholly unknown to all of us if he weren’t the son of a famously glamorous Canadian prime minister.
But at some point, it is going to have to be made to sink in. This is a guy who was boasting, as recently as 2001: “I don’t read newspapers. I don’t watch the news. I figure, if something happens, someone will tell me.” This is a guy whose main real job before he got into federal politics five years ago was a stint as a teacher at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy.
I note that particular gig only because earning as much as $462,000 a year for merely being the celebrity Justin Trudeau and giving inspirational speeches at up to $15,000 a pop is not what is ordinarily considered a “real” job. It is a racket, and Trudeau has carried on with it, featherbedding his $158,000 MP’s salary with more than a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of these celebrity “speakers’ fees” since 2008, when he first got elected Member of Parliament for the down-at-heels Montreal riding of Papineau.
Odd as it sounds, there is no House of Commons rule that prohibits MPs from moonlighting like this. Odder still, Trudeau has got away with justifying this lucrative sideline work on the grounds that he’s doing it as a favour to his constituents. “It is to make sure that the values of the people who elected me in Papineau are being heard in Ottawa and across the country,” he told reporters.
This is like something the notoriously stupid Alaskan ex-governor Sarah Palin might have said, but it gets a pass when Trudeau says it, and Trudeau gets away with this sort of thing all the time owing only to a pathetic and distinctly Canadian variety of celebrity-worship. This is not to be mean. It is actually the most charitable way to explain how it has come to pass that Justin Trudeau, if you don’t mind, is actually on the verge of annexing the Liberal Party of Canada as his personal vanity project.
It has got so that two weeks ago, when the leadership contender Martha Hall Findlay hinted at Trudeau’s obvious unsuitability to the task of championing the “middle class” he claims to be uniquely qualified to champion, she was jeered at and shouted at and hounded until she apologized. Maclean’s magazine called her question a “jarring outburst.”
If this were France in 1793, Justin Trudeau would be just another dandy in a powdered wig and a frilly shirt being trundled away to his just reward on the guillotine at the Place de Carrousel in Paris. But this being Canada in 2013, to merely ask out loud why it is that not once since Justin Trudeau declared his candidacy last fall has he managed to articulate a single original and coherent thought, is to be not just impolite, but inexcusably impudent and saucy beyond all bounds.
Only the other day, when the sturdy and perfectly capable leadership candidate Marc Garneau came close to publicly noticing Trudeau’s determined vacuity, Postmedia News reported that Garneau had subjected the dauphin to a “fiery attack.”
The Liberal party’s desperation — down to 35 seats in the House of Commons, rudderless, bereft of ideas — is not sufficient to explain this state of affairs. Neither is money, although Trudeau has purchased a great advantage over his competitors in the race by outspending all eight of them combined. The main reason is merely that his name is Trudeau. It’s the glitz of it. With a family name like that, it’s amazing what you can get away with.
In Montreal, Justin is one half of a high-society power couple, the other half of which is Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, a former entertainment-television personality, a sometime bulimia-awareness ambassador and occasional New Age self-improvement evangelist of some sort. Gregoire has been known to explain the scourge of global violence against women as a matter of some dislocation in “the feminine and masculine balance of divinity.” Just last week, the 38-year-old Gregoire-Trudeau showed up in the Globe and Mail describing herself as being “at that awkward stage between jail bait and cougar.”
Can you imagine the spouse of any other politician getting away with saying something like that? Of course you can’t.
Then there’s Justin’s “senior adviser” in his leadership campaign, a celebrity documentarist whose works include a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda produced in association with the Iranian government’s English-language propaganda arm. This most cherished of Justin’s confidantes is also famous for having penned a 2006 essay for the Toronto Star attributing such super-human powers to Cuban strongman Fidel Castro, “an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets, on everything,” as the ability to go long periods without sleep and to harvest sea urchins from the ocean floor at depths of 20 metres without any artificial breathing apparatus.
This is Justin’s brother Alexandre we’re talking about here, so, you know, back off.
These are the Trudeaus. They are, first and foremost, rich and famous. They are chic and glamorous. “They are,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it in his short story The Rich Boy, “different from you and me.”
The same rules just don’t apply.
Terry Glavin is an author and journalist whose most recent book is Come From the Shadows.

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