Monday, November 17, 2008

Justin Trudeau Calls for a Generational Shift in Canadian Politics

Son of Trudeau calls for more youth involvement in politics

If Justin Trudeau was unaware of one particular fact about Canadian politics, he's likely to learn it very quickly.

When your name is Trudeau, it isn't hard to get someone to come out to hear you speak.

In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Trudeau drew a crowd of 1,000 people to a party fundraiser where he talked about the need to get Canada's youth involved in politics -- or at least in the Liberal party.

“The challenge that we face as a political organization at all levels, both federal and provincial, is the idea of mobilizing our young people,” Trudeau announced. “We need to reach out to young people as more than just campaign volunteers who lick envelopes and put up posters, but as those who actually have input and are valued for their idealism, their energy and the way of thinking they bring in, which is a lot more long-term.”

Trudeau noted that too many Canadians are being drawn into one-issue political movements. Youth especially so.

Trudeau's musings seem to closely resemble leadership candidate Dominic LeBlanc's recent calls for a generational shift within the Liberal party.

And by that he doesn't simply mean selecting himself -- at 41, the youngest of the officially declared candidates -- for the leadership.

"It's not enough to change the head, you have to renew the whole and that's done with a new generation of leadership that springs the party forward," LeBlanc insists.

Some may have to wonder if Trudeau embracing LeBlanc's "generational shift" idea is a prelude to an endorsement of LeBlanc. But if "like father, like son" can be considered a rule of Canadian politics, one may also question the extent of Trudeau's commitment to any such generational shift.

Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, first got himself elected Prime Minister using two broad promises: that of the "Just Society" and that of making Canadian politics more participatory.

In the end, the vague Just Society promised was abandoned entirely. And Trudeau's "participatory democracy" was ultimately meant only for those who were members of the Liberal party -- regardless of whether they had voted for the Liberals or not.

For the most part, Justin Trudeau, like his father, is making a positive impression on the Canadian political scene. But sometimes these impressions are hard to keep up, and Trudeau would be wise to remember that the polish can wear off a politician quickly if he's found to be too flexible in regard to his promises.

Trudeau should remember one other lesson his father's example teaches: always back a winner. Most analysts consider the prospects for an "up the middle" victory for the Liberal leadership to be rather faint.

He would be much better off backing either of the two main contenders.

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