Contender: An inside look at Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau will run for the Liberal leadership in April. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

First aired on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange (05/03/13)

Whether you like him or lump him, Justin Trudeau knows how to make headlines -- and he's now one of the top contenders for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party. Could he be the saviour of the party? Althia Raj, Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa bureau chief, has published an e-book about him, called Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story, based on the time she spent following him on the campaign trail. She recently appeared on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange to share her impressions of the Papineau MP.

Raj described him as calculating in what image he wants to convey. "He relishes the role of the underdog, and purposely lowers our expectations," she explained, adding that he likes giving the impression that he has "a tough road ahead." He did it when running for election, and again before his widely publicized charity boxing match against Patrick Brazeau. Trudeau gives the impression that he's in the fight of his life, Raj said, "but he knows full well that this is a task that he can win, and comes out ahead. So he builds this myth of this guy who is unbeatable."

contender-cover.jpegWhen asked by Kevin O'Leary about Trudeau's experience and qualifications, Raj said, "He has a CV that reads like nothing that we've seen in a long time. He was a snowboarding coach. He was a white-water rafting instructor, a camp counsellor, a high school teacher, a not-for-profit administrator, he was chair of Katimavik, which his father founded in 1977, public speaker, member of Parliament. So he has no managerial experience."

Despite this lack of experience, Trudeau is taken seriously in Ottawa. "What he brings to the table is the sense that he can mobilize thousands of people, maybe millions of people," Raj said, even though at this point his vision for the country isn't clearly spelled out. "What he is selling is himself. This sort of 'trust me, and I will make the right decision for you.'"

Kevin O'Leary speculated that if he's elected as leader of the Liberals, it will lead to "a very nasty election" because Trudeau's more experienced opponents will "shoot holes through him right through the campaign. " Raj agreed, saying that both the NDP and the Conservatives fear that he threatens their base, and "they will have go negative." According to Raj, they are already combing through tapes to find his past gaffes and studying her book for material.

What makes him tick? Raj said although he may seem like he has "a Messiah complex," in fact Pierre Trudeau instilled in all of his children a sense that they had enjoyed a very privileged upbringing and as a result had "to give back." For Justin Trudeau, living up to that sense of responsibility lies in public service.

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