Does Justin Trudeau owe his appeal to celebrity or a new direction in Canadian politics? (with online chat)

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau


Trudeaumania 2.0  The volume of media coverage was unprecedented this week when Justin Trudeau announced his bid for the leadership of the now third-place Liberal Party.

Is it celebrity politics or does he represent a new choice and a new direction for Canadians?

Watch replay of live chat.


Thank you for participating, due to the volume of comments, we were not able to publish every comment.

Guests and Links      Mail       Download mp3 (right click and choose 'Save Target As')    


Media interest generated by Justin Trudeau's announcement earlier this week that he is officially running for the leadership of the Liberal Party .... has been almost unprecedented ...especially considering the once powerful Liberals have fallen on tough times. The party no longer fits its earlier billing as Canada's 'natural governing party.' It is now the third party in Parliament.

It is fair to say that a Trudeau candidacy is perhaps the only element - dynamic - that can keep the Liberal Party squarely in the public attention - that even operating from an unprecedented 3rd spot in the Commons - with Mr. Trudeau in the race, or winning it ... there will be media.

So, why all the excitement over one candidate declaring his intention to run for a party that seems far from actually holding power? Well part of the answer is obvious.

The Trudeau name is talismanic - and in the Liberal Party of modern times, particularly so. Wherever you are on the spectrum, there will be no denying that he was larger than most politicians, an emphatic personality, that stamped some of his vision on the country. It is inevitable - that speculation about what his son might do with - to - Canadian politics, is so high.

The rush of coverage now reminds some - hopefully - of that earlier burst of Trudeaumania -principally just before and after the 68 election. The days when "the just society" phrase was a really winning slogan. We'd like your views today on whether the excitement can be compared to what we are seeing now.

The name, of course, also has drawbacks. Some policies, particularly the National Energy Policy, burned parts of the country deeply. And contrary to common belief, the name does not inspire everyone in Quebec where Pierre Trudeau's stiff opposition to Quebec nationalism earned him many enemies.

Justin Trudeau's detractors say his appeal is pure celebrity ...that he hasn't actually done anything to merit such interest and hope. His supporters say he is the young face of what could be a new direction for Canadian politics.

We want to know what you think.

What is your reaction to Justin Trudeau's announcement he is running for the Liberal leadership? What do you think he has to offer? Is he merely capitalizing on his name or does he represent something new and substantial in Canadian politics? Is Justin Trudeau what the Liberal Party needs? Some Liberals are saying the party has already made the mistake of placing all their hopes on one leader, while forgetting the usual ground-up approach to party building you agree?

What do you look for in a political leader? How important are names and traditions in politics? How important is experience?

Our topic today: "Does Justin Trudeau owe his appeal to celebrity or a new direction in Canadian politics?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • John Ivison
    Political columnist for the National Post

  • Sam Lavoie (only on the live chat)
    President of the Young Liberals of Canada

  • Licia Corbella (also joined the live chat)
    Editorial page editor Calgary Herald

  • Veena Bhuller
    President of the Etobicoke North Young Liberals and President of the Multi-Cultural Committee of the Young Liberals of Canada.

  • Alexandre Meterissian (also joined the live chat)
    Law student and CEO of student-run publication, The Prince Arthur Herald

  • Denise Chong
    Former senior economic advisor to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and award-winning author.


National Post

Globe and Mail

Calgary Herald

Winnipeg Free Press


Toronto Star

Montreal Gazette

Toronto sun

Huffington Post



What is abundantly true is that Justin wishes to do his things Justin's way, and I happily accept this wonderful trait linked with the confidence, ability as stubbornness he inherited from his parents. What is also true is that you old boys, the corpus journalistas anacronistas canadianus, is trying desperatly to thwart him, as some of the same current selection of hacks did his father. You don't think Justin can become something great on his own? To that I say, "Just watch him!"
Ottawa, Ontario


It boggles my mind how much attention the CBC gives to Justin Trudeau. The guy blows his nose and the CBC sends local, region and national news and radio teams to cover it for days on end! First is was his election, then the boxing match (with pre-match coverage that went on for weeks), and now his run for the Liberal Party leadership. Enough! I get it! the CBC loves Justin Trudeau!

If there really is a Trudeaumania out there it's because it is being shoved down our throats. The Liberal leadership election is set for April 2013, and I know there is going to be something in the news about Trudeau every night until then. I think I need to invest in an isolation chamber.

Montreal, Quebec


Justin has many positive attributes. But in my mind, the best thing is that he is not Stephen Harper.

Shirley B.


It would be unfair to dismiss Justin as a celebrity politician. Justin's last name, Trudeau, may ignite memories of his father, Pierre Elliott, in the minds of us old farts (and yes, Rex, I am afraid you are on that list) who still have the mental faculties to remember his dad. That was a time when Canadians young and old took part in impassioned debate over the building of the very foundations of today's Canada. Love him or hate him, Pierre Trudeau led Canadians in the pursuit of a just society that advanced the fundamental principles of equality and justice through cultural and religious freedom and principles of tolerance and understanding.

Many voters are too young to remember those days. They represent a generation of voters who feel discarded by the policies and practices of the government of today. Turned off by the flavours of cynicism and distrust, they will not sit at the political dining table at all. Justin Trudeau represents that generation and I predict his invitation to them, to help built their Canada, will renew the debate and resonate with millions of young Canadians searching for a reason to engage in the political process. If that is his only achievement, he will have done Canada a great political service. I believe he will do a great deal more. 

Powell River, British Columbia


A very interesting choice may be made here. For those who have had enough of the Harper govenrnment's lack of transparency and inability to understand Provincial concerns and, at the other end of the spectrum, the NDP who is forever trying to live down a belief that they are the party of over-spending the budget, we have this younger candidate who may pick up the younger vote.  There are also those who have memories of a prime minister (his father) who was known to the entire world. I lived in the United States at the time and suddenly everyone knew the name of our prime minister.

Victoria, British Columbia


I do like Justin Trudeau but I don't think he's leadership material. Maybe these days all you need is lots of twitter followers and nice hair but I haven't really heard much substance come out of this guy... yet. As it stands, if Marc Garneau were to run, I think he would be the smarter choice.

Halifax, Nova Scotia


An important thing to consider in the announcement of Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader, is the effect that it will have on the party. Justin, similarly to Barrack Obama, is going to bring in a giant tide of volunteers and engagement into the Liberal Party. With an influx of members with him, Justin is a definite threat to some older members who have created their own little silos of influence and authority. I think this means that Justin will definitely be facing some internal backlash from some Liberal members who don't want to necessarily win elections, but would rather win their own elections. This announcement could lead to some serious internal conflict once more. With the new versus the old Liberals, the structure and organization of the party could face a tsunami. The Liberals are not alone in such a conflict, as I am aware that the American Democratic party is continuing to struggle with it. Justin is not status quo.

Kingston, Ontario


To me, the key part of the contrast between Justin Trudeau and his late father, Pierre, is that Pierre was a fresh, new face to federal politics in the late 60's. The dash and flash of Pierre was in stark contrast to other leaders. Justin is dynamic but not the bold, new face and voice that Pierre was.

Edmonton, Alberta


At the moment Justin is just one hat in the ring. I would hold off until we see the full slate, as should you, Rex.

North Vancouver, British Columbia


The notion, put forward by Jean Chretien recently, that Justin Trudeau has more parliamentary experience than his father did when he won the Liberal leadership, is nonsense. Pierre Trudeau was a cabinet minister and had some experience of governing. He had made his bones by his active participation in important issues in Quebec, which was why he was invited to government in the first place.

I know very little about Justin Trudeau, though on the few occasions he has crossed my ken he has appeared to be an amiable youth, articulate and committed. But it is hard to know why a political party in some disarray would go for someone so relatively inexperienced. Or perhaps not. They may figure nostalgia for the alleged good old days of Trudeau Pere might propel them back into the position they still seem to think they ought to hold.

He will stand a good chance of winning the leadership, but if he does, we may be saddled with more Harper years. I agree with a caller who called his candidature premature. Odds are if he wins he will be the holding candidate while the Liberals continue to rebuild, and replaced when they finally have a realistic crack at power. That may be no bad thing, as long as the rebuilding is done and the party gets away from the series of disastrous decisions it has taken in the last few years, from the way they parachuted Michael Ignatieff into the national scene, the election of Stephan Dion and the utter waste of the considerable talent of Bob Rae. The Liberal party needs to lose its sense of entitlement, and the residual figures from the Trudeau years who continue to operate, albeit in dwindling numbers, in its precincts, and start from scratch. Justin Trudeau could be a part of that as he was not part of any government of his father.

He could be a great rebuilder for the Liberal party, and while the matter is internal to them it is of no consequence to me who they have. But can you really picture this young man, on the strength of what we know about him so far, as Prime Minister?

Ghillie F.


This is nonsense. Justin Trudeau is a lightweight with no real relevant life experience and if the party choses him as leader it is truly the end of the Liberal Party. I was once a Liberal candidate (Pierre Trudeau was the leader then) and I will look elswhere if they choose him. Back to the future only works in the movies. This will not work. The party needs to be serious if it wishes to be taken seriously.

Winnipeg, Manitoba


I couldn't be more excited at the thought of Justin Trudea reigniting politics. His youth? A breath of fresh air. His inexperience? Is it that, or youthful innocence and honesty? He is smart and he is young and will, at the very least, connect with our Canadian youth and that is most definitely not happening today with the Conservative government.

Rex, we're off to the races and it's high time as our country deserves a political circle that reflects US. I also think he will respect Martha Findlay in the matter she deserves.

Bring on the election!

Shuniah, Ontario


A lot of people are dismissing Justin Trudeau as all style and no substance. However, Justin Trudeau appeals to young Canadians because he advocates not just protecting the economy but the environment. He urges us to lean towards facts and not ideology. He wants a country where the government trusts the people and does not treat them with suspicion. Nothing light or frivolous about that.

Eva M.


I lived through the national fiasco that was Trudeaumania. I remember, first hand, the arrogance and duplicity shown by Pee Air Elliot. He showed the West that he was, first and foremost, only interested in serving his Eastern Canadian backers. The son has, so far, been even harder to pin down and even more evasive than the current American saviour, Mit Rommney, minus the experience and (I think) minus the intelligence. One thing I will give him is that he has his fathers arrogance.

Give the son a chance? Never.

Edmonton, Alberta


Anthropologists explain the reason we can't help looking at the glaring headlines of the glamour mags at the grocery store check out counter. We are hardwired to want to be protected by someone greater than ourselves. So if you see yourself looking at yet another photo of the Kardashians, don't be too hard on yourself.

Could it be that is why so many are flocking to Justin? We seek protection at a leve of DNA memory? The rally in Richmond, B.C. expected 300 and 1,000 showed up. Having his mum there helped.

I for one want to see him succeed. Nice to see someone who is not a lawyer aim for the top job. He said something that touched my heart. "People want to belong to something." Long ago I realized it's not believe, behave, belong. It's belong, behave, believe. In order to believe in something we must feel we want to belong.

I also have a very soft spot in my heart for his dad. The first time I saw him was at the Quebec Winter Carnival in 1968. I was in the revolving doors at the entrance to the Chateau Frontenac and I looked over and saw that Trudeau was in the doors at the same time with me. He looked over, gave me a wink and I lost my heart.

North Vancouver, British Columbia


We do not need a third party in Canada to split the vote as Ralph Nader did that elected George Bush and took us into Iraq and worse, deregulation of banks and the worst depression in a generation. Our electoral systems allow us to be stupid, only a few support our Harper now.

Liberals, back off until we see what the NDP can do after the next election. They have been active and positive for over 80 years and deserve a chance. My father knew Caldwell who generated the CCF, before the NDP. They have contributed so much to Canada they need a chance to govern. The Liberals have blotted the governing card we gave them for so long. Enough already!

Justin is all about himself, a glutton of attention, an earlier repeat of his father, but at least he seems to have a marriage that is working. Let us get on with the NDP for now as the Conservatives represent only a minority. If you support democracy then support the majority which is totally against our present government.

B. Lawrence


A few years ago, shortly after being elected an MP, Justin was a keynote speaker at an annual Muslim event in Ottawa. I spoke with him just before the dinner began, explaining that in my 1989 book in 1989 Alternative Dispute Resolution Works I quoted his father, Pierre Trudeau's quest for a "just society". I found Justin to be cordial and approachable. After dinner and after Justin spoke I was the first person to ask a question mentioning my chat with him and saying that he was "Just in time" to much laughter, including himself. It was the first time he heard anyone use that turn of phrase with his name. I asked him what his vision was for justice in Canada, particularly in reference to Aboriginal Peoples. He said that question caught him off guard but appreciated it and gave an answer which was truly impressive, spontaneous, genuine and unique. Having been involved with Native communities myself as a mediator I had some sense of what was involved in this complex area and I often find how people deal with the issues pertaining to First Nations is indicative of their attitude towards listening and addressing different perspectives. So I would say to you, Rex, and to your listeners, that the man who is the subject of your amazing weekly radio program today is truly for Canada "Just in time".

Ottawa, Ontario


Man, if you could get Justin Trudeau in one camp, and Adam Soloman in the other, what a tidewater in Canadian poloitics that would be.

Victoria, British Columbia


I think there is little doubt that Justin Trudeau will be the leader of the Liberal Party come April, and that he will be the next Prime Minister of Canada. It is clear that he is quite young, but he does have a considerable grounding in politics already having won two very tight elections in Quebec.

Mr. Trudeau will bring youth, new ideas and new approaches to the Liberal Party and to the people of Canada. Older more well-established politicians have a substantial investment in the status quo. Justin, if I may be so bold as to use his first name, does not come to the table with a great deal of political baggage. I believe that to be fundamental going forward and an example would be president Obama and his win in the last U.S. election.

I can barely wait for Mr. Trudeau to become the leader of our great party. I have doubts that I will still be situated in this veil of tears at the next election, but as I rage against the dying of the light, I go forward in the hope and the reasonable certainty that the Liberal party will rise again to become the natural governing party of Canada.

Victoria, British Columbia


Please don't let CBC put this young fellow on the throne before an election.  If he wasn't a Trudeau, would Canadians even listen to your show today?

Dryden, Ontario


The phrase "future of Canada" has come up often with your callers. Do they
really think that Justin Trudeau, who recently stated that " I would think
about wanting to make Quebec a country", is the best person to deal with the
separatists in Quebec? His father, who was a staunch federalist, must be
turning over in his grave. We need a leader who has more than looks and a
name to make sure that Canada stays united and Justin Trudeau can't be
counted on to take on the separatists as his father did.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia


Being a francophone Acadian from New Brunswick, all I remember about Justin Trudeau is the shockwaves he sent through this province in May 2007. After speaking to a group of 2,000 elementary school teachers here, Justin Trudeau declared that separate French and English school systems are divisive and economically inefficient in New Brunswick. The remarks were criticized by New Brunswick politicians of all stripes. Former Conservative premier Bernard Lord noted the irony that it was Justin's own father, Pierre Trudeau who extended the minority-language protection in Section 23 of the Charter of Rights. Every Acadian in New Brunswick who cares about education still remembers that unfortunate episode.

Weymouth, Nova Scotia


I remember hearing Justin was a school teacher. Is this true? Talking and getting peoples trust and interest is part of the job, right?

M. Bingham


It is unfortunate that many people are comparing Justin with his father. Justin has been his own person since the passing of his father. Up until then he was given an amazing education from an equally amazing statesman who helped bring this country into the last century.

For some time now, Justin has been making his own way in Canadian politics. I have been waiting for Justin to come to grasp the role that he has literally been born to take. I look forward to going to the polls to strike my X for Justin's party, a party that is not the old Liberal crowd.

With Justin we will have a leader with a new youthful vision of a advancement for our Country (all of it) and making all Canadians part of this journey to success. It was mentioned that Justin singled out the middle class as his target audience. Our educated society of today places the majority of Canadians into the middle class orientation. Therefore it stands to reason that he would represent and address middle class issues.

I would like to wish Mr. Justin Trudeau all the best in this venture.

Sylvester, Nova Scotia