Here’s something to think about:
The length of time that Michael Ignatieff was leader of the Liberal Party of Canada: 2 years, 6 months.
The length of time between the date of the Liberal leadership convention and the next federal election: 2 years, 7 months.
Even granting that a week is a long time in politics, do people seriously believe that (if the media reports are to be believed) Justin Trudeau, as Liberal leader, can achieve better results than Michael Ignatieff, given roughly the same amount of time? Particularly in view of the consensus that the Waffle left the Liberal Party in worse shape than it was when he took charge?
If you want to answer “yes” to that question, then you’re going to have to look at some of the differences between Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Trudeau, to see how things can play out differently. And yes, youth, age, and the “name legacy” thing are important, but they’re still the surface impressions and therefore too superficial to be of any practical use. We need to look more carefully, and that means having a look at Mr. Trudeau’s parliamentary record.
And right away, one difference can be pointed out: parliamentary tenure. Mr. Ignatieff was in Parliament for just under two years before becoming the party leader; Mr. Trudeau will have triple that amount of time when the leadership convention rolls round. Tenure does matter: it means Mr. Trudeau will be able to take advantage of stronger caucus camaraderie and familiarity, reducing the likelihood of the “rivalry” stories that plagued his predecessors.
Another one are the critical posts and committee memberships that Mr. Trudeau had as a member. His current critic posts — sports and post-secondary education — were only to be expected for a younger member, what with the old clichés about “youth being the future” and exercise being important and all that, and there’s no denying that the subject matter is lightweight. But his past critic post during Ignatieff’s tenure as leader was citizenship and immigration. That is a line that could help Mr. Trudeau develop a credible policy platform, because (a) it would allow him to gain credibility on Canada’s demographic situation, and (b) the citizenship angle would give him leeway to develop the thought of “what does it mean to be Canadian.”
(Yes, I know. That crack he made in February, about how Stephen Harper’s Canada could make him a separatist. Sure, it’ll haunt him. But if he can define “what it means to be Canadian” in a way that has resonance with the electorate, it’ll be forgotten. Remember, if it happened far enough in the past, the impact is lessened in the present.)
Committee memberships? Canadian Heritage, Citizenship, Environment. As I mentioned before, the citizenship one is probably his best selling point, but Canadian Heritage isn’t a bad one either, and being on Environment certainly would have resonance with the eco crowd. Currently, he’s got “associate member” status with Canadian Heritage, Citizenship, and Human Resources. The “associate” status probably won’t be much help, but the “human resources” one suggests he’s keeping an eye on job creation and EI. And it ties into Citizenship and Immigration because that committee just released a study on foreign qualification recognition (i.e. recognizing doctors, engineers and other professionals immigrating to Canada).
So. I think we’ve managed to identify a core value of Mr. Trudeau’s leadership campaign (and, by extension, a future party leadership): a focus on immigration and a refining of Canadian citizenship. That should certainly carry better resonance with the electorate than a mere “we’re not Harper” approach, which certainly belies the “lightweight” reputation that’s being cultivated in the MSM these days.
Or, put another way: if you can imagine Jason Kenney as a future prime minister, then you should have no problem imagining Justin Trudeau in the same position.