Canada's Political Dynasties, Justin Trudeau VS Ben Mulroney


The Federal Liberals are about to select a new leader who will pull the charred fragments back together after the party imploded like a neutron star. Canadians are chomping at the bit to see if Justin Trudeau, fruit of the loins of Canada's most polarizing Prime Minister will leave his mark. The young Trudeau is being scrutinized for his alleged inexperience, with many accusing him of riding on his dad's legacy, but he's not the only political dynasty who's been largely absent from the nitty gritty of politics. Everyone knows that if you need a reminder of the Brian Mulroney days just turn on the TV and you'll see his smarmy son Ben, Canada's answer to Ryan Seacrest.

If you were to review the resumes of each of these two Canadian princes, one glace at their education backgrounds and you'd be confused as to which one had aspirations to lead a nation. One of them obtained a Bachelor of Arts, having majored in history before going on to earn a law degree from Universitié Laval. The other scored a Bachelor of Arts in literature, another in education and taught french and drama.

Both share the name of their fathers, powerful, polarizing men who led the country in and out of tumultuous times, yet the one with the usual background went into showbiz while the drama teacher has set his sights on Ottawa. It's like a reflection of who their dads were in life, manifest in the next generation. One feels a calling to take on the social ills of the nation with a heavy hand, while the other just really, really, really wants the Americans to love him.

The boy's done nothing to me, but I still wanna put my foot through the TV when I see his face. Talk about 'sins of the father.'

In a parliament filled, as most governments are, with lawyers, accountants, and business leaders, anyone with a background in education is usually too idealistic to be taken seriously or comes off to voters as "elitist" -- Michael Ignatieff comes to mind. What gives "Trudeau the Lesser" an advantage over his fellow contenders for the leadership of the Federal Liberals is the rest of his civilian resume.

Plus, he can knock you around like he did Brazeau, though Patrick prefers administering beatings of the domestic variety.

Whereas most of his detractors cite his lack of experience within government as evidence of an untested idealist, Trudeau does have a laundry list of extracurricular activities including extensive advocacy and volunteer work. It may be said that he has yet shown an aptitude for national-level politics but he understands working with people of all backgrounds and agendas to forge a compromise on initiatives. And he isn't completely despised in Quebec even after the province gave itself a thorough Liberal enema in 2012.

Which prodigal son would you prefer?

Believing in lofty ideas and working towards them from outside government is a different animal entirely from holding those same ideas and shouting back and forth with the Opposition in the House of Commons. Using your charisma and education experience versus towing the party line has kept many a good person from entering the fray.

To paraphrase Milton Friedman when asked by Phil Donahue on the same subject in the U.S., I can be more helpful outside of government because I don't have to be polite and go with the flow.

The secret is tempering that idealism with pragmatism instead of cynicism. Jack Layton was a genuine idealist but it was his pragmatic approach and sense of humour that won him the ground to polarize the Federal election into a spectacular tug of war that cast the Liberals into near oblivion. Conservative Premier Peter Lougheed, likewise may have been labelled a separatist-sympathizer when he said "the West Wants In" to Justin's old man, but again, it was his pragmatic long-term view that bolstered the influence of Alberta on federal politics.

And then there's Quebec...

The Conservative Majority under Prime Minister Stephen Harper won that majority by convincing casual Liberal voters to jump ship because only a fiscally conservative government would survive the global economic turmoil with your personal savings intact. Those who didn't shift to the right, threw their hats in with the New Democrats over well-founded concerns of the social impacts of a Harper Majority (only to be shattered by a party that, without its leader, was forced to de-evolve into a toothless joke of an Opposition while the Conservative Majority continues to ram through omnibus after disturbing omnibus).

I would still like to see the astronaut, Marc Garneau win the Federal Leadership but the Trudeau angle makes for a better story. My only hope is that if the next federal election is between him and some conservative stooge waiting in the wings, we don't get our own version of the US Bush/Gore debacle, too close to call, but come on, if the son wins it'll be fun for the history books. Well, maybe the Iraqi history books.

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