It’s not like American politics has become boring and thrill-seekers need to look north, but the current political scene in Canada is actually interesting. In the last general election, the once-dominant Liberal Party of Canada got shoved into third place, losing most of its strength in English-speaking Canada and watching Quebec fall to the left-wing New Democratic Party. (This was more hilarious than most Americans know. A late surge toward the NDP in Quebec allowed candidates who’d only been put on the ballot as placeholders – including a woman who neither spoke strong French or was in Quebec at that moment – to win seats*.) This month Justin Trudeau, the marquee handsome son of former PM Pierre Trudeau, won the Liberal Party’s leadership by a landslide.
The ruling Conservative Party was ready. Before he remade himself into a thoughtful, short-haired leadership contender, Trudeau was a minor celebrity, then a celebrity MP, famous for all the wrong things, like calling a minister a “piece of shit” during a parliamentary debate (he apologized immediately) and lending his physique to charity events that look silly on video. William Shatner even appeared on This Hour Has 22 Minutes to give Trudeau advice on how to act less pretentious. The Tories welcomed Trudeau to the leadership with goofy, popular ads reminiscent of the old “celebrity” attack on Barack Obama. Trudeau responded:
Because I lack real hobbies I was immediately reminded of this 1988 ad, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
The difference? Snap polls have suggested that Trudeau would lead the Liberals to a comeback if the election were held today. The Tories have two years to Dukakisize him; or to hope that he does it to himself.
*I’ve amended the line here, a reference to Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who famously traveled to Vegas during the campaign and admitted that she was working on her French. I originally said she didn’t live in Canada at that moment – she was merely traveling.