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Papineau divided on its MP Trudeau

Immigrants back him, Bloc district doesn't

MONTREAL -- Justin Trudeau's Montreal constituents are contemplating the idea their MP is on the verge of becoming the next Liberal leader and a prime-ministerial contender.

The results of the party's leadership race will be announced Sunday in Ottawa, a contest Trudeau is widely believed to have all but locked up. Recent polls have suggested the Liberals are climbing their way back into contention with the help of Trudeau's high-profile candidacy.

The prospect, however, that the man with the famous family roots could be chosen Liberal leader and eventually prime minister was met this week with mixed reaction in his Papineau riding.

For Trudeau, political victories in his home riding have always been anything but a sure thing.

The largely lower-middle-class urban area north of downtown includes a contingent of voters who have historically supported the pro-independence Bloc Québécois.

Trudeau first won the seat from the Bloc in a tight 2008 race, a margin of victory he widened three years later.

A bedrock of his support is centred in the neighbourhoods that are home to Papineau's big immigrant communities.

"He's our man," said King Kwateng, owner of Produits de Beaute Mama Africaine, a store in the Parc Extension district that specializes in hair products and wigs. "The first time I saw this guy on television, I said, 'This guy is a future prime minister of Canada.' "

Kwateng said that moment came in 2000 when Trudeau delivered the eulogy at the state funeral for his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The people in Papineau link Trudeau's popularity here to his visibility, charisma and knack for connecting with locals.

Inside a nearby coffee shop, George Georgiou estimates 90 per cent of the area's Greek population backs Trudeau, himself included.

Georgiou, who moved to Parc Extension from Greece more than 40 years go, said people here like Trudeau because of his energy and his bloodline.

"I would say among the immigrants like us... Trudeau is very popular," said Georgiou, who used to carry around a photo of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in his jacket pocket.

But he predicts that lineage will be a major obstacle for his MP across Quebec and in the riding if Trudeau bids for the prime ministership in the 2015 election.

Further east in Papineau, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's legacy during constitutional battles is still deeply unpopular among some voters.

Many in the riding's Villeray neighbourhood remain skeptical of his 41-year-old son's abilities and shudder at the thought of another Trudeau eventually becoming prime minister.

"I hope it doesn't happen," said Christiane Vogel, as she walked near Trudeau's riding office.

"I don't support Justin Trudeau at all. I don't think he has enough experience. He's not ready to do it."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 A7

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