Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trudeau train on track to top

Glamorous Grit set for leadership bid

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OTTAWA -- Two things are clear about Justin Trudeau: First, he has star power, and second, he knows how to use it.

The oldest son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau is all but certain to launch his bid for the Liberal leadership soon. He has assembled a campaign team, and earlier this week, that team leaked to media outlets in Quebec the announcement is coming Tuesday.

Trudeau himself was mum hours after the leak when he arrived for the Liberals' weekly caucus meeting on Parliament Hill. His zipped lips added to the intrigue of a story he has cleverly allowed to build to a roaring crescendo.

He spent much of 2011 and the early part of this year denying he was going to run. It was too soon, he said, and his children were too young.

But then Trudeau defeated Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match in March, interim leader Bob Rae unexpectedly pulled out of the race and the denials changed to maybes.

For the past several months, the speculation Trudeau would jump into the Liberal leadership race generated the kind of excitement most political wannabes can only dream about.

His noncommittal attitude about it makes it appear as if the party -- and even some members of the media and public -- are begging him to do it.

"You can hardly accuse him of being an opportunist, unless the Conservatives say all signs of ambition are evidence of opportunism," said Allen Mills, a University of Winnipeg politics professor and former provincial Liberal candidate.

Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North), Manitoba's sole Liberal MP, said the whole process thus far works in Trudeau's favour.

"He's not jumping up and down and saying, 'Pick me, pick me,' " Lamoureux said. "We have a party and, I would argue, a country that's in need, and he is answering the call."

Trudeau clearly is attractive to Liberals in Manitoba, much as he is elsewhere. He can draw huge crowds who line up after he speaks for a desired photo with the young man and his great hair.

Lamoureux said Trudeau is more popular in Winnipeg North than he is. As evidence, Lamoureux was approached Friday morning in a Winnipeg McDonald's by a man with his thumbs up.

" 'Trudeaumania, yes,' " Lamoureux said the man told him.

A Forum Research poll last week suggested the Conservatives are at 35 per cent support, the NDP at 30 and the Liberals at 25. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the Liberals are an almost embarrassing 13 per cent in support to the Conservatives' 47 per cent and the NDP's 33.

But the same Forum poll found a Trudeau-led Liberal party would win a majority government with 39 per cent support, compared to 32 per cent for the Conservatives and 20 for the NDP. With Trudeau at the Liberal helm, the party's support in Manitoba and Saskatchewan jumps to 27 per cent, ahead of the NDP at 25 per cent but still well below the Conservatives' 45 per cent.

Trudeau's popularity, particularly with those under 30, is noteworthy.

Forum Research president Lorne Bizonoff said this should be viewed with an asterisk, as Trudeau hasn't been tested yet and the opposition has not had a chance to define him.

"You never know what will happen," Bizonoff said.

He said the most interesting thing is Trudeau's support mirrors his father's -- strong in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, but weak in the West.

Trudeau does not yet have a Manitoba team in place, but his people have been calling around looking for support.

"He won't have a problem putting together a team," Lamoureux said.

Trudeau doesn't have everyone on his side. Some Manitoba Liberals are shying away because of bitterness that interim leader Rae was pushed out and a belief Trudeau had a hand in it. Others say they're undecided because there are as many Liberals who dislike Trudeau because of who he is as there are those who like him.

One Liberal, who asked to speak anonymously, said his biggest concern is Trudeau won't face any competition.

"A coronation is never good. Landslides lead to arrogance and to where the Liberal party is today."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 A12

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