Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba litmus test for Trudeau

  • Print
A standing-room-only crowd greets Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Lorette on Sept. 25.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

A standing-room-only crowd greets Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Lorette on Sept. 25. Photo Store

MONTREAL -- During the course of my travels, I have run into the so-called Trudeau effect at every turn this past year. In British Columbia as in Ontario or, for that matter, Alberta, I have not encountered an audience that was not curious about the prospects of the new Liberal leader.

It did not matter if the room was full of accountants, lawyers or doctors or if the audience was mostly male or mostly female or if it was middle-aged or younger, the first questions always included one and often more about Justin Trudeau.

No other leader in my experience has been on the receiving end of so much early interest.

By and large, the curiosity I encountered was almost equally devoid of hostility and passion. It was often laced with a healthy dose of skepticism. That skepticism seemed to decrease during the long months Trudeau has spent under the media microscope, but some of it still lingers.

Trudeau also elicits a fair amount of interest in his home province, but it does not feel quite as intense as in other areas of the country. But then that is also true of federal politics in general.

For better or for worse, though, in tandem with the decline of the fortunes of the Bloc Québécois and the sovereignty debate, his polarizing effect in Quebec seems to have abated.

Whether voters are becoming increasingly comfortable with Trudeau during the course of his transition from political rock star to third party leader or increasingly indifferent as the novelty wears off is a question that four byelections expected this fall will begin to answer.

Voters in the Bourassa riding of former Liberal MP Denis Coderre will be the first group of Quebecers to pronounce on the federal parties since the 2011 orange wave. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair may not absolutely need a win, but he cannot afford to see his candidate crushed by a Liberal steamroller. Trudeau, on the other hand, cannot lose a riding whose makeup not only mirrors that of his own Papineau seat but also bucked the NDP trend two years ago, without severe repercussions on his leadership.

That is equally true in Toronto Centre, but with an important twist. Yes, the battle for former Liberal interim leader Bob Rae's riding is essentially pitting the Liberals against the NDP, but in the big picture, Conservative strategists have reasons to keep an eye on it.

Outside Quebec, any Liberal comeback would normally begin in the ridings the party most recently lost to Stephen Harper. Unless Trudeau draws the small-c conservative voters who were comfortable with his party under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin back to the fold, he will continue to be in a fight for second place with the NDP in 2015.

From that perspective, the battle for Toronto Centre should be construed not just as a Liberal/NDP scuffle for opposition supremacy, but as the first step in a Liberal counteroffensive to take back the ground lost to the Conservatives in the city and in the GTA in the past three elections.

And then there are the Manitoba ridings of Provencher and Brandon-Souris. Both were won by the ruling Conservatives with more than 65 per cent of the vote in the last election. Those high scores say as much about Michael Ignatieff's failure as about Stephen Harper's success.

Jean Chrétien won the two seats in 1993 and managed to hold Provencher in the following election, in no small part because of the vote split between the Reform/Alliance and the Tories.

But after the Conservatives reunited, the Liberals accelerated their own demise during the course of a succession of mediocre campaigns.

By 2011, the party had fallen to third place in Provencher and to fourth place in Brandon-Souris, with less than 10 per cent of the vote.

In Manitoba, as in Toronto Centre, Trudeau's success or lack thereof in wooing back the moderately conservative voters that abandoned the Liberals in the past decade will say as much -- if not more -- about his prime ministerial prospects as scoring points off the NDP.

 

Chantal Hébert is national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2013 0

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

City Beautiful trailer: How architecture shaped Winnipeg's DNA

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Winnipeg Free Press 090528 STAND UP...(Weather) One to oversee the pecking order, a pack of pelican's fishes the eddies under the Red River control structure at Lockport Thursday morning......
  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Premier Greg Selinger resign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google