Canadian Liberal lawmaker Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, will run for the leadership of the party his father led for more than 16 years.
Trudeau announced his candidacy at an event in the Montreal electoral district he currently represents. The Liberals, once dubbed Canada’s natural governing party because it won 21 of 31 elections between 1896 and 2004, had its worst-ever showings in the last two elections.
“The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of the Liberal Party,” Trudeau told supporters at an event held at a Montreal high school to announce his candidacy. “ I want to lead a movement of Canadians that seeks to build, not rebuild. To create, not recreate.” His father had two stints as prime minister: between 1968 and 1979, and from 1980 to 1984.
Trudeau enters the race, which will end at a party convention in April, with significant public support. A Sept. 26 telephone poll of 1,707 Canadians by Forum Research found a Liberal Party led by Trudeau would have the support of 39 percent of voters, compared with 32 percent for the ruling Conservatives and 20 percent for the New Democratic Party.
In contrast, the Liberals currently have the support of 25 percent of voters, according to a telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians taken Sept. 4 to Sept. 9 by Nanos Research. That trails both the Conservatives at 32 percent and the NDP at 30 percent.
Trudeau was born in 1971 while his father was prime minister. He taught high school in Vancouver after graduating with degrees from Montreal’s McGill University and the University of British Columbia. Trudeau ran for office in 2008, where he won election in the central Montreal district of Papineau, defeating an incumbent candidate from the separatist Bloc Quebecois party.
Trudeau’s relative lack of political experience won’t be a liability in the leadership race, according to Liberal lawmaker Scott Brison.
“I think he’s underestimated by a lot of people,” Brison, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2006, said in a Sept. 18 interview. “He’s like anyone else, he’s got his strengths and he would acknowledge he’s got areas where he can learn and grow.”
The Liberals are currently being led on an interim basis by Bob Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario, after their last leader Michael Ignatieff resigned following the 2011 election, where Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a majority of seats in the House of Commons and the NDP took over as the largest opposition party.
The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, down from the 77 in the 2008 election. In the 2000 election, they held 172 of 301 seats. The Liberal seat total and share of the 2011 vote -- 19 percent -- were the lowest since Canada was founded in 1867.