Globe Editorial

Judge Justin Trudeau on his record and policy positions — not his family lineage

The Globe and Mail

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau speaks briefly with media as he enters party caucus meetings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Justin Trudeau has not yet made official his decision to seek the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, and already two narratives have developed that could damage his chances. One is the claim that he could never win support in Alberta and British Columbia because of residual antipathy toward his father. The other is that he has a wafer-thin CV. Neither criticism is fair.

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The concept of the impossible sell in Canada’s two westernmost provinces is based on a string of extremely tenuous assumptions. To accept the thesis is to believe that the two provinces have not changed at all in three decades and are instead mired in the political equivalent of a fugue state. That’s a pretty uncharitable view of Canada’s booming West.

Also uncharitable is the idea that the populations of Alberta and British Columbia hold a son personally responsible for his father’s political sins, such as they were. While they share a certain charisma and panache, there is no evidence the younger Mr. Trudeau has inherited his father’s tin ear to Western concerns and will inevitably shove a national energy program, or something akin to it, down their throats.

There is only one hereditary office in this country, and that one is above politics. While some doors might initially be opened, or closed, because of his surname, ultimately Justin Trudeau will succeed or fail on his own merits, not on the basis of who his father is.

With respect to the CV criticism, there is no doubt that Mr. Trudeau has a great deal to prove. It is fair to ask whether he has the stuff of leadership, especially during tumultuous economic times. But he should not be dismissed solely because he was a high school teacher rather than a lawyer. While there is such a thing as a degree in political science, there is no defined credential for politics. Most Canadian prime ministers have been lawyers, but then Alexander Mackenzie was a stonemason. Governing is not based on credentialism; if it were, Michael Ignatieff would occupy 24 Sussex Drive.

Those who oppose Mr. Trudeau inside and outside the Liberal Party will need to come up with something better. They might start by looking at Mr. Trudeau’s own parliamentary record and his policy positions, once they’re announced.