Yesterday marked one year since the Liberal party of Canada elected Justin Trudeau as their new leader. Some Liberals chose an unorthodox way to mark the anniversary, but most should see it as a happy one. Trudeau won in a landslide but was still considered a risky choice at the time. It was a risk Liberals are surely glad they took. As with any risky bet, it’s all about timing.
Trudeau won with an impressive 78% of the vote on the first ballot. Against an experienced group of candidates when a perceived lack of experience was considered his big drawback, the margin of his victory is impressive. With any job interview experience is of course a factor. However, when that interview is being conducted by thousands of voters it is a factor that can be overlooked. Particularly if the applicant has both name recognition and personality in their favor. It was here Trudeau was simply untouchable by the field.
Almost immediately after he won the leadership Conservatives began running attack ads against Trudeau. The ads attempt to portray the Liberal leader as out of his depth, using quotes from Trudeau himself. Some of which are taken wildly out of context. In an excellent response, Trudeau used a clip from the ads in one of his own denouncing negative politics.
Perhaps the clearest sign of how successful the year has been for Trudeau is that the Conservatives are still running those ads. It’s a clear acknowledgement of who they see as their biggest threat. The problem for the Conservatives being the ads have done little to slow down Liberal momentum.
In virtually ever measurable category the last year has been a success for Trudeau and for the Liberals. Their numbers for memberships, donations, and polling are up. The party may be in third place in the House of Commons, but that’s about the only place you will find them behind the Conservatives and the NDP.
The year has of course had moments Trudeau would likely prefer to forget. Whether it was his expressed admiration for China, or poor joke about Russia’s motivations in the Ukraine, there are times Trudeau seems determined to keep Conservative’s attack ad team in business. There have been reports Liberal fundraising increases when they run, so maybe this too is strategic.
More likely these gaffes stem from a strong desire Trudeau has to relate to people. He believes it is more important to speak honestly with people and risk the occasional misstep then to to stick to safe, scripted talking points. An admirable approach which not only resonates with people but also practically concedes these moments will happen again, diminishing their weight if they do.
The Liberal party was in a distant third place when they elected Trudeau. To me that was always one of the best reasons to have done so. If you are going to make a risky choice, the time to do it is certainly when you are down. The Liberals bet big in electing Trudeau, and it seems Canadians may be getting ready to do the same in 2015.