In party leadership debate, Canada's Trudeau calls for fresh ideas

Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:41pm EST
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By Russ Blinch

(Reuters) - The race to find a new head of Canada's minority Liberal Party is about ushering in someone with "vibrant ideas" who can help the struggling middle class, Justin Trudeau, the son of charismatic former Canadian leader Pierre Trudeau, said on Sunday.

The younger Trudeau, lauded for his charisma as much as he is criticized for lacking substance, is part of a crowded field of nine candidates vying to bring the once dominant party out of the political wilderness. He is a member of Parliament from a Montreal district.

"For the first time, this is about bringing forth a new generation of leadership with bold ideas, with strength and vision," Trudeau said in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the first of a series of leadership debates.

Trudeau is seeking to recreate the excitement that surrounded his father when he was first elected in 1968, with the ultimate aim of unseating the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which won a majority in 2011.

With an army of followers on Twitter, Trudeau is the front-runner in the race to head a party that has shrunk to third place in Parliament for the first time in its 145-year history.

Trudeau, like his late father, stands for a united Canada and is a foe of separatist forces that have dogged politics in his home province of Quebec. The separatist Parti Quebecois was returned to power in a narrow provincial victory late last year.

Marc Garneau, a former Canadian astronaut and member of Parliament, spoke of protecting the environment, saying he had been around Earth hundreds of times and knew something about protecting the planet.

"This leadership race must be about new ideas," said Garneau, seen as a possible challenger to Trudeau's front-runner status.   Continued...

Federal Liberal Party leadership candidates Justin Trudeau (C), Karen McCrimmon (L), and Joyce Murray speak during a leadership debate in Vancouver, British Columbia January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark