Canada's new Trudeau channels Kennedy and Obama, but can he win?

Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:13pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - An eloquent farewell to flamboyant former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau catapulted his son Justin Trudeau into the public eye 13 years ago, as he riveted Canadians with his emotional "Je t'aime, papa" goodbye.

Now the photogenic former drama teacher and ski instructor has all but won the leadership of the Liberal Party, the political force that ruled Canada for more years than any other before slumping to its worst-ever showing in the 2011 election.

Trudeau, who is expected to be crowned Liberal leader on Sunday, has captured enough affection that the Liberals are nudging the ruling Conservatives off top spot in the polls, although a federal election is still 30 months away.

Fluently bilingual in English and French, Canada's two official languages, Trudeau, 41, combines elements of the dashing Kennedy clan with the message of hope that propelled a relatively inexperienced Barack Obama into the U.S. presidency.

He dismisses suggestions that his wavy hair and good looks outweigh his political gravitas, and even some opponents say Canadians appear ready to overlook any shortcomings.

"Justin's a fine young man...He's got a lot going for him," former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, leader of the opposition for the last year of Pierre Trudeau's time in office, told Reuters. "Anybody who takes Justin Trudeau lightly does so at his own peril."

The Liberals have yet to put forward a platform for the 2015 election, but would likely row back on some Conservative corporate tax cuts and tighten environmental rules.

The Conservatives, in power since 2006, are fighting to freshen up their team and enthuse voters about policies that include balancing the budget by 2015.   Continued...

Leadership candidate Justin Trudeau walks to the stage with his wife Sophie Gregoire during the Liberal Party of Canada Leadership Candidate Showcase in Toronto in this April 6, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files