Backers fear that missing-in-action, Trudeau losing bid to lead Canada

Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:45am EDT
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By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) - Justin Trudeau, the man who was supposed to lead Canada's Liberals out of the political wilderness, has instead sunk to third place just months from an election, with some in his party complaining he is missing in action.

Born to a sitting prime minister and raised at the foot of power, he presents himself as a kinder, more approachable alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper after nine years of rule by the right-leaning Conservatives and three straight Liberal defeats.

But more than two years into his leadership of the once-powerful centrist Liberals, the 43-year-old father of three has struggled to define himself and been labeled by opponents as unready for office despite his prized political pedigree.

Some critics complain Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau, appears unwilling to go on the road and repeat his message enough times for it to sink in before the Oct. 19 vote.

Former Liberal legislator Dennis Mills, who worked for Trudeau's father - prime minister for 15 years ending in 1984 - took aim at Trudeau's team, saying his handlers needed to be more aggressive.

"All these photo ops are nice, but I think we haven't really seen the inner strength and the passion of the man, and that's because he hasn't been in a situation where that's been allowed to come out," Mills said.

Trudeau's inner circle includes strategist Gerald Butts, campaign co-chair Katie Telford, and Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc. All are in their 30s or 40s.

Asked to respond to the criticisms of his handlers, Trudeau's chief spokeswoman said he and his team "have a clear vision and plan for a better government, not just a different government, and on how we get there."   Continued...

Canada's Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaks at the Assembly of First Nations 36th Annual General Assembly in Montreal July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi