OTTAWA, April 15 (Reuters) - The governing Conservative Party gave Justin Trudeau no honeymoon in his new role as leader of the Liberal Party, with attack ads launched on Monday that questioned if he has the judgment to run Canada.
Canada’s next federal election is not till October 2015 but the Conservatives clearly are concerned that Trudeau, 41, may be able to consolidate the left-of-center votes, which are now split between the Liberals and the opposition New Democrats.
The ads, on television and on a Conservative website, www.justinoverhishead.ca, show Trudeau stripping down to his undershirt during a charity gala and highlight controversial comments from the new Liberal leader, whose father Pierre was Canadian prime minister on two occasions between 1968 and 1984.
“We know Justin Trudeau has a famous last name, but does he have the experience to be prime minister?” the narrator in one of the ads asks, pointing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s record in dealing with the recent recession.
“And Justin Trudeau? Well, he’s been a camp counselor, a white-water rafting instructor, a drama teacher for two years, a member of Parliament with one of the worst attendance records. And now he thinks he can run Canada? Justin Trudeau - he’s in way over his head.”
The Conservatives also refer to Trudeau musing about wanting to make his home province of Quebec a separate country if it became much more conservative, as well as a remark in which he questioned the use of “barbaric” to describe spousal abuse and so-called honor-killings of women. He later apologized for his comment.
Trudeau won 80 percent of the weighted vote in a weekend Liberal leadership election after a candidacy that propelled the party ahead of the Conservatives in some polls. In the 2011 election the Liberals slumped to third-place in the House of Commons for the first time.
In an op-ed piece in Monday’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Trudeau said he has been upfront in declaring he does not have all the answers to problems facing Canada.
“No one person does, in Canada or anywhere else in the developed world,” he said. “Indeed, Canadians should be deeply suspicious of any political leader who claims to have all the answers. While I may not have all the answers, I am certain that together, we Canadians do.”
In his acceptance speech on Sunday night, Trudeau said he expected Conservative attacks. The Tories defined the image of two of his predecessors, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, with attack ads from which they never recovered.
But some pundits say Conservative ads might backfire, possibly because of fatigue with negativity or because people might not like to see attacks on a young man whom they watched grow up.