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Justin Trudeau image cropped from a showcase event photograph and rendered as oil painting

Justin Trudeau

Hail to the New LPC Leader!

"I learned an incredible ammount over the last six months and I plan on learning even more over the next two years"

Justin Trudeau's acceptance speech was just right for the occasion. While expressing a range of views and values which could come from the heart of any true Liberal, he made sure one message was not missed: His election represents the transfer of power to a new generation. This will help the renewed and invigorated Liberal Party push the so-called sponsorship scandal into past history.

He won the leadership with a vast majority of votes from members and supporters of the party. The other leadership candidates and other more experienced members of the party seem genuinely happy to pledge their continued support for him, not just because he provides hope for a Liberal win in the next election, but also because he shows that attractive mix of confidence, modesty and respect for others which can marshal a talented team for the best kind of teamwork.

If you have read some of my comments during the leadership race, you will know that I was not totally happy with the way the supporter category was used. You will know also that I did not see Trudeau as my number one choice for leader. But I did not see any candidate as my number one choice. It was with no excitement that I cast my ballot. But I saw something good in every candidate, and at least could take heart in the clear evidence that the Liberal Party of Canada continues to attract talented, thoughtful people who do not trivialize complexity, but seek balance in governance through policy based on evidence, not ideology, and responsibility, not power.

My only qualm is that, although Justin Trudeau speaks well for an audience, he is not generally articulate in the way that Bob Rae is, for example, and has a tendency to overact his part at times.

This will improve with experience as he develops a repertoire of well-formed statements and becomes more confident and comfortable in his role. But for now he is not adept at impromptu communication. He will be learning on the job how to deal more deftly with a reporter's question and when to stop speaking. Driven by his passion and active mind he may want to express ideas as they come to him. But less said in the short-term can be more communicated over the long term. Justin needs to relax in the knowledge that he will now have many frequent future opportunities to communicate ideas via well-formulated statements succinctly supported by sound argument. Moreover, people will generally grasp ideas more easily when delivered in small packages as modules of a greater vision over time.

An academic and educator typically is not good at giving the short answer to a question, and does not necessarily start a line of thought with a statement which can function as a take-home message. But the media and the general public mostly served by them want short, easily grasped answers. If the reported response to a question is not immediately clear, it will be interpreted in any way the recipient chooses, or they will allow some other commentator to interpret it for them. Having volunteer to lead a political party, Justin Trudeau has made a commitment to present himself and the party well via the media. He must come to grips with the art of feeding their need while faithfully representing the Liberal views and values.

Justin told Peter Mansbridge and CBC viewers that he plans to be learning a lot in the next two years. We will be watching, and many of us cheering for every advance in his political maturity. He should gain skills in effective and strategic communication within the real-time jostle of politics and media exposure. He has to sound like the next Prime Minister, because many votes will be won on the basis of style as much as substance. A majority of Canadians now see that the present Harper-controlled Conservative government is a disaster. It shuns scientific evidence, has no care to notice the value of anything beyond its immediate monetary value within an old economic model, is too simple-minded to perceive the complexity of the real world, and values dirty marketing tactics for power above transparency, debate, consensus and evidence-based decision making. As an alternative, unlike the Liberal Party, the NDP is less able to represent most Canadians despite Thomas Mulcair's attempt to move the NDP toward the centre of the political spectrum. If, beyond merely acting like a leader, Trudeau begins to act as a leader, I expect there will be some new recruits to the Liberal Party from both right and left before the next election.