"You have to run!”
“We need you!”
“YOU HAVE TO RUN!”
They are two young women, university students, and they are almost screaming here in the middle of the Carleton University campus, their breath visible enough on such a crisp late November evening it seems the words are hanging from their open mouths.
“YOU HAVE TO RUN!”
The writing on the wall, so to speak.
He has heard it all before — and will hear it a whole lot more this coming week as the Liberal Party of Canada heads to Montreal in search of someone who can bring the lost magic back.
“I sometimes feel like running,” he says in a voice so small it barely mists.
“Running away.”Justin Trudeau is 34 years old. As has become the social phenomenon of North America in the 21st century, he has pushed being a teenager right through his 20s and has now reached an age where he both profits from and pays for his lack of seasoning.
Some, particularly those who scan the grey prospects of the leadership stage, see him as a messiah, Pierre Trudeau incarnate at best, Pierre Trudeau Lite at worst, but all the same a future hope. Others cringe at the thought, particularly those of a certain age who perhaps no longer recall what it is to be young and a bit naive and refreshingly passionate about a world that will not hear them out — as well as sometimes acting, well, downright silly.
They come at him everywhere he goes.
“We need you,” presses restaurateur Claudio Fracassi. “We need to get excited about this country again.
“We need Trudeaumania!”
The son flinches. It is no longer 1968; it is 2006. He is not Pierre Elliott Trudeau; he is Justin Pierre James Trudeau. Comparisons are simple; comparisons are odious. In John English's new book on the father, Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, he says that Pierre completed his schooling and then “spent the next decade and a half seemingly as a dilettante, writing articles for newspapers and journals, driving fast cars and a Harley-Davidson motorbike, escorting beautiful women to concerts and restaurants, travelling the globe wherever he wished, founding political groupings that went nowhere. . . .” Then, in 1965 — “suddenly, or so it seemed” — he ran and won a seat and, three years later, was leader and prime minister “amid a media frenzy usually reserved for rock stars, not politicians.”
Justin Trudeau does not have the luxury of coming out of nowhere. It is, however, somewhat possible to describe the son's early adult years as dilettantish: teaching snowboarding in Whistler, taking boxing lessons, signing up for various causes, speaking out on issues, appearing, somewhat surprisingly, as a host of the Giller literary awards, acting in a CBC film on the life of First World War hero Talbot Papineau, dabbling in school and politics.
But just as it has been said that Pierre Trudeau also did substantial matters in those years — getting involved in a famous strike, starting up a political journal, doing legal work — the son has had his own accomplishments that have their own value: teaching elementary school and high school, serving as chair of the Katimavik youth project, returning to McGill recently to complete a master's in environmental geography.
Restoration movements are so often disappointed in their hopes when the pretender fails to revive the past glories of the old ruling house or party.
The people who have made Justin Trudeau into the Canadian version of Bonnie Prince Charlie are pining for a glorious age that largely existed only in their own minds, and a vision of Canada that has degraded the nation and failed in all its aims.
As it appears that the old Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto elites must make place for the new wealth and power of Calgary, and the paternalistic vision of the bilingual, multicultural welfare state and peacekeeper to the world has degenerated into tribalism, cronyism and impotence, the old guard has pinned all its hopes on the son to restore the works of the father.
But the Glorious Counterrevolution cannot be undone.
He will no come back again.