It’s not Trudeaumania yet, but Kamloops members of the federal Liberal party are largely happy to have Justin Trudeau in the hunt to lead the venerable organization.
After months of speculation, Trudeau, the 40-year-old MP for Montreal-Papineau, has officially launched his campaign for the Liberal leadership.
Bob Rae has been interim leader since the party was devastated in the 2011 federal election, which saw then-leader Michael Ignatieff lose his seat and step down.
While Trudeau is the most prominent party member seeking the position so far, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding association president Murray Todd is hoping to see a full slate of “engaging” candidates by the time the campaign officially begins on Nov. 14.
But, he said, Trudeau’s bid does bring excitement to the party’s third such race since 2006.
“He’s popular, we certainly can’t deny that, can we? He’s energetic, he’s a sharp guy and he’s dedicated. He would be a good candidate,” Todd said.
Chris Wilkinson, riding association treasurer, is still making up his mind about the candidate, but said there are aspects of Trudeau that are attractive for the party.
“I think we need the youth of Justin Trudeau,” he said. “Definitely, the infusion of some youth will help us along.”
However Ben Gayfer, chairman of the Young Liberals in Kamloops, said he needs to see more from Trudeau than youth before he’ll throw his support behind him.
“I’m waiting for policy from him more than anything,” Gayfer said.
“He’s obviously a very influential person because of his name and he’s made a name for himself also in his writing. But, I think waiting to see what he has to say for national policy would be the first thing, really.”
Gayfer said finding someone with charisma and an ability to connect with voters will be key — as will finding someone who has the skills to better organize the party.
“Someone maybe who doesn’t necessarily have a top-down approach, but can embrace the grassroots.”
Trudeau’s biggest Kamloops booster so far may be a former colleague of his father.
Len Marchand, Sr. served in Pierre Trudeau’s government as Liberal MP for Kamloops in the 1960s and 1970s and was appointed to the Senate by the senior Trudeau in 1984.
“I don’t know what some people have, but he seems to have a charisma that is very much like his father’s,” Marchand said.
“I remember when his father came here in ’68 the first time. We had about 9,000 people turn out in North Kamloops. I don’t know what makes that go, but he does have that charisma.”
When contacted by KTW, Trudeau’s Kamloops colleague in the House of Commons declined to share her thoughts on her fellow MP.
Conservative MP Cathy McLeod said through her assistant that the Liberal leadership is an “internal process” and it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to comment.
The election of the next Liberal leader will take place on April 14, 2013.