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Policy-schmolicy: Just get me some buzz

By: Mark Gentili - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Aug 26, 2013 - 1:28 PM |
Many people believe our next prime minister has already been chosen.
Boxer, snowboarder, teacher, father, son of a PM — Justin Trudeau seems a shoo-in today. With an election two years away, there’s still time for him to put his foot in his mouth a few times, and one poorly chosen word could bring Trudeau’s dreams of Camelot North crashing down around him.

But the Liberals have taken an interesting tack with their photogenic young leader, one they haven’t taken before. It’s a modern strategy for the Twitter and Facebook generation: build his profile, buoy it with his pedigree and forget about policy details.

So far, the strategy seems to be working.

There’s no doubt Trudeau the Younger has injected excitement into Canadian politics not seen since the days of Trudeau the Elder. Wherever he goes, he receives a reception more befitting a Hollywood star than a leader of a Canadian political party. With his baby brown eyes and luxuriant locks, the party is happy to capitalize on his soap-opera good looks, leaving debate over policy details for another time.

There’s no doubt his looks and his facility with social media have attracted the attention of young Canadians, voting age and otherwise. Heck, if he can draw young voters into political involvement, more power to him. Government works better when more citizens are engaged.

Using social media to appeal to those young Canadians is a strategy that is working well for him thus far. Look at the recent story on the fact he and wife, Sophie Gregoire, are expecting their third child. Not much of a story really, but that piece was born of a Trudeau tweet.

Even his relative silence seems strategic. Galvanize support around his image, allow supporters to imprint their own priorities on the vacuum of his opinion and you have the makings of a winner.

However, that silence was broken twice this month, and the topics selected for Trudeau to wade into the dirty world of public opinion were strategically interesting.

The issue of legalizing marijuana — and Trudeau’s admission he smoked the stuff within the last three years — likely won’t hurt him any. Guaranteed to get headlines, it’s an issue polls show most Canadians support (in some fashion or another) and one which sets him at odds with Stephen Harper.

The pot debate is one Canada must deal (yes, that was a pun) with, so for someone with Trudeau’s profile to be so open about it was refreshing. It may steal him a few votes from the NDP – not to mention apolitical pot smokers who may cast a ballot for Trudeau on that issue alone.

Trudeau might just be what the PMO needs — a leader who seems to have a vision of and for Canada, rather than a plan. A leader who communicates with his constituents directly, through social media, rather than through policy based on opinion polls. The question is, are Canadian voters — by and large older than Trudeau’s 193,000 Twitter followers — ready for that?

Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life.
Mark Gentili

Mark Gentili

Managing Editor

@MarkGentili

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