Justin Trudeau

Justin Pierre James Trudeau, Liberal Party leader, teacher (born 25 December 1971 in Ottawa). BA (McGill) 1994, BEd (UBC) 1998.

The eldest son of prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau initially trained as a teacher in British Columbia. After a short teaching career, he entered politics, winning the riding of Papineau in Québec in 2008. Often referred to as the “rock star” of Canadian politics, he became leader of the Liberal Party on 14 April 2013, winning on the first ballot with nearly 80% of the vote.

Education and Early Career

Justin Trudeau, eldest son of prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau (née Sinclair), was born in Ottawa on Christmas Day, 1971. The son of famous parents, JustinTrudeau spent his early years in the public eye, and accompanied his father on trips around the world. In contrast, for much of his adult life he led a relatively quiet existence. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in literature at McGill University in 1994, Trudeau and a number of friends went on a year-long trip to see the world. He returned to McGill where he started the Bachelor of Education program; two years later he moved to the west coast and finished his Bachelor of Education in 1998 at the University of British Columbia. From 1999 to 2002 Trudeau taught a number of subjects (eg, drama, French, English, social studies, and math) at West Point Grey Academy and Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Vancouver.

While in Vancouver, Trudeau suffered two personal tragedies: the loss of brother Michel in 1998 to an avalanche accident, and the death of his father in 2000 from prostate cancer. Both losses played a role in returning Trudeau to the public eye. In particular, his emotional eulogy at his father’s funeral generated much attention, with the CBC receiving many calls to rebroadcast the speech after its initial airing. Despite the public interest in Trudeau, and speculation about his future in government, it would be several years before he officially entered politics.

In the intervening period Trudeau tested several different careers. In 2002 he began an engineering degree at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, but quit the program in 2003; from 2005 to 2006 Trudeau was a Masters student of Environmental Geography at McGill University. Around the same time he became involved with Katimavik, chairing the national youth service program from 2002 to 2006.

Political Career

In the mid to late 2000s, Tudeau became increasingly active in the Liberal Party, and was appointed chair of the task force on youth renewal following the party’s defeat in the 2006 federal election. After encouragement from several high-ranking Liberals, Trudeau finally decided to enter federal politics, winning the Liberal Party nomination for the riding of Papineau in 2007.

In the federal election of 2008, Trudeau narrowly defeated the Bloc Québécois incumbent to win the riding of Papineau. The Liberal Party itself, however, was not as successful, as the Conservative government won a minority. Trudeau therefore became a member of the Official Opposition (see House of Commons), and was soon appointed Liberal Party critic for multiculturalism and youth, and later for youth, citizenship, and immigration. When Liberal leader Stéphane Dion resigned, some speculated that Trudeau would contend the position, but he quickly denied this possibility and Michael Ignatieffwas acclaimed the new leader of the Liberal Party. During the 2011 federal election, Trudeau was re-elected in his riding, but the Liberals as a whole fell to third-party standing, with the New Democrats becoming the Official Opposition. Again, when Ignatieff resigned as leader, many pointed to Trudeau as a possible contender, someone who could reinvigorate the failing party. For his part, Trudeau would not at first commit to a campaign. Bob Rae became interim leader of the party, and appointed Trudeau as Liberal critic for post-secondary education, youth, and amateur sport. When Rae announced that he would not run for party leader, talk of Trudeau’s potential increased. However, it was not until 12 October 2012 that he announced his bid for the leadership. During the campaign, he was generally acknowledged as the front runner in the leadership race, with polls placing him well ahead of his rivals. Indeed, former leadership candidate Marc Garneau cited this as his reason for withdrawing from the contest in March 2013. On 14 April 2013, Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party on the first ballot with nearly 80% of the vote.

Despite his popularity among Canadians, and his support within the Liberal Party, Trudeau also has his critics. During the leadership campaign, Garneau maintained that his rival was unclear on many policies. This echoed general criticisms that Trudeau was all flair and little substance, and that as an MP he had not staked out a clear position in important policy areas including the economy and foreign affairs. He was also criticized in 2012 for alleging that the Conservative government under Stephen Harper would outlaw abortion and same-sex marriage, and suggesting that he would be more sympathetic to Québec sovereignty if that did happen.

Community Work

Although Trudeau is best known for his family connections and his bid for the Liberal leadership, he has a diverse resumé, including advocacy on several issues. In addition to his work with youth through Katimavik and as a teacher (including a period as snowboard instructor at Whistler), Trudeau has brought attention to avalanche safety. Following his brother’s death in 1998, Trudeau and his family were instrumental in launching the Kokanee Glacier Alpine Campaign for avalanche safety awareness; he also helped secure funding for the Canadian Avalanche Centre. In addition, Trudeau has championed environmental issues, fighting a proposed zinc mine in 2005 due to its potential impact on the Nahanni River and the Nahanni National Park Reserve (NWT), which was originally established by his father and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2006, Trudeau—with Roméo Dallaire—spoke at the Global Day for Darfur rally in Toronto, which called for Canadian involvement in the Darfur crisis. He has also been a panelist on CBC Canada Reads, and has hosted the Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremonies. In 2006, Trudeau played the role of Talbot Mercer Papineau in the 2006 CBC miniseries “The Great War”.