Pierre Trudeau's ghost haunted Roy Thomson Hall last night. Stephen Harper has been doing battle with that ghost since he entered public life. And, last night, Tom Mulcair tried to call it from the grave. Michael Harris writes:
Several times during this entertainment, Mulcair linked Bill C-51 to the invocation of the War Measures Act. As Tommy Douglas had stood against the War Measures Act in 1970, Mulcair’s NDP was now standing up against Bill C-51 — unlike Justin Trudeau, he insisted.
The Liberal leader stole Harper’s family values turf by standing up for his famous father, who died exactly 15 years ago yesterday. Justin defended Pierre Trudeau from the attacks of the two other leaders with whom he shared the stage. He talked about his pride in being the son of such a man as Canada’s most famous prime minister — a stark contrast to the image of Pierre Trudeau offered by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. “Fifteen years ago tonight he passed away," Justin reminded his audience, "and he wouldn’t want us fighting battles of the past.”
Even committed Harperite Tasha Kheiriddin admitted that Trudeau won the night:
But even if you disagree vehemently with his positions, you couldn’t deny that he delivered them with conviction. Throughout the night, he clearly articulated Liberal policies, defended them passionately, threw in some good zingers (describing Stephen Harper’s northern strategy as “all sled, no dogs”) and, most importantly, didn’t trip up. And so, Trudeau won last night’s debate.
Perhaps, Harris suggests, that's because Trudeau -- who was supposed to be not ready for prime time -- is a better politician than either Harper or Mulcair:
It started with the arrival of his bus at the place Toronto’s mucky mucks gather to celebrate culture. While both the other leaders pulled up at the main entrance and quickly disappeared inside, Trudeau’s bus stopped 50 meters from the venerable front doors.
A cavalcade of acolytes poured out, Justin following closely behind. It had the feel of a heavyweight boxer making his way to the ring for the main event minus the hoodie and the shadow boxing. Sort of like Mick Jagger taking to the stage at the El Mocambo in another era. A rock star in the age of the rock star.
Trudeau waded into the crowd of supporters standing behind the ropes on the sidewalk with that big bear embrace that excites royal photographers. The money shot. The guy with the royal jelly embracing the great unwashed. Democracy.
Time will tell.