The long-anticipated entry of Justin Trudeau into the Liberal leadership race has prompted at least one potential top-tier contender to step aside, but Mr. Trudeau's caucus colleagues insist others will emerge from the ranks to do battle.
Dominic Leblanc will play host to Mr. Trudeau at an event in his home province of New Brunswick on Friday morning. Mr. Leblanc won’t say if he will publicly endorse the man who is, for now, the undisputed front-runner in the contest that ends in April, 2013. But it is clear that’s what is in the offing.
Mr. Trudeau announced his leadership bid in his Montreal riding Tuesday. He then headed to Calgary, long a political wasteland for the Liberals, where he tried to distance himself from the ill-fated policies of his late father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
The elder Trudeau’s National Energy Program, which was introduced in 1980 to address sky-high oil prices but ultimately punished homegrown energy producers, is still reviled in the West.
Well aware of that acrimony, Justin Trudeau chose to take aim at Thomas Mulcair. The NDP Leader has complained that oil-sands development in Alberta has created an environment of so-called Dutch disease, which has hammered Eastern industries. “I promise you, I will never use the wealth of the West as a wedge to gain votes in the East,” he said to applause.
Mr. Trudeau also said he has learned from the mistakes of his party’s past and hopes to lead a movement of Canadians to build the party’s future. He told reporters he is proud of his father and the values for which he stood, but “I have nothing to do with the National Energy Program … I was 10 years old.”
It was while he was growing up in a political family that Mr. Trudeau met Mr. Leblanc, the son of a Liberal MP who went on to become governor-general. It has been rumoured for weeks that Mr. Leblanc would not become a candidate if Mr. Trudeau jumped in.
But others are apparently undaunted by the storm of publicity and the adulation of rank-and-file Liberals that have followed the 40-year-old former teacher. Several Liberal MPs said Wednesday that more than one of their colleagues have informed the caucus of their interest in joining the race.
Marc Garneau, the former astronaut who would seem capable of providing Mr. Trudeau with his stiffest competition, insisted he is unfazed by Mr. Trudeau’s candidacy. “Somebody who is ready to sit on a rocket that’s going to unleash seven million pounds of thrust,” he said, “is not really easily intimidated.”
Joyce Murray, a British Columbia MP, said she is also actively assessing her chances and that Mr. Trudeau’s decision will have no bearing on her own. “Justin brings lots of attention to our leadership race,” she said, “and that’s a good thing.”
But Jim Karygiannis, a Toronto MP who was also testing the waters, said previously that Mr. Trudeau would be impossible to beat and, after consulting with his family, has decided to stay out of the contest.