Justin Trudeau announced yesterday he wants to carry on his father's legacy by running in a Montreal riding next election, the same day former party leader Bill Graham said he would step aside to allow a fresh face to vie for his Toronto seat.
Bob Rae, who placed third in the Liberal leadership race, said he was seriously considering seeking the nomination in Toronto Centre riding as the party gears up for an anticipated spring vote.
Both Mr. Rae, the former Ontario NDP premier, and Mr. Trudeau, eldest son of prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, face stiff competition for the nominations and neither has asked Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion to appoint them as candidates.
Mr. Dion's ability to attract stars comes amid growing questions over his leadership skills and a rift in the party over whether to extend controversial anti-terrorism measures. Polls this week showed the party's fortune's dropping and Mr. Dion not catching on with voters.
Speaking on CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live, Mr. Dion referred to the pair as part of his "dream team."
Mr. Trudeau, 35, confirmed speculation he will seek the nomination in Papineau. Now held by Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot, the riding had been a long-time Liberal seat, occupied most recently by two foreign affairs ministers, André Ouellet and Pierre Pettigrew.
"There is no question for me that I wanted to do this, that I wanted to fight for it. I'm not the kind of person who enjoys getting handed things despite what the newspapers like to say," Mr. Trudeau said.
He was referring to speculation that he had his eye on Outremont, his home riding and one of the safest Liberal seats in Quebec. It was recently vacated by former transport minister Jean Lapierre, who stepped down to become a political talk-show host. A senior party source said that Mr. Trudeau was gently told by senior officials to back down from his pursuit of Outremont.
Yesterday, Mr. Dion warned that Mr. Trudeau faces a "tough fight" for the Papineau nomination. But he lauded him for not taking the easy way out and asking for an appointment. Mr. Trudeau will likely face a stiff challenge from a popular municipal counsellor.
Mr. Trudeau was a strong supporter of Gerard Kennedy's bid for the leadership. Mr. Kennedy dropped off the ballot early on and threw his support behind Mr. Dion, helping him beat Michael Ignatieff.
"He's not heading into a convention that will necessarily be easy," Mr. Dion told reporters after giving a speech at the University of Montreal. "It proves he's a young man with a lot of courage and a lot to offer."
Mr. Lapierre concurred that Mr. Trudeau does not face an easy time.
"Papineau is going to be a rough seat," he said. "Even his nomination might be rough . . . he will be tested by fire."
Mr. Lapierre said Mr. Trudeau has to overcome the view of many Quebeckers that he does not have his father's intellectual heft. He said that some Quebeckers see him as "never having done anything with his two hands."
"People see him like a poster boy," he said. "He'll have to prove he has something in his belly."
But Mr. Trudeau said he has canvassed influential people in the riding and received encouragement to run: "For the past couple of weeks I've been working in the riding, talking to a number of people, the Liberal association, influential people within the riding to ensure that it was a good fit. And they have come out very strongly in favour of my candidacy and that for me has been the big thing for me. I didn't go somewhere where I wasn't wanted."
The former teacher, who delivered a moving eulogy at his father's funeral in 2000, said yesterday that he did not want to talk about what his bid would mean to his father. But in an interview later with CTV he said that his father had always told him to make sure that what he did would make the world a better place.
He said he was embarking on a new chapter of his life.
Mr. Graham, 68, a former foreign affairs and defence minister, is also embarking on a new chapter of his life, one that may include a book about Canada in the world and his experiences as the foreign minister. He will step down when the election is called but said yesterday he expects one this spring.