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New rules for picking federal Liberal leader ‘reasonable,’ Trudeau says

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.


Justin Trudeau says he likes the newly announced rules for choosing the next leader of the federal Liberal Party, but is holding off announcing whether he will test them with a bid of his own.

"I think the rules are reasonable. I'm not going to worry too much about the details of it," the 41-year-old Montreal-area MP told reporters after a forum with dozens of young Liberals at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University.

Under the rules, party candidates will have a spending limit of $950,000 and be barred from carrying more than $75,000 in debt. There will be a $75,000 entry fee.

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In the last leadership race in 2006, there was a $3.4-million spending limit. However, some candidates have had problems repaying their debts.

"I think the debt limits means we're not going to have the same challenges we had last time with people who were carrying forward debt for a long time," said Mr. Trudeau.

The contest to pick a leader for the 35-seat party now in third place in the House of Commons is to officially start on Nov. 14 and conclude in April 14, 2013.

"In general, I think the focus of the leadership is going to be to reach out to as many new supporters as possible and renewing the party as much as possible," Mr. Trudeau said.

However, the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau said he wasn't yet ready to talk about his own leadership ambitions.

"When I have something to announce, I promise I'll let the media know. Until then, I am not really talking about it."

Mr. Trudeau has been cast as a candidate in waiting, especially after interim leader Bob Rae's announcement in June that he would not launch a leadership bid.

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Without notes, Mr. Trudeau, in Vancouver for various meetings linked to his role as the party's youth critic, delivered a speech rallying youth to a participation in politics, and denouncing divisive politics he suggested has turned off some voters.

"Right now we have resigned ourselves to voting for the least worst options out there," he told his audience.

However, he denied it was a stump speech for a pending leadership campaign. "This is a speech that I have been giving variations on over the past five years I have been elected," he said.

"This is what I will be talking about, probably for the rest of my political career regardless of the particular position I hold."

Oddly enough, no one in the audience raised the question, during an extended Q&A session, of whether Mr. Trudeau might launch a bid to lead the party his father once led.

On the issue now dominating B.C. politics, Mr. Trudeau said he did not support the proposed $6-billion Northern Gateway project to pipe Alberta oil-sands bitumen to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia.

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"We have to be honest about respecting the science of it. There's a process right now that is being drawn out," he said, referring to hearings on the plan.

"I just hope that the federal government will end up respecting the science behind it. As it stands, from what I have heard and seen and the science I am aware of, it's a very bad idea for the native peoples, it's a bad idea for the Great Bear Rainforest, it's a bad idea for British Columbians who work on the ocean. I'm not a supporter of the Northern Gateway pipeline."

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