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The Globe and Mail

Potential opponents to Trudeau leadership bid scarce

Justin Trudeau on the front lawn of Parliament Hill, June, 2012.


The field of potential candidates for the Liberal leadership race is thinning out as Justin Trudeau gets ready to launch his bid next week with events in Montreal and Mississauga.

Many Liberals are advocating against a coronation, but some of the best-known Liberal MPs have so far not joined the race to replace Interim Leader Bob Rae on April 14, party insiders and supporters noted.

Montreal MP and former Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre is putting aside his hopes of leading the Liberal Party for now and is focused on a run in the city's mayoral race next year, party sources said. Mr. Coderre will announce his final decision in November, but Liberal insiders said that he has not been building a leadership bid.

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Liberal sources added that New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc has failed to this point to resurrect the leadership team that he had gathered in 2009. Party insiders said there is no sense that Mr. LeBlanc is ready to run against his childhood friend, Mr. Trudeau.

In addition, all evidence suggests that the Liberals should abandon their dream of luring Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney into the fold, with bank officials on Thursday pointing to his past rejection of a candidacy in a televised interview.

In that context, Liberal sources said they expect that Mr. Trudeau's main opponent will be Montreal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau. However, Mr. Garneau is still building his team, and there are questions about his state of readiness and ability to take on Mr. Trudeau at the Ottawa convention.

"He wants to go," said a Liberal source. "It's not clear that he has an infrastructure around him yet, so that may prove prohibitive."

Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Garneau did not return phone calls on Thursday, and Mr. Coderre refused to comment on his political future.

Mr. Trudeau, meanwhile, has already built up a battle-ready team, including his brother, Sacha, as well as Liberal staffers with experience in Ottawa and a series of provincial capitals, notably Toronto.

Sources said Mr. Trudeau will officially launch his bid next Tuesday in his riding of Papineau, a multi-ethnic riding in the heart of Montreal. The date of the launch, Oct. 2, coincides with the birthday of Mr. Trudeau's youngest brother, Michel, who died in an avalanche 14 years ago.

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Two days later, on Thursday, Mr. Trudeau is scheduled to be in Mississauga at an event hosted by former Liberal MPs Omar Alghabra and Navdeep Bains.

"I've never seen so much buzz. People who never wanted to have anything to do with politics want to come," Mr. Alghabra said in an interview. "His name generates excitement and curiosity and interest, and that's very good."

There will be approximately 300 people at Thursday's event at a banquet hall, Mr. Alghabra said. Like many Liberals, he said the party will benefit from a vigorously fought leadership race.

"As a party, we need a robust leadership and an opportunity for Liberals to engage in ideas and to decide on the future," Mr. Alghabra said. "The leadership process will really test our candidates, it will test Justin."

A number of other Liberal MPs are calling for a race, which includes a $75,000 entry fee and a $950,000 spending limit.

"I don't think a coronation is good for the party," PEI MP Sean Casey said. "I think it's clear that Justin has widespread appeal, but I expect and I hope that there will be others."

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Mr. Trudeau's campaign is expected to be managed by Katie Telford, a deputy chief of staff to Stéphane Dion when he was Liberal leader who has also worked for the Ontario Liberal government. Mr. Trudeau will also rely heavily on Gerald Butts, the chief executive officer of World Wildlife Fund Canada and a former principal secretary to Mr. McGuinty.

Mr. Trudeau has toured the country over the summer. The background of his advisers – as well as the topics of his speeches over the years – suggest campaign themes focused on middle-class economics, the environment and training young people for future jobs.

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