Thursday, February 22, 2007

Justin Truedau: run in Nunavut!

Justin Trudeau: Launch your career from Nunavut
Aaron Spitzer is a writer and magazine editor in Yellowknife. / Globe and Mail / 19/02/07

YELLOWKNIFE — Justin Trudeau, it's no secret: You're following your father Pierre, diving into politics. Now it's just a matter of finding a springboard to leap from. Up here in the far-flung North you've got an option that might be, well, far-flinging.

When your political aims became public last month, pundits speculated you would run in Montreal's Outremont riding — a Liberal stronghold close to home, being vacated by a long-standing Grit. But apparently, highly placed Liberals want Outremont to pass to a more senior toiler. So now it's being suggested you look beyond Quebec. Perhaps, some feel, you'd do better in Manitoba or British Columbia.

Sure, maybe. But what could you really achieve from those places, or for them? If you're seeking real impact, why not set your sights higher? No, even higher — to an outsized, truly needy, resonantly symbolic and iconically Liberal corner of Canada. Yep, Nunavut.

Like Outremont, Nunavut's a Grit citadel: It's gone red in every federal race for almost 20 years. What's more, like Outremont, Canada's northernmost riding is wide open: Nancy Karetak-Lindell, a four-term Liberal incumbent, announced before Christmas she won't stand for re-election. That isn't a polar wind you're feeling, Mr. Trudeau — it's the northward pull of a political vacuum.

Being Nunavut's MP would give you a chance to prove yourself. You're often dismissed as Trudeau-lite — less of a luminous statesman than a silver-spooned Liberal poster-child. Representing Canada's most hard-bitten riding would be a trial by fire — or rather, ice. Do well here, and you can pirouette behind the backs of your detractors.

Besides, Nunavut's a perfect match. It, too, is a Liberal poster-child, held up for a few years as proof of Grit progressivism and broad-mindedness. Sadly, after the glow of the 1999 division faded, Liberals abandoned Nunavut faster than a hunter riding a sinking Ski-Doo. The territorial birthright corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik, is suing Ottawa for $1-billion, charging it failed to fulfill the terms of the much-heralded land claim. Now more than ever, Nunavut needs a big-time Liberal to do right by it.

And who better than you? Recall your twin causes: Youth empowerment and the environment. You've trekked Canada for years, addressing these subjects in passionate speeches. Here's a chance to act like an Inuk: stop talking and start doing. Put your high-minded kabloona ideals into practice in a place they'd have the most impact.

As both a teacher and a worker with Katimavik, Canada's youth-volunteer service program, you've been a youth advocate. Our vast Eastern Arctic riding is Canada's youngest, with a median age of 20, barely half the national average. And nowhere are kids so troubled. The graduation rate is 25 per cent, Canada's lowest. Suicides hold the opposite distinction, 11 times the norm. The territory's young people crave aid, inspiration, empowerment. As Nunavut's MP, you could command a bully pulpit, rather than just a soapbox from which to cry in the wilderness.

You've also styled yourself a green guardian, working with the Nature Conservancy and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. You've spoken out about global warming and its unique Arctic perils. Up here, there's talk the polar ice could dissolve, taking ecosystems and indigenous cultures with it. Nunavut is, as has so often been stated, the canary in our global coal mine. Harness your politics here and you'll do more for the Earth than you could in any other riding.

And Mr. Trudeau, there's one more reason to eschew southern-style politics-as-usual and launch your career from Nunavut: Your father would have wanted it that way. Pierre Elliott was a champion of winter, of the outdoors, of the North. He felt the Arctic to be the nation's lodestar, and wanted Canadians to be guided by it. Nunavut Territory got its genesis under his watch. He loved to be up here, both for work and play. You accompanied him north, and saw that love in evidence.

So how about it, Justin Trudeau? Run in Nunavut. Prove yourself to your critics, redeem the Liberal record in the Arctic, fulfill your father's legacy and accomplish the policy ambitions you've been so vocal about. All that, in the coolest corner of Canada. How could the Liberal leadership disagree?


Mark Greenan said...

Just announced today he's running in Papineau.