Three hopeful federal Liberal leadership candidates gather in Burlington to sip coffee and listen to political pitches.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 1, 2012  While Burlington chuckles over the problems Toronto has with its Mayor and raises an eyebrow over the number of Mayors in Quebec that have taken “retirement”, the political types gather to look at the offerings at the federal Liberal level.

Few care that the federal Liberals are looking for a new leader but they did register a tinge of excitement when Justin Trudeau breezed through town a while back.

That party wants to at least attempt to make their selection of a new leader have a measure of respectability and not just pass the crown along to Justin, son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  Liberals have learned, the hard way, what happens when the leadership decision amount to a coronation – John Turner, the politician who waited so long for the job, then blew it when he got it.

The federal Liberals, who were all but destroyed in the last federal election, are now in a re-build mode and are trotting out those who want to lead the party to what they believe is their rightful place in the House of Commons – leading the country.

While many love the idea of another Trudeau leading the country there are many who aren’t sure Justin Trudeau is ready for the job and they want to ensure there is a more than credible alternative to Trudeau when the leadership.

Trudeau the younger has made a few missteps – he managed to insult much of western Canada with recent comments about Calgary really running the country.  An apology didn’t help all that much.  His thoughts on the long gun registry won’t keep Quebecer’s very happy either – so just maybe there is an opportunity for another candidate?

David Merner listens carefully to a potential supporter.  No one was trying to nail down support – everyone was just getting to know everyone; all very friendly.

Thus, on the first winter Saturday of December close to 50 Liberals met to meet David Merner, Jonathan Mousley and Marc Garneau, who was the only member of the House of Commons in the group.

Canada’s astronaut was late getting to the meeting but when he waled into the room it was as if he owned the place.  He certainly has some of that “royal jelly” – enough the beat the son of the “great one”? Only time will tell.

Marc Garneau, the first Canadian to go into space, needed an extra half hour to arrive, which let Merner and Mousley button hole the “delegates” that were gathered at a coffee shop to do the meet and greet stuff that is the essence of politics.

Marc Garneau arrives fresh from this week’s campaign launch. Marc is the MP for Westmount—

Ville-Marie.  He is a former naval captain, Canada’s first astronaut, and now the Liberal House Leader and critic for science, industry, and technology.

David  Merner is a past president of the Liberal party in B.C. and has worked in almost every volunteer role imaginable, from canvasser and sign installer to policy chair and riding president. He lives in Victoria and now works leading transformational change in British Columbia’s justice system.


Jonathan Mousley didn’t bring any actual political experience to the room – he is apparently a part of the old Chretien regime.  

Jonathan Mousley works as a senior economist in the Ontario government. He’s previously worked in Ontario’s Cabinet Office and as a senior policy advisor under the Chrétien government. He’s also an active community leader, chairing two non-profit organizations.

Merner and Mousley struggled a bit but Garneau walked into the room and behaved as if he owned it.  There is some of the “royal jelly” in the man.  Does he have enough of what it takes to win?  He can only win if Trudeau falls down and in politics falling down does happen; ask Stephane Dionne or Michael Ignatieff .

Trudeau has already been to Burlington.  He did pull in a bigger audience than the three that were in the city today – and had the space all too himself.  There were the ‘oohs’ and the ‘awhs’ and people lined up to get their picture taken.  None of that with just Garneau, Merner or Mousley; although Garneau is every bit the celebrity as Trudeau – he just doesn`t milk it.  And Garneau`s celebrity is personally earned and bore a price of which few Canadians are aware.  So the local Liberals were looking the offerings over.  A few words were said and the candidates were off to perhaps another event.

Does Mike Wallace have anything to worry about?  Not today.  Mike is as safe as a Canada Savings Bond – at least until there is someone who will really excite Canadians and actually give Prime Minister Harper a run for his money.

Alyssa Brierley was a trooper as a candidate and if she worked the riding she would have a better than even chance.  Bu t her heart and mind are elsewhere.

The Liberal that ran against Wallace in the last federal election, Alyssa Brierley, didn’t attend.  While she has a residence in Burlington her focus right now is completing the two degree program she is doing at York University, teaching a law course and holding down a job with a law firm in Toronto.

For Brierley to have any chance of winning the Burlington seat during the next federal she is going to have to create much more of a profile in the city and be seen much more.  She is exceptionally good at the door step and engages very well with people.  She is also a lot smarter than Wallace and would be seen as Cabinet material very early in her career if she had a seat in the House of Commons.  The best Mike Wallace is ever going to achieve is perhaps a Parliamentary Secretary.

But, Wallace is a first class constituency politician.  If he likes you and cares about what you`re doing he will bend over backwards for you.

Those who drove to the meeting, which was everyone – no one relies on public transit on a Saturday in Burlington, were probably listening the CBC’s program – The House; which is all about politics across the country – an essential listen for the political junkies .

The thrust of one of the interviews was that Canada was probably in a posy-charismatic phase when it comes to politics.  You wouldn’t have guessed that when Trudeau was in town a few months ago.


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1 comment to Three hopeful federal Liberal leadership candidates gather in Burlington to sip coffee and listen to political pitches.

  • Margaret Lindsay Holton

    It’s a pity that this event was not better advertised. I would have come out to meet and listen to Marc Garneau.

    Yes, Justin is a semi-celebrity ‘curiosity’ that we are naturally interested in observing, but, in comparison to Garneau, Mousieur Trudeau is still very ‘wet behind the ears’.