* Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre, crowned Liberal leader
* Drubbed in 2011 election, Liberals now lead in some polls
* Trudeau campaigns on hope more than substance
* Conservatives say he lacks experience, judgment to lead
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, April 14 Canada's Liberals crowned
charismatic rising political star Justin Trudeau as their party
leader on Sunday, relying more on hope and a youthful image than
on experience and substance to contest seven years of
The 41-year-old son of the swashbuckling former Prime
Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin won a convincing 80
percent of the votes cast by party supporters over the five
Trudeau had imitated U.S. President Barack Obama in
campaigning largely on a message of hope, and he said detailed
policy pronouncements will come later, ahead of a federal
election due in 2015.
"Canadians want to be led, not ruled. They are tired of the
negative and divisive politics of (Prime Minister) Stephen
Harper," he told an Ottawa rally where the results were
announced. His wife and young children later joined him on
Within minutes of his victory, the Conservative Party put
out a statement seeking to define him as not yet ready to
"Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time
of global economic uncertainty, he doesn't have the judgment or
experience to be prime minister," Conservative director of
communications Fred DeLorey said.
Trudeau will be the Liberals' seventh leader in the last
decade, including two interim bosses, compared with just two
leaders between 1919 and 1958.
That reflects the harder times facing the party, which ran
Canada for two-thirds of the 20th century.
In the 2011 election, the Liberals fell to third place for
the first time, behind the Conservatives on the right and the
New Democrats on the left.
But opinion polls show a Liberal Party led by Trudeau would
overtake both the NDP and the Conservatives, amid voter fatigue
with the ruling party.
"What Justin Trudeau is benefiting from is probably having
the right message at the right time in terms of a swing back to
less hyperbole and negativism," said Nik Nanos of polling firm
Trudeau, a former teacher who was elected to Parliament in
2008, is 12 years younger than Harper and 17 years younger than
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP.
LEAD IN POLLS
A Nanos survey distributed on Thursday had Trudeau eclipsing
Mulcair on most leadership indicators and coming within striking
distance of Harper. And a Nanos poll released on Friday had the
Liberals ahead of the Conservatives 35.4 percent to 31.3
percent, with the NDP way back at 23.6 percent.
"Today marks the beginning of the end of this Conservative
government," former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who
won three straight majority governments, declared ahead of the
announcement of Trudeau's election.
In addition to a battle against the Conservatives, Trudeau
and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will fight over who is best placed
to claim the votes to the left of the Conservatives.
It was partly thanks to the splitting of the vote on the
center and left between their two parties that Harper was able
to win three successive elections since 2006.
Mulcair, at the end of his party's policy convention in
Montreal, reiterated on Sunday his rejection of any cooperation
with the Liberals in the next election. He noted the Liberals
had walked away from a 2008 pact to form a coalition government
with the NDP and with the support of the separatist Bloc
"It was the Liberals who went back on their word," he said.
"They're not reliable."
Reporters pressed Mulcair repeatedly on how he would try to
counter the Liberals under Trudeau.
He said the fact that the Liberals were on their seventh
leader in 10 years showed they had "major problems."
"We're a government-in-waiting," Mulcair said. "We're the
only ones who have stood up to Stephen Harper. We're the only
ones who can replace him."
On Sunday afternoon, in what Mulcair said was an effort to
reach beyond the NDP's base, the party eliminated from its
constitution a declaration that progress "can be assured only by
the application of democratic socialist principles," though it
gave a nod to the NDP's "democratic socialist traditions."
In his acceptance speech, Trudeau focused mostly on
generalities, saying the Conservatives did not believe that it
was possible to make things better.
"Work hard, stay focused on Canadians. A better Canada is
always possible and together we will build it," he said.
He favors legalization of marijuana and some form of carbon
pricing. He opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline to take oil
from Alberta to British Columbia, on the grounds that it would
cross pristine wilderness, but does not oppose the Keystone XL
pipeline to the United States.
He also proposes to change Canada's electoral system to
allow voters to register their second and third choices.