October 5, 2012

The rise of Trudeau II in Quebec politics

There have been several notable father-son acts in Canadian politics. Indeed, the only son of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was Sir Hugh Macdonald, who served briefly with papa in Parliament before becoming premier of Manitoba.

The provinces have provided several prominent examples of family dynasties — although none continuous. British Columbia’s W.A.C. (Wacky) Bennett was premier for 20 years, ending in 1972. Three years later, son Bill became premier, serving for 11 years.

On the east coast, Joe Ghiz ruled Prince Edward Island for seven years until 1993. His son Robert became premier in 2007, a year after his father died of cancer at 51.

Quebec, though, has the most unusual, if not enduring family legacy. Daniel Johnson led a Union Nationale government for a little more than two years before he died in office in 1968. His son Pierre-Marc Johnson was premier for three months in 1985, as leader of the secessionist Parti Quebecois.

Daniel Sr.’s other son Daniel Jr. was a Liberal premier of Quebec for nine months in 1994. Three Johnsons, three different parties: total time in office, less than three years.

More recently on the federal front, a son did achieve what was denied the father. Sounds like a Romney scenario, but in this Canadian case, Paul Martin Jr. did become prime minister (2003-06), fulfilling the dream of dad, Paul Martin Sr., a senior Liberal minister who ran thrice for the party leadership.

In the aging patriarch’s last kick at the Liberal can, Martin lost, badly, to a dashing Montreal intellectual with the intriguing bilingual name of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. He would lead Canada through two tumultuous terms (1968-1979, 1980-84) that changed the country forever.

The latest father-son political combo to emerge sees Pierre’s eldest son Justin Pierre James Trudeau, 40, seeking the Liberal brass ring. Reaction to this move by Trudeau fils ranges from rapture to ridicule.

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