Justin Trudeau and General Leslie

The Liberal leader showcases another new friend

Murray Brewster/CP

For the second consecutive day, Justin Trudeau stood before the cameras with a Serious Person to his immediate right.

“I am very happy today to be talking about another element of the team that we are putting together as I’m announcing the creation of an advisory council on international affairs,” Mr. Trudeau explained, “spearheaded by my esteemed friend and colleague Marc Garneau, our foreign affairs critic, and retired General Andrew Leslie, former Commander of the Army.”

Were he not now five years a politician, Mr. Garneau would still be a Serious Person too, introduced not merely as the foreign affairs critic for the third party, but as A Man Who Has Been To Freaking Space. As it was, Mr. Garneau was not today’s exciting news. That honoured place belonged to the General.

“I’d like to thank Justin for his leadership and vision in allowing me to participate and continuing my service to Canada. Thirty-five years in uniform and I’d like to continue helping Canadians where I can. I look forward to listening and learning a great deal over the next while, and I’m very much looking forward to working on the committee.”

Mr. Leslie is apparently still considering whether he might stand for election himself at the next available opportunity—take note those Conservative MPs in the Ottawa area with conceivably vulnerable seats. Until then he might help in the formulation of a few decent ideas for the Liberals to propose. Even if he doesn’t, his mere existence in the general vicinity of Mr. Trudeau—partway through today’s appearance an aide motioned for the General, who had taken a step back, to edge closer to the leader—is of benefit.

“I have a variety of decisions to make,” he said. “The first and most important decision was of course to join Justin and his team, and I thank him for his inspirational leadership.”

Indeed, he had a dreamy foundational story to tell.

“It was a fairly short turning point for me,” he said. “I’ll tell you when it happened, and that was a few short days, weeks ago in response to the Quebec proposed Charter, and the only national leader who stood up and articulated my views in a clear and convincing fashion was Justin who said that the proposed draft Charter is not what Canadians want or need.  It’s divisive and discriminatory. At that moment, I knew I was a member of his team.”

And lo were the scriptwriters for the future CBC miniseries on the rise of Justin Trudeau blessed with a pivotal scene.

In a different time and place, Mr. Leslie, he of tours of duty in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, tapped by no less than Peter MacKay three years ago to guide the modernization of the Canadian Forces, son and grandson of former defence ministers, might’ve been the sort of figure in which starry-eyed Liberal strategists saw a future party leader—a less suave, but more obviously admirable version of Mark Carney. But then—in Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff—the Liberal party has twice tried and failed with Serious Persons. And perhaps it is better to start simply with a person that other people are inclined to vote for and then surround that individual with Serious Persons who will lend credibility and reassurance.

On this day, Mr. Leslie was a walking and talking book blurb.

“I have been drawn to the Liberal Party by the transparency, by the honestness, the forthright approach to problems that impact all of us, the ability to make decisions based on reason and fact, and Justin’s leadership, quite frankly,” he gushed. “I’ve been inspired by it, and throughout the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of leaders. And he is the man I’ve chosen to follow, for good reason.”

So maybe Mr. Trudeau is in over his head. But at least now he has impressive company.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.