The Liberal Party’s recent ‘saviours’ from Turner to Martin have been anything but

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

If you do a Yahoo! search "Liberal Party saviour" you get a long list of individuals — since the 1980s — who were supposed to be the next Pierre Trudeau.

Just like Justin Trudeau, who announced his candidacy for the Liberal leadership on Tuesday evening, these individuals were single-handily supposed to lead their party to electoral success.

[ Related: Trudeau plunges into Liberal leadership, steps out of father's shadow ]

In the early 1980s, the Liberals elected an attractive Bay Street golden boy by the name of John Turner as their leader.

The Toronto Star's Bob Hepburn recently penned an overview of Turner's stint as 'saviour' of Canada's 'natural governing party:'

"Back in 1984, after prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin's father, announced he was retiring, the Liberals looked for a saviour, just as many party followers seem to be doing today.

In their desperation, they turned to Turner, who was seen as "a golden boy." He was good-looking, bilingual, a former federal finance minister under Trudeau, a successful Bay Street lawyer, a Rhodes Scholar."

But during the 1984 general election campaign, Turner didn't perform well and was out-shined by rookie Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney; Turner's stay in-office only lasted 79 days.

About two decades later in 2003, the Grits elected Paul Martin to replace Jean Chretien.

Martin was described as a great orator, a "captain of industry," a "slayer of the deficit" and a leader Canadians would welcome with open arms.  According to a recent iPolitics article, one poll in 2002 suggested that a Paul Martin-led Liberal party would garner over 60 per cent of the popular vote in a general election.

That didn't happen: The Paul Martin Liberals won a minority government in 2004 and then lost power to the Conservatives in the 2006 election.

And then came Michael Ignatieff — the man some Liberals described as the next Pierre Trudeau.

Ignatieff was an intellect, eloquent and charismatic and — early on — drew big crowds across the country.  After a series Conservative Party attack ads leveled against him, however, he led the party to new lows winning only 34 seats and 19 per cent of the popular vote in the 2011 election.

[ Related: How will Justin Trudeau affect Thomas Mulcair and the NDP? ]

Interestingly, Jean Chretien, the leader who seemed to have the least media fanfare, had the most recent success for the Liberals with back-to-back-to-back majority governments.

But here we are again, in 2012, with some Liberals, the media, the pollsters and many in the public already anointing Justin Trudeau as the next great prime minister of Canada.

A lot can happen between now the Spring 2013 leadership convention. Even more can happen between now a 2015 general election.

If history is any indication, maybe the Trudeaus' should hold off on measuring the drapes at 24 Sussex.