Provincial Liberals trying to capitalize on Justin Trudeau’s ‘celebrity status’

·Politics Reporter

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is spending a lot of his time, these days, on provincial campaigns.

We saw it last year during the Nova Scotia election. Trudeau was so involved in Liberal leader Stephen McNeil's election campaign, the Huffington Post dubbed the duo's relationship as a 'bromance.'

We're seeing it again, this week in Ontario.

On Wednesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne called two byelections — one in Niagara Falls and one in Thornhill — for February 13th. Like clockwork, Trudeau was in Thornhill on Thursday and, on Friday,was scheduled to join the provincial Liberal entourage in Niagara Falls.

[ Related: Premier Marois, Wynne's approval ratings drop ahead of potential 2014 provincial elections ]

While it's not uncommon for federal party leaders to make an appearance or two with a provincial counterpart, it is strange for a federal leader to be as visible as Trudeau has been.

Right-leaning political pundit Gerry Nicholls suggest that there is a very simple reason for that.

"Justin Trudeau's 'celebrity status' makes him a valuable asset in the Liberal arsenal because his presence is guaranteed to generate media coverage and buzz," Nicholls told Yahoo Canada News.

Abacus Data CEO David Coletto gave a similar, yet more technical, response when we asked him why Trudeau is seemingly more ardent about his provincial counterparts than Stephen Harper or Thomas Mulcair.

"Trudeau is more active than other federal leaders because he is the most popular and is the only one right now that can draw a crowd," he said.

"Stephen Harper has never stumped for any provincial counterparts and Tom Mulcair is not as well known or as popular as Trudeau in Ontario. I expect to see Mulcair in Niagara Falls before the end of the campaign."

Coletto adds that Trudeau' foray into provincial politics can also help the federal party.

"Niagara Falls is a diverse constituency that mixes blue collar workers with tourism and agriculture. It is a good bellwether riding having gone Tory during the Mulroney years, Liberal during the Chretien/Martin years, and Tory again in 2004 with Harper. It's a prime target for the Liberals if they hope to win a majority in 2015," he told Yahoo.

"The same is true of Thornhill but for different reasons. It's a wealthy, suburban riding with the largest proportion of Jewish Canadians in the country. It was a Liberal seat up until 2008 when Peter Kent won it for the Tories."

[ Related: Tories, NDP slam Justin Trudeau for $840 in inappropriate expense claims ]

Ekos Research pollster Frank Graves says that Trudeau's provincial efforts can also help the federal party in a much more macro-sense in that they help re-establish the Liberal brand "which was horribly tarnished due to the corrosive impacts of the scandals and regime fatigue that plagued the party a decade ago."

"These races provide a pretty safe arena to do so and he appears to have been remarkably successful in taking the party from a near death experience to a stable lead national polls," Graves told Yahoo in an email exchange.

"There is some evidence that his personal approval levels , and the party’s support , rise in tandem with rising recognition and awareness of Justin Trudeau.

"[These visits] also provide outreach to some key constituencies that aren’t raptly following the North of the Queensway circus in Ottawa. In particular we find Mr. Trudeau does very well with younger voters ,who are aware of him. But he doesn't fare that well with overall younger voters (who are largely disengaged). These settings allow him to connect with voters who aren't available through traditional means."

In other words, as of now, the relationship between the federal and provincial Liberals, is a mutually beneficial one.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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