Here in the U.S. we’re used to calling politicians and candidates by one name: Hillary, The Donald, and so on. In Canada, though, it’s taken on a bit of political baggage as the three parties — Conservative, NDP, and Liberal — gear up for the October election. And there’s a reason for it aside from expediency. One of the candidates carries a legacy (or, since Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a dynasty) with the name.
To Stephen Harper, he’s Justin. To Tom Mulcair, he’s “the third party leader.”
In the House of Commons, MPs refer to each other by their riding names (“the member from Papineau”), and in public, they usually refer to each other with an honorific and their last names. But Harper, the Conservative leader, and Mulcair, the NDP leader, are more likely to refer to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as something other than “Mr. Trudeau.”
Mulcair mostly avoids mentioning Trudeau’s name at all, although when pressed he will refer to him as the Liberal leader — or, as he did Tuesday, the “third party leader,” a reference to the Liberals’ place in the House of Commons hierarchy. That is, beneath the New Democrats, who were the Official Opposition when Parliament was dissolved on Sunday.
Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke gave a unique reason for the first-name treatment of Trudeau on Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“The public views him as a celebrity and celebrities have one name: Oprah, Beyoncé, Bono, Justin,” Teneycke said en route to Ajax, Ont.
On Tuesday, Harper pointed to the Liberals’ own branding, which includes the website Justin.ca.
“I think I use that [Trudeau’s first name] sometimes and sometimes I don’t. That’s how, in our experience, Canadians generally refer to him, because that’s how the Liberal Party itself has branded him,” Harper said.
It also has something to do with the fact that Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was a popular prime minister forty years ago and name recognition goes a long way. (It has its downside, too, right, Jeb?) It also goes along with the superstition that some candidate have about saying an opponent’s name, as if that somehow grants them legitimacy or equal standing. Also, by just using the first name, the opposition makes Mr. Trudeau sound as if he’s not really a serious candidate or, as one Conservative supporter said, “referring to Trudeau by his first name suggests a guy ‘that dates your daughter that you hate.'”
If this is the biggest media distraction they can some up with, I’ll take it over The Donald’s mouth any day.