MONTREAL — Federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau insists he has what it takes to match his famous father's talents in political leadership.
The 40-year-old MP says he's the right man for the job his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, inherited three years before Justin was born.
"The young Trudeau has the abilities of the old Trudeau," he told QMI Agency's French TV network, TVA.
But in a wide-ranging and often contentious interview with political analysts Paul Larocque and Jean
Lapierre, Trudeau admitted his family name can be a blessing and a curse.
It's an asset among the Anglophones and immigrants in his Montreal hometown, but quite the opposite among nationalists, some of whom are still sore about his father's hard line in dealings with Quebec.
"My challenge has always been to go beyond the impressions that people have of me to present my views, my values "‹"‹and to do everything to unite people."
The most emotional part of the 20-minute interview on Sunday came when Trudeau squared off against Lapierre, a longtime Liberal MP who quit the party and co-founded the separatist Bloc Quebecois when the Meech Lake constitutional deal died in 1990.
The younger man appeared to frustrate Lapierre by saying the national unity debate is old and tired and that "nobody's talking about the constitution."
Lapierre said Quebec's signature needs to be added to the constitution, prompting Trudeau to reply: "You and I completely disagree on this issue. People are talking about health care and the economy.
"Apart from political scientists, politicians and journalists, no one is talking about this in the streets."
Larocque pressed Trudeau on the issue a second time, saying: "Canadians, Quebecers, the heads of federalist parties "¦ say your father's work is not finished."
While Trudeau admitted that as prime minister he would listen to any provincial premier who wanted to discuss national-unity questions, he said he would only do so "without bringing up old divisions and old debates."
Trudeau is considered the frontrunner in the Liberal leadership race that will be decided on April 14 in Ottawa.
His main rival is former astronaut Marc Garneau, and Trudeau says he welcomes a chance to debate ideas.
A recent Leger Marketing poll for The Gazette and Le Devoir newspapers indicated the Liberals would garner 28% of the vote in Quebec with Trudeau at the helm compared with 16% if Garneau won the leadership.