Justin Trudeau announces his candidacy for Liberal leadership in Montreal on October 2, 2012.
Credits: SÉBASTIEN ST-JEAN/QMI AGENCY
The Liberals have seen a ghost. The Ghost of Glories Past. It haunts their leadership race.
"Lead on!" they cry. "Our right to govern is waning fast, and there is precious little time.
"Lead on, Spirit!"
Oh, the Liberals are spooked. Is this to be a convention, or a seance?
The most obvious earthly embodiment of Pierre Elliott Trudeau is his son and heir, Justin.
The ectoplasm is aligned. Charles Dickens himself could not have plotted it better.
Justin was born on Christmas Day 40 years ago and has been fitted for the Liberal crown since sobbing "je t'aime, Papa" at Pierre's funeral in September 2000.
He is a pop star on the order of that other Justin, Bieber, and has similar depth.
Polls say he's a lock for his dad's old job as party leader, and has a good shot at becoming prime minister.
Across this land they once ruled, Liberals bliss out, their eyes glaze.
"Look upon me," Pierre/Justin cries through the mists of Grit mythology. "I am the Ghost of Triumphs Yet to Come."
But Liberals are no dummies. Not for nothing do they call themselves Canada's "naturally governing party."
Even a fawning press is no guarantee Canadian voters will swoon for Justin, especially when he starts talking about Libya or the economy.
So they are stacking their leadership race with other kindred spirits of Pierre.
Deborah Coyne, 57, mother of his love-child, Sarah, joined the race in June.
She's a constitutional expert and a lawyer. Other than Justin, I assume, she's the only candidate who ever saw Pierre naked.
To the Liberals, that makes her the Mary Magdalene of the party. Dickens would cast her as Belle, Ebenezer Scrooge's ex-girlfriend.
Technically, I calculate, she is Justin's stepmother-in-sin.
Will we see a TV leadership debate? Or will it be Family Feud?
Ms. Coyne: "You know, kid, Pierre always said you'd never amount to much."
Justin: "Yeah!? Well, Papa only wanted you for your habeas corpus."
National hero spaceman Marc Garneau is another likely candidate. I bet his campaign pitch is something like: "I've Touched the Face of the Angel Pierre."
But the Grits will leave nothing to chance, lest the ghost of PET disappears into the attic forever and they become our "natural third party."
They believe Canadians get butterflies in their stomachs at the very name Trudeau.
They believe this is not just Scrooge's "undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato."
Good gravy! I hear the Liberals have lined up a roster of backup candidates, with assorted odds, all who raise the spectre of Pierre. Here's a sampling.
17-1. Margaret Sinclair "Call me Maggie" Trudeau Kemper. Pierre's flamboyant, sometimes flaky, ex-wife, would campaign on the slogan "Passion Over Reason."
She may bipolarize the leadership convention next April and certainly is the only candidate who can claim to have slept with a Trudeau, a Kennedy <i>and</i> a Rolling Stone.
35-1. Colm Feore. If you ask me, his best role was King of the Frost Giants in Thor, but he also played Pierre Trudeau in the CBC miniseries. Looks like him, too. If the Liberals get drunk and nostalgic enough, Feore could surprise.
100-1. Pierre's canoe. The Liberals' best hope for rebirth is if inanimate objects are given the vote and nothing says "Trudeau" quite like a birchbark canoe. The Liberals' Ghost of Glories Past was a serious paddler. His canoe would lock up the boat vote.
Silly, you say? As if political parties ever get silly, eh? Or desperate. But as they channel Pierre Trudeau through his son, the Liberals should remember:
You wear the chains you forge in life. You make them link by link.