Meanwhile, the leadership campaign is largely a non-event in Quebec and a marginal one across the Prairies.
Coming as it does after months of campaigning, the tepid Quebec response has to be worrisome for the Liberals.
Besides Trudeau, two other well-known Quebecers — former astronaut Marc Garneau and former federal justice minister Martin Cauchon — are in the running.
But in spite of that, most polls show that the federal battle for francophone Quebec remains a two-way fight between the leading NDP and the Bloc Québécois, with the Liberals running a distant third.
Quebecers’ participation in the leadership campaign is on par with the party’s tepid standing in voting intentions.
With the drive to recruit supporters for the April 14 vote completed, its results suggest that the campaign has done little to energize the Liberals in Quebec.
According to a riding-by-riding breakdown obtained by the Globe and Mail, Quebec accounts for 16 of 27 ridings with less than 200 voters eligible to participate in next month’s leadership vote. Trudeau’s riding of Papineau is the only Quebec riding to boast more than 2,000 sign-ups.
So what will be the impact?
With Trudeau in the campaign, the third-place Liberals have enjoyed a disproportional amount of mostly positive media attention for months on end. It looks like it will take a lot more than that to put them back on the map of regions such as Quebec and the Prairies in which the party has become chronically weak.
If the past is any indication, popularity and the successful signing up of scores of non-paying supporters will not do the job — or at least not for long enough.
The precipitous 1993 election decline of the Progressive Conservatives under Kim Campbell demonstrated that fundamentals eventually reassert themselves, even in the face of an initially popular new leader.
In the past, a demonstrated capacity to recruit leadership supporters has not always translated into more support in the ballot box.
In 2005, a solid recruitment campaign allowed André Boisclair to beat Pauline Marois to the leadership of the Parti Québécois.
Like Trudeau, Boisclair was a big hit with younger voters and like the Liberal favourite he seduced much of his party’s aging establishment into believing that he could connect it with a new generation of voters.
Two years later, Boisclair led the PQ to its poorest showing in three decades.