In four days, the citizens of Canada -- a peaceful, bilingual country which America has politely declined to invade despite its proximity -- will choose a new parliament. According to the polling aggregator ThreeHundredEight (get it?), the Liberal Party has fought back from a historic low point and is increasingly favored to win a minority government, ending nine years of Conservative Party rule.
If that happens, the three NAFTA nations will be led by center-left politicians for the first time since 2000. And until Jan. 20, 2017, at least, all would be led by telegenic men who promised "change" and worked their mega-rallies into their messaging.
Readers of The Fix are probably familiar with one of those men: Barack Obama. But in 2012, Mexicans elected President Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, restoring the old center-left party of government and rewarding the slogan "Mexico Needs Change."
Canada's election this year, meanwhile, has become dominated by Justin Trudeau, the son of long-serving former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Since the disastrous 2011 election, when the Liberals fell to third place -- no longer the official party of opposition -- the party banked on the charismatic but gaffe-curious dynasty to restore it to power. The Conservatives, wary of this, spent four years branding Trudeau as a lightweight who was "just not ready" for power.
Trudeau responded just like America's young-handsome-guy-accused-of-being-unready. One: He endeavored to make the election a referendum on a conservative government that was growing increasingly unpopular as the economy sagged. Two: He capitalized on his rock-star appeal. Some of Obama's 2008 ads gave viewers sensory overload, showing them a thrilling rally and hinting that they'd want to be part of it.
The one-minute ad that's been in rotation for Canada's Liberals takes the same approach, with a Trudeau speech about -- yes -- "real change." Toward the end, he even uses the word "hope."
Not every party leader can pull off this kind of pitch. But when a party has a celebrity leader, or thinks it has one rising, the opposition can get nervous. If a wave builds, you can mock substance and gaffes all you want as you're pulled underneath.
In closing, here is a video of William Shatner, in 2012, telling Trudeau how to be less of a hammy actor.