Article appeared in the Feb. 6, 2013 issue of the Interlake Enterprise, by Teresa Carey…
The train whistle sounded in the background several times during Justin Trudeau’s speech at the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive School in Selkirk, where about 80 people of all ages gathered to hear him speak on Jan. 31.
For those old enough to remember it, visions of his father Pierre Elliot Trudeau waving to on-lookers from the platform of a train during his campaign in the late 1960s may have come to mind.
Whether the whistle blow was an augury of the younger Trudeau’s eventual success at securing the national Liberal Party leadership position will not be known until April 14. That is when one of the nine contenders (Justin Trudeau, Deborah Coyne, Marc Garneau, Martha Hall Findlay, Joyce Murray, Karen McCrimmon, George Takach, David Bertschi, or Martin Cauchon) will take the helm after a vote.
“I am running because I believe Canada wants and needs new leadership,” Trudeau stated. “We need a vision for our future, grounded not in the politics of envy or mistrust–a vision that pulls all Canadians together to build better lives for each other, to build a better Canada.”
Jon Gerrard, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, was on hand to introduce Trudeau to the audience.
“He’s 41 years old. He’s ready [to run the country],” said Gerrard prior to Trudeau’s arrival at the school cafeteria.
“I’ve known Justin for a long time. I have watched him. I think he’s matured a tremendous amount–A lot of [the job of running the country] is having good people around him,” Gerrard said.
Trudeau had already been to Neepawa, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and Isle de Chene, where he met with young people, as well as older people, prior to the debate with the eight other national Liberal leadership hopefuls that took place in Winnipeg on Feb. 2.
“We wanted to have Justin in as many rural ridings as possible,” Gerrard said. “Selkirk was chosen because it’s a major centre. I think it’s really exciting to get him around.”
“I am supporting Justin, because getting young people involved is really, really important, ” Gerrard said when introducing Trudeau later. “He wants to bridge the gap. His is using Idle No More, and mobilizing young people.”
Trudeau seemed very much to be in his comfort zone when engaging with the 20s and under crowd, shaking many hands and posing for photos with youth after his speech.
His manner was charismatic, approachable, and without pretense.
During his speech, Trudeau underlined why it is so important for youth to become a part of the political process.
“Youth are more informed than ever before…I see youth getting involved in causes, with a level of engagement that we haven’t seen before,” Trudeau said.
However, Trudeau said the same is not true for their involvement with politics. He pointed to a general feeling of alienation among young people caused by a pervasive negativity in today’s politics, with politicians who “play up the wedges for short-term electoral gain.”
“We need to be better than that. We can be better than that. We are strong because of our differences, not despite them…We’re going to have to start expecting and demanding more of our leaders. We have to expect more of our neighbours and communities, and also we have to expect more of ourselves,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau believes that the big issues facing Canada are in the areas of the environment, the economy, social justice, and poverty, stating that Canada need to build opportunity, “for everyone who lives on this land” while avoiding “easy sound bite quick answers” and “band-aid solutions”.
After his speech and words from past candidate, Karen Keppler and Chief Jim Bear of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Trudeau opened the floor to questions from the audience.
The first person asked for his stand on the long-gun registry. Trudeau answered that he personally saw the impact of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique shooting and fought to hang on to the registry.
“We have to make sure to move forward and protect the public from gun violence,” Trudeau stated. “The Conservatives eliminated a useful tool for police officers.”
Trudeau proposes banning assault weapons and doing it, “in such a way as not to attack law abiding farmers and hunters.”
The next question came from a university student who asked about the accessibility of post-secondary education. Trudeau’s reply was that Canada should become the best educated country in the world.
“It would require investments–not spending–investments” which would offer help to students in repaying student loans. He said it was important to make sure to meet targets across the nation in quality of elementary and secondary schools, as well as ensuring Inuit, Metis and First Nations have access to education. Trudeau acknowledged the challenges around tuition fees, keeping them affordable, but not at the expense of quality of education in the process.
A third person asked what qualities he is bringing forward compared to his opponents.
“It’s not enough to stand up at the podium and offer a five-point plan and wait for Canadians to vote for us,” was his answer. “The challenge now is one of reconnecting to Canadians.” Trudeau added that he has “outworked his opponents” on the ground, and although he has less extended experience in politics and the business experience that some others have, he is “good at politics” and connects well with people.
The fourth question, concerned how he would build trust between Aboriginal people of other Canadians.
Trudeau talked about the importance of seeing the Idle No More movement as an opportunity. He talked about having conversations and negotiations built around partnerships, and engaging with respect and openness .
“We have to recognize we have an awful lot to undo…for ethical and moral reasons, and also because it’s a part of our future. Fifty per cent of aboriginal people are under 25 years old. It is a necessity that every young person has the opportunity to succeed,” said Trudeau.
Both Gerrard and Trudeau encouraged people to sign on as Liberal supporters before Mar. 3 and vote for one of the candidates by visiting manitobansforjustin.ca or justin.ca .
“You don’t have to be a Liberal–only interested in making the right choice,” Trudeau said.