Justin Trudeau campaigns in Prince George
A crowd of about 100 people, mainly students but some middle-aged residents and at least one couple with a baby in tow, filled a room at the student centre at the University of Northern British Columbia for a chance to hear Liberal leader hopeful Justin Trudeau talk about revitalizing the party.
The crowd was attentive as Trudeau, young and personable with a face that resembles those reflected back in many of the dorm room mirrors at the university, spoke, greeting him with respect bordering on reverence.
But Trudeau did not come to the forum to postulate, rock-starish, thanks in part to his famous heritage and inherent charisma, but to deliver a serious message as an experienced MP from Papineau vying as the front-runner against nine other candidates for the party’s leadership.
Trudeau said one of the singular components of the Liberal party is it is neither left nor right – and not even middle-of-the-road. Rather it is a party based on values, and it needs the aid of diverse Canadian voices and ideas to rebuild.
Trudeau delivered his message while drawing a picture of young people typical to today’s society, including those who came to the university to attend the event, discussing the immediacy of information.
“Knowledge is power, we were always told,” he said, adding that perhaps now, though, things have come full circle and people feel overwhelmed.
There is a feeling you cannot change the world while, simultaneously, he said, young people have an awareness that what they say and does matters.
Yet, he pointed out, they pay little attention to politics.
He said he sees this as a condemnation of the way politics is done and pointed to leaders creating division, strategic targeting and a focus on wedge issues, taking the easiest road to votes.
“This fosters division in a country strong because of its differences,” he said, adding it dampens the capacity for everyone to work together to find solutions.
A facet of that disconnect can be quantified with a financial example, he said, pointing out though the Canadian economy has doubled in size in the last 30 years, the middle class has seen a 13 per cent increase in financial benefit.
“So the people working hardest for it are not sharing on it,” he said.
This erodes the premise the country was built on - that you can be anyone from anywhere and, with hard work, you can make a success of yourself in Canada.
“For the first time ever there is a breakdown in the promise that created this country,” he said.
He added it may be the first time the next generation does not receive greater benefits than the one before it.
“The only way to address this is to stop allowing ourselves to be divided,” he said.
He said it is time to reject band-aid solutions, easy sound bites and spin.
“It’s time to pull together and engage in the big issues. The only way is to draw in the caucus from across the country and various generations.”
He added it is not about the Liberal party trying to rebuild itself, but rather asking Canadians to help rebuild the party and said politics is no more nor less that how we choose to organize ourselves as a society and is not inherently bad.
“My challenge to you is to get engaged with the country,” he said.