Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate Justin Trudeau made a stop in Bonnyville on Saturday evening, as part of his tour of Alberta, and was greeted by more than 140 cheering supporters and interested onlookers as he entered Bonnyville’s French Cultural Centre.
Trudeau spoke in both serious and lighthearted tones during his 20-minute speech, in which he not only laid out his positions on current issues, but he also remarked on visiting one of the more consistently conservative areas of Canada.
“It’s not about going to where the Liberals have the strongest support,” he said, following his speech. “It’s about reaching out across the country … and connecting with Canadians.”
He said his message is simple. Despite the economy more than doubling in the last 30 years, “the majority of Canadians are finding it harder and harder to get by. We have to turn that around. The way we do that is we get people re-engaged and trusting the political process again and as politicians we have to face the issues Canadians are concerned about.”
Trudeau said his fresh outlook, strong Canadian values and trust in the people of Canada set him apart from current politicians, who he believes, “don’t trust Canadians and who Canadians themselves don’t have a lot of trust in.”
He said, “I’m proud to be part of the Liberal Party, a party that has decided to trust Canadians and work with Canadians,” adding, “For the first time ever, a federal political party is reaching out beyond its base to select a leader.”
This April, when the Liberal Party holds a vote to select its party leader, all Canadians, except those currently registered with another federal party, will have the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Typically, federal party’s leadership votes are open only to party members. The Liberals have invited, “anyone who might be inclined to vote for the party in the future” to register as a supporter and vote for a leader on April 14.
Trudeau said an official platform would not be released until after the leadership election.
“Picking the leader of a party is partly about picking the person who is going to generate the platform with Liberals. Part of the problem the Liberals have had is the leader generates the platform with the smart group of people around them, then we turn to the grassroots to go sell it across the country. For me, the grassroots need to be part and parcel with generating the platform and our big policy convention coming up will be the start of that.”
Trudeau continued by clarifying his stance on several issues, saying, “I’ve made my stance clear on a lot of issues, whether it’s being in favour of the legalization of marijuana, being in favour of the CNOOC-Nexen deal, or opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline and opposed to strengthening language laws in Quebec. And I will continue to as a way of demonstrating my values and priorities.”
According to representatives of Trudeau, the Train Station in Vegreville was also packed with supporters during his visit, just hours before arriving in Bonnyville.
Before leaving, Trudeau spent some time meeting supporters, new and old alike, shaking hands and obliging several photo requests.
Just after wrapping up his speech, Trudeau opened the floor to questions from those in attendance, clarifying his positions on the issues specifically concerning people from the Lakeland.
Idle No More
The first question Trudeau received was, “What are your feelings on the Idle No More movement?”
His response, “The Idle No More movement is something I am very excited about. To see individuals from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities stepping up to make their voices heard is very exciting. The challenge leaders have is to take that energy and turn it into positive outcomes.
“The movement has also made us aware that some of the old ways of thinking, maximization of profits, short term resource extraction, being only aware and concerned with right here, right now, is not serving the majority of us all that well.
“Being stewards of the land and thinking multiple generations down the road are things First Nations people have already adopted.”
He said one of his favourite quotes he learned along the way, “You do not inherit the world from your parents, you borrow it from your grandchildren.
“If our leaders could be a bit more cognizant of that thinking, I think we’d all be better off.”
Loss of student loan data
In November, a hard drive containing the personal data of more than 600,000 people who were receiving student loans between the years 2000 and 2006 was lost from an office of the federal government’s Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Trudeau was asked if he is troubled by the fact that something containing so much personal data could go missing so easily.
“I am certainly troubled by the privacy breaches. Mistakes happen, but patterns of limited access to information and dismissals of privacy concerns (by the current federal government) are also very troubling.
“We need our leaders to recognize the knowledge economy we’re in and understand the need for net neutrality.”
He added, “Unfortunately, our current government doesn’t seem to be willing to responsibly take on emerging complex and difficult issues.
“’You’re either with us or with the child pornographers’ is a ridiculous response from (the current) government. I think we can do a better job to engage Canadians on a much more reasonable and responsible level. That’s why I’m excited to be part of the new generation of politicians coming up.”
How do you get people, particularly youth, re-engaged in politics?
“The concerns young people have need to be addressed. Young Canadians are already concerned with the big issues, in Canada and around the world.
“But those same young people have no interest in politics. For me, that’s not a condemnation on young people, that’s a condemnation of politicians.
“I believe we can change that. From coast to coast to coast, we’re all bound together by a core set of values and ideals that we can all work together to build into reality, build into
policy, into bills, into progress to restore us all back to a path of shared prosperity, opportunities and hope.”
On getting oil and gas to new markets
“It is essential for Canada to continue to be a trading nation, but to do this we need to broaden our horizons beyond America and increasingly look to Europe and especially Asia as new partners.”
Trudeau pointed to the CNOOC-Nexen deal as a way of increasing trade and direct foreign investment with Chinese partners.
“However, development cannot happen in just any place. Yes, I’m in favour of continued oilsands development, of foreign direct investment, and yes I’m in favour of pipelines. But I’m not in favour of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.”
“Why not,” asked a gentleman near the front row.
“I was just about to get to that,” said Trudeau with a smile.
“Three main things concerned me with Northern Gateway. First, there was next to no true consultation done with First Nations along the proposed route.
“Second, there are places we should have pipes and mines and there are places we shouldn’t. Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Bear Rainforest are all examples of where resource extraction development should not happen. They should be more rigorously protected. Don’t come with the cheapest possible route for a pipeline, come with the best possible route.
“And third, The Hecate Strait of the coast of Haida Gwaii is some of the most pristine ocean and is just too vulnerable to support that volume of tanker traffic.”