Packed into the lobby of the Citadel’s Shoctor Theatre, Justin Trudeau, MP for the Quebec riding of Papineau and Liberal leadership hopeful addressed a crowd of a couple hundred supporters. Alberta is hardly Liberal territory – many blame Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, for that, thanks to the National Energy Program. However, Trudeau the Younger is not his father, and seems intent on spreading the Liberal banner across the entire country, including Blue Alberta. As such, he has distanced himself from comments by Liberal MP David McGuinty.
Trudeau’s speech was very much one of national unity. He argued against regionalism and partisan politics, attacking both the Conservatives and the NDP as being two sides of the same ideological coin. The Liberals, he said, would govern from the political centre. Trudeau quoted the words of Jean Chretien – “my wallet on the right and my heart on the left”.
Trudeau did not shy away from the Liberal Party’s troubles – listing off the seat count of the Party from the last few elections would give anyone the thought that Canada’s “natural governing party” is struggling to remain viable. While Trudeau alluded to the party’s strong past in Canadian politics, he made clear that the party had lost the popular support of Canadians. Trudeau, of course, believes he is the one who can recapture that support.
The middle class and Canada’s youth were hot topics in Trudeau’s speech. He expressed concern of the stagnation of wages and growing household debt levels, stating that Canada’s economy is strongest when its middle class is strong. The 40-year old Trudeau appealed to the disaffected members of our Generation Y, noting our concerns of job security, quality of life, and a feeling that our political process isolates us.
Trudeau defended his support for the CNOOC-Nexen deal that would see the Chinese state company acquire the Calgary oil giant. It was a rather bold move for Trudeau, given the deal’s unpopularity on the political left. Trudeau stated it was a matter of leadership, and the need for outside investment in our vast natural resource wealth. He re-iterated his support for expanding markets in Asia, particularly China.
While much of Trudeau’s speech was lofty Obama-esque rhetoric of uniting Canadians under common values, there were still plenty of partisan shots at the Harper Conservatives and the Mulcair NDPs, albeit they were rather tame for a political gathering such as this. The speech was lacking on substance, but that is to be expected – this was a leadership rally, not a policy speech. It is too soon to tell if Trudeau will go on to carry the Liberal banner in the 2015 election, but he has demonstrated that he is capable.
All Canadians (except card-carrying members of other political parties) are able to vote in the Liberal leadership race this April without paying a fee or becoming a member. To do so, visit the Liberal Party of Canada website here.
Graeme Archibald is a fourth-year Political Science Honors student and a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.