The future of this country lies in Canadians banding together for, not only a new government, but also a better government. One Justin Trudeau is hoping to lead.
On Jan. 27 the Liberal leadership frontrunner made a quick stop in Ponoka at the Kinsmen Community Centre to present his goals, visions and priorities for the future of Canada.
Trudeau told the crowd of 120 what they already know about Canadian politics and progressed into how he, as a Canadian with the same shared values, is going to breathe life and honesty back into the political system.
Along with informing people how they can vote in the Liberal leadership campaign for free, Trudeau spent his time in Ponoka adamantly promoting his idea that Canadians need to come together as a people and blur the differentiating political lines to evolve the country, all under the ideas Trudeau brought to the table.
“What we have right now is a time where we’re incredibly cynical, as a people, about politics. We’ve resigned ourselves to voting against. We vote against the right from the left, we vote against the left from the right. We accept the least possible of the worst situations out there and we’re not voting for,” said Trudeau.
Not only are voting Canadians disengaged from politics but so are up-and-coming voters, which is a concern of Trudeau’s. “Young people, who are more informed and more aware about what’s going on the world around them than any previous generation of young people, are active on social media, active in the communities, active in local initiatives, active in big, global NGOs and single-issue causes. But active in politics? No, not worthy of their time.”
That there is such disengagement across the board is a condemning reflection of the politicians, not of the public, said Trudeau.
Canada is facing economic unbalance. According to Trudeau, over the past 30 years the economy has grown by more than 100 per cent while average, middle class incomes have risen approximately 13 per cent.
To Trudeau, this is an indication that, for the first time in Canada’s history, one of the country’s fundamental promises has been broken. “That when you get to this country … You can work hard and create success for yourself and create greater opportunities for your children,” he explained.
However, he feels this is no longer the case. “There is an uncertainty around the very idea of progress in this country, and that fact is not just an economic challenge.”
That promise also meant that Canadians were able to put aside their differences, look beyond the identity of politics and recognize each other as Canadians first, Trudeau said.
“But the cynicism and the polarization has driven us to disengage from the nation-building, the kind of stepping-up that has always characterized what has been greatest about Canadians.”
Trudeau says it’s because of the disconnect created by the polarization of politics, elected representatives are getting away with most everything. He feels this disrespect for the voices and promises to the public “are an absolute perversion of the core movement that brought the current prime minister to power.”
Trudeau, as leader of the Liberal party, would eliminate the differences and disconnect between Canadians. However, he knows to lead them to trust one another they must first trust him and re-engage in politics. “The politics of strategic division and calculation can’t be very effective, and the current prime minister’s majority is proof of that.”
While Trudeau wants co-operation between Canadians, he is strongly opposed to political co-operation and a “mishmash” coalition of parties.
He feels the NDP is playing the same division game as Conservative leader Stephen Harper, and rather than join them at that game he wants to raise his politics to a new playing field where no one else is.
“You buy votes in the East by attacking the resources of the West,” said Trudeau of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. “Well that is not something that is in the interest of Canada, and it’s certainly not something that the Liberal party is going to do. We can and must expect more from our leaders, we can and must expect more from our neighbors and we can and must expect more from ourselves. That is the only way we’re moving forward.”
However, Trudeau was also called on to defend past comments he’s made that could have been perceived as attacking the West, which got a laugh out of the room, and from Trudeau.
“I will say things that get me in trouble from time to time, I can guarantee you that. I have in the past and I will in the future. But I stand by the values and actions I live by.”
As anticipated, he also addressed the idea of electoral reform, in the form of preferential ballots.
Trudeau favors this option because it wouldn’t mean a lot of change to the electoral system; ridings would remain the same, as would single MP relationships. “I think that direct contact is really important, which is why proportional representation is something I have concerns about.”
He feels preferential ballots would reflect the mindset of the voters and force parties to reach beyond their traditional base.
Mentioned by a man in the crowd was a proposal made that the progressives, to achieve the same reform, could form a coalition. The man asked Trudeau’s thoughts on that.
“As important as electoral reform is, that’s not what puts food on people’s plates, that’s not what brings jobs to communities. My goal is not to replace Mr. Harper with a different government. It’s to replace Mr. Harper with a better government.”
Trudeau feels the Liberal party is already a coalition within itself, there doesn’t need to be a coalition among the parties. “I’m running to be the leader of this country, not to be part of a winning coalition; a mishmash of parties with different views and perspectives.”
Another way he feels Canada should come together is through developments in east-west energy connections. However, the partnerships wouldn’t stop at the coast.
Trudeau believes the government should be working hard to develop opening new markets in Europe, China and the rest of Asia, and not rely as much on the United States. “It has a huge potential to create prosperity here at home.”
However, Trudeau continues to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline project. “Not because I’m against pipelines, but because I’m against that pipeline.”
He’s concerned about the pipeline’s effects on fragile ecosystems as well as First Nations relations. “Don’t come to me with the cheapest possible, come to me with the best possible pipeline proposal.”
Despite being in Western Canada, where Trudeau joked there may be Conservatives present, the meeting received a better than expected reception. After answering questions Trudeau took the time to meet people for autographs and pictures before leaving for his next stop.