Justin Trudeau brought his Liberal leadership campaign to western Ottawa's rural region recently. He plans to run on centrist policies that he says will reveal the Conservatives and New Democrats as extremists.
Expect Justin Trudeau bring to centrist policies back to a divided nation should he win the Liberal leadership, according to a speech he delivered at a party dinner held in the riding last week.
A soft spoken Trudeau told about 200 party faithful at the Irish Hills Golf and Country Club event that both the Conservatives and New Democrats are cynically appealing to core voters while demonizing others for political gain.
It has meant the electorate is voting against the other side, not for a positive solutions that will forward the country, said the 41-year-old Montreal area MP.
“That’s not good enough for Canada right now,” Trudeau said. “People say Liberals are crowded out of the political spectrum; that there’s a shrinking sliver for the Liberals. It’s not about two lines sliding together, because we can raise the level of debate. There’s a lot of room in there.”
While offering no specific policy plans to members of the Carleton-Mississippi Mills Liberals, Trudeau talked about it being easy to divide people into various socio-economic classes and regions; that it is much harder to unite a people. He frequently balanced oft-used conservative terms like “hardworking families” with protecting social programs coveted by progressives, sometimes reaching poetic heights of first-person oration.
“It was always the case that if you worked hard, you could make a better life for yourself in Canada. You could progress and have a chance if you left your persecutions and class divisions back home. That shaped us,” he said. “If you worked hard you could succeed. But when winter happens - as it often happens in this country - when winter happens: this country is too big to not lean on each other.”
He talked about young people no longer expected to have a better life than their parents, a first in the history of Canada. And he mentioned that more and more seniors enter retirement and poverty at the same time. Both are victims of an ever-increasing wealth gap, he said; the economy recovers, but ultra rich are get richer and the working classes fall farther behind.
He said polls show Canadians believe we’ve made it through the recession, that the economy is doing pretty well. But when asked, their families are not doing as well.
“This is more than an economic problem,” he said. “When the deal was made, it said if you work hard, level your problems at home, you can succeed in this country. Right now we can’t make that deal.”
Governments have a positive role to play in bringing wealth back to the vast majority of the population, he said. He blames the Conservatives for the prevalent attitude that government is inept and all politicians are scoundrels. Until the Liberals find a way to connect with people, to end the decade-long “naval gazing,” the country and party will continue to decline.
He said the party doesn’t have all the answers; that it will have to listen to Canadians, particularly plugged-in young people who are making a difference but not participating in mainstream politics.
“That’s not a condemnation of young people. That’s a condemnation of politicians.”
Trudeau took a few shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair, saying both men have silenced their caucus members on the promise of bringing the party more power.
He said Harper might be making trade deals with Chinese, but he doesn’t have to run his government the same as theirs. Harper has different messages in English and French, and Bay Street and Main Street; uses western wealth as a wedge issue against the east.
“A Liberal government will piss all people off equally, if it has to,” he said, to the laughter of the crowd. “My friends, it is up to us to pull together. We deserve better. Our children deserve better. And our world deserves better.
BEFORE DINNER INTERVIEW
In an exclusive interview before he spoke, Trudeau was asked about the relevancy of a party known for carefully managing the economy and maintaining middle-of-the-road policies in a world that increasingly calls for bold decision-making. Climate change is soon expected to make life too inhospitable for humans, for instance.
“That’s why I speak to so many young people,” he said. “We need to have a grown up conversation about these issues, not a simple sound-bite answer.”
He was asked about the party’s brand. The Liberals are often cited as cosmopolitan elitists, of which he is seen as the poster boy. He conceded that the party has disconnected with a lot of voters who have “drifted away.” But that when people see the party’s superior policies – it’s not the economy over the environment as the Conservatives believe, or the environment over the economy as the NDP believes, he said – they will return. The party’s brand is more about substances than style, he indicated.
Among those at the fundraising dinner were city councillors Eli El-Chantiry and Marianne Wilkinson, former Liberal candidates Megan Cornell and Karen McCrimmon, MPs Hedy Fry and Scott Sims, Senator Jim Munson, and party activist Isabel Metcalfe.
The formal launch of the campaign was Wednesday, Nov. 14. Among those vying with Trudeau for the top job, is David Merner, David Bertschi, Alex Burton, Deborah Coyne, Jonathan Mousley and Constance Bay’s own Karen McCrimmon.
The winner will be announced in Ottawa on April 14, 2013.