Trudeau wows Grand Hall crowd

Admiration for father passed on to son as Liberal leadership hopeful visits Kamloops

Sylvie Paillard / Kamloops Daily News
January 21, 2013 01:00 AM

Justin Trudeau speaks at TRU's Grand Hall.

Trudeaumania light engulfed the Grand Hall of Thompson Rivers University Monday night as 600 locals greeted Justin Trudeau.

And by all appearances, it was an adoring crowd.

Young and old alike remembered Trudeau's famous father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who generated excitement and buzz in his own day.

And now they admired his son, the Papineau, Quebec MP and Liberal leadership candidate.

Nineteen-year-old Taylor Morrison sat front row centre clutching a camera in hopes of getting a photo with Justin. She seemed less enthused by Justin Trudeau's politics than by his charisma and by what his father meant to her father.

Morrison's dad visited Ottawa in 1983 and got to pose for a photo with Pierre Trudeau, who subsequently signed and wrote a note on it. Morrison's father treasured the photo until his death in 2002.

Before the Grand Hall gathering, Trudeau first stopped at the Tk'emlups Indian Band office.

There he was greeted with a blanket ceremony and prayer before reading the band's 1910 letter to Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier outlining a path for co-habitation between natives and non-natives.

"It was very much framed the argument in a way that is as actual today as it was back then," said Trudeau. "The need for partnership, investing in education and working together to build solutions based on mutual respect and values for long term prosperity for everyone who shares this land is where we go from there."

Justin Trudeau is adept at acknowledging his own celebrity.

He played all his greatest hits for the crowd gathered at TRU: his charity boxing fight with Conservative Senator Richard Brazeau, the fact that he's often called "pretty" and of course, his famous father.

And as each inside joke drew the audience closer, he transitioned into another theme of his campaign.

(Except perhaps his veiled reference to Pierre Trudeau's famous one-finger salute to protestors outside a train window while travelling through Salmon Arm in 1982 - Justin was overheard telling a female fan that he was advised to "use my whole hand while waving.")

Trudeau told the story of travelling through Germany by train in 1989 when he and his friend were petrified by a large, intimidating guard kicking in doors between compartments and demanding passports.

The guard growled at the boys, but as soon as he saw the Canadian documents, he melted into a smile and gave them a thumbs up.

"Yes! Thanks Dad!" said Justin.

The crowd roared at the story.

Then his point: things have devolved so quickly that today travelling Canadians are advised to wear American flags on their backpacks rather than the other way around.

The reason is the acrimony the Harper Conservatives have created because of their destructive environmental policies, most famously around the tar sands.

Trudeau also said unequivocally that he opposes the Enbridge Pipeline.

"Taking it through the Great Bear rainforest? Not there," he said to an appreciative audience. "Come up with a better plan. Don't just bring me the least expensive plan."

Trudeau provided answers on the cost of post-secondary education (involve the federal government while respecting provincial jurisdictions to make sure everyone has access to education), Canadian military involvement with U.S. missions ("I worry") and electoral reform (move to single-transferable vote), before invariably circling back to his overarching message: it's time to work together.

"I'm not so worried right now about the mechanisms. What I'm worried about is making sure that we can all agree on the goals and the values and the direction we need to go," he said.

He compared Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former president George W. Bush's much-maligned senior advisor Karl Rove in his capacity to "play the game" of divisiveness among the voting population.

"Any time a politician decides to pit one community against another, one region against another, one language against another, they're playing with the very fabric of this country," said Trudeau.

"Politicians must start to respect the citizens they represent and trust them."

To that end, he said, everyone not actively involved in a rival federal political party is invited to participate in the vote for Liberal leader.

The party has opened up the decision to all non-partisan Canadians, not just Liberal Party members because, he said, "We want to show Canadians what trust is."

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