An evening with Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau, the 40-year-old Liberal MP from Papineau, has had much speculation surround him over the past few months as to whether or not he will run for party leadership. Last Wednesday night he spoke at a town hall in Vancouver and VanCity Buzz was there for it all.
From the moment he stepped onto the stage he dazzled the crowd. The critic for youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport answered a number of questions ranging from all different issues facing Canadians young and old.
He started the event by telling a story from his time as a high-school teacher in Vancouver. As he was showing his dad around the school, a student called out “Mr. Trudeau.” He figured someone was itching for a picture or an autograph from the former Prime Minister. He was wrong. The student continued, “I’m going to be late to French class.” That was when he realized, “I’m the Trudeau who is important in her life.” It’s the moment he, “reached a point where I was having an impact on the world around me.” He continued his opening speech by saying, “We are part of a generation that is more informed, more aware, more plugged in, than any previous generation. Instead of feeling deeply empowered by all that access to information and knowledge, we tend to be overwhelmed by it…we wonder how we could possibly matter when the world is so big, so vast, with problems so great, what could we possibly do to make a difference?”
The focus of Trudeau’s talk was on youth and the impact they need to have going forward in politics. He mentioned the low voter turnout of people aged 18-25 (30-35% in 2011) and stressed that they need to get out and vote. When asked about common themes he recognized among youth around the country, he said he noticed a “level of frustration young people have that they’re not being empowered or heard. Not being able to affect change on a large level that is necessary” Much of his speech talked about power they do have, how “young people want to have an impact and should be encouraged.”
A reality for today’s youth is the rising cost of tuition and larger debt loads for graduates. Trudeau acknowledged the problem saying “It impacts the ability to find a job, or buy a home. We have to look at ways to fix it.” He said that tuition costs are provincial, and the federal government has no direct involvement, but added that “the government needs to make sure we are providing access to education for all Canadians. We need to make sure people have skills for the highest economic productivity.” Trudeau said that Canada does not do enough to encourage entrepreneurship. He is also a believer in co-operative programs, internships, and apprenticeships for university students and graduates. “We have to have a better idea of how to connect education to the real world that’s waiting for us, that’s a real challenge…in terms of job security, there is none.”
“We no longer believe that politics can make a difference. We don’t feel like a different party will do better, so we disengage collectively and just hope that they stay out of our way. But we can’t continue like that,” said the Papineau MP. “We deserve better than that.” He added that representatives in Ottawa are supposed to be accessible. “[They] are supposed to be challenged on issues you agree with or disagree with, and are supposed to be there to respond. We should be demanding that. We have a right to a better system of government.”
When someone asked about infrastructure projects the government needs to invest in for the future, Trudeau brought up the idea that Canada needs a ‘National Energy Program.’ Something his dad implemented when he was in office that received strong backlash from the west. He also mentioned that Canada needs to bridge the environment with the economy. Later, he expressed his opinion on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. He said that “science is showing the pipeline is not a good idea…we need to make sure we make decisions that carry on long-term and not just short-term…it’s not in anyone’s interest to leave messes we can’t clean up in vulnerable parts.” He concluded that “if the Harper government chooses to go ahead despite recommendations from environmental experts, they need to be clear and transparent as to how they’re justifying this.”
Trudeau also talked about how Canada needs to be united. He said “we need to start pulling together…regardless of ideologies.” He noticed a disappointing common trend across the country where people are “voting for the least worst.” He said people need to start voting for something. “If you get elected on politics of division and fear you cant govern worth a damn.”
“Get involved, get connected, and start voting. Start paying attention to politicians. Volunteer and realize your voice and vote matters and matters deeply. Being able to make your voice heard is essential as a young person,” said Trudeau. “We need to bring forward a fresh way of looking at our challenges, and for me, it comes down to all of you.”
As for the looming question on most minds that night, the question about a big announcement or plans for his political future, Trudeau simply said, “No. Not going to happen.”
As for me, the feeling I get is he’s running. He’ll run for the Liberal leadership and he’ll win easily, especially with the new voting rules. Much of the Liberal Party’s ability to make a comeback will rest on Trudeau’s shoulder. What his opponents will definitely point out is his lack of experience. Stockwell Day recently compared Trudeau to American president Barack Obama, mainly for their personality and likability. If Trudeau wants to mirror Obama’s success in 2008, he’ll have to engage youth to vote in masses and utilize social media to his advantage just as the President did in his election campaign. Needless to say the run-up to the 2015 election will be very interesting.
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