By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Justin Trudeau may not have already won the federal Liberal leadership race, but if the crowds, and political support, he has been receiving lately, you can forgive the fact if his campaign doesn’t turn into a coronation.
“Not at all,” said Trudeau. “There is going to be a lot of tough challenges, a lot of tough questions, a lot of issues, a lot of debates. The media seems to be writing the story at will. There is no coronation.”
The 40-year-old MP for Papineau attracted a swooning crowd at theSheratonHotelOct.10, as he completed a tour of Burlington and Hamilton.
During a 20-minute speech to about 350 people in the hotel’s ballroom, Trudeau emphasized the campaign to replace interim Liberal leader Bob Rae isn’t about him, but about providing a betterCanada.
“The people are hoping for something better, something different,” said Trudeau.
He told the crowd that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been able to divide and conquer Canadians in winning a majority government. But he is unable to govern properly with that strategy.
“He doesn’t trust Canadians,” he said. “We deserve better.”
Since the Liberals held a majority government with 172 seats in 2000 under Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the number of seats the Grits have held has plummet over the last decade to where the Liberals now hold only 34 seats, and is the country’s third party behind the NDP.
“It has been a straight line,” said Trudeau, who has been an MP for eight years. “We can do better than that.”
To get the Liberals back to where they were, the former school teacher says the party has to be united, and it has to reach out to all Canadians.
“The challenge is to roll up our sleeves, work really hard to reconnect with people,” he said. “The divisions of the past have nothing to do with the Liberal party we are trying to build to serveCanada.”
The official campaign for the Liberal leadership race kicks off Nov. 14 and ends April 14, 2013.Torontolawyer Deborah Coyne, the mother of Pierre Trudeau’s only daughter, announced she is seeking the party’s nomination. Other potential candidates include MPs Marc Garneau, while David McGuinty is contemplating whether to stay in the race. MP Dominic Leblanc has already thrown his support behind Trudeau.
A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll released a few weeks ago found Trudeau would capture 40 per cent of the vote in Ontario, 43 per cent in Quebec, and 48 per cent in Atlantic Canada.
“This is the first good thing that has happened to the Liberal party in years,” said city councillor Chad Collins. “He has re-energized the party. Even the average person on the street knows about him. I want to be part of this excitement.”
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, and Mayor Bob Bratina also attended the event, along with Hamilton and District Labour Council leader Mary Long, and former city councillors Mary Kiss, and Ron Corsini. Former Hamilton Mountain Liberal MPP Maria Bountrogianni introduced Trudeau to the appreciative crowd.
Javid Mirza, a Hamilton Centre Liberal supporter, and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek federal Liberal riding president Vito Sgro said they wanted to hear what Trudeau had to say.
“I’m here to listen and learn,” said Sgro. “But what he is doing is very exciting.”
Also in the crowd was Anne Tennier, Hamilton Centre federal Liberal candidate in the
Tyler Banham, president of the Hamilton Mountain federal Liberal riding association, and Nithy Ananth, president of the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek provincial Liberal riding association, are part of Trudeau’s leadership campaign forOntario.
“He has been getting great crowds from Mississauga to Hamilton,” said Ananth.
Trudeau, after attending an event inBurlingtonwhere about 200 people attended, held his meet and greet inHamiltonfrom about 6:30 p.m. to about 8 p.m. He took only five questions from the media after his speech. Soon after, he was swarmed by the many young people that turned out for the event.
“It’s totally overwhelming,” said Trudeau, who first came toHamiltonin 2007. “There’s an endlessly positive response. Young people, people with lots of experience and backgrounds, you are really seeing the colour and richness ofHamilton, and how hungry people are for something better.”