BY ROB MENDONSA
Students from Conestoga College packed the Sanctuary on Feb. 7 to hear Justin Trudeau speak about how the business of politics is broken and needs to change from its present system of controlling, “top down” government to one that is more accountable to Canadians from all walks of life.
The 41-year-old Trudeau, who is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and is the member of Parliament for the Montreal riding of Papineau, is on the campaign trail across Canada to gain support in his bid to win the Liberal leadership in April. He spent the morning in Cambridge and then stopped at the Doon campus to relay his message to a generation of young people who he calls the most well-informed generation in history.
“So, the fact right now that this generation that is so engaged is so completely disengaged from politics, that 18- to 25-year-olds turn out to vote at only 30-35 per cent, is not for me an indictment of young people, it is obviously an indictment of politicians and politics today. Something has to change,” said Trudeau. “What has to change is our voices need to matter as citizens.”
Trudeau, who is one of nine candidates in the race to replace Bob Rae as party leader, is considered the front-runner and, according to a new Forum Research poll commissioned by the National Post, would win a majority government in an election against the Conservatives led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
There’s a good reason for this, according to Peter Maloney, an instructor at Conestoga who helped bring Trudeau to the college.
“I think that he has the right ideas. He moves so well between the English and French culture,” said Maloney after the Sanctuary had cleared out. “It seems that people have attached their hopes to him. He’s our Obama.”
One only had to look around the Sanctuary and see the engaged look on students’ faces as proof of the ability of Trudeau to draw the crowd in and deliver a message that resonated with everyone, both young and old.
“Over the past 30 years the very idea of progress in this country has stumbled a bit, because if the Canadian economy has more than doubled, grown more than 100 per cent, a median middle-class family income has grown by only 13 per cent,” Trudeau said.
“So what it means is the prosperity that the vast majority of us are working so hard to create everyday through our hard work, through our taxes for our communities we are a part of, is not being shared equally among us all.”
Also running are Montreal-area MP Marc Garneau (Canada’s first man in space), MP Joyce Murray, former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon, former Willowdale MP Martha Hall Findlay, former RCAF pilot Karen McCrimmon, lawyers David Bertschi, Deborah Coyne and George Takach and feature author Terry Fallis. The winner will be announced April 14 in Ottawa. After his appearance at Conestoga College, Trudeau headed to the University of Guelph to continue his tour of Ontario.