PM Opens Floor To Fans And Hecklers Alike
The Countdown Begins To This Fall's Federal Election
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived to enthusiastic applause at Saint Benedict High School in Cambridge
Waterloo Region is a key whistle stop for the Prime Minister's continuing series of town hall meetings he has been holding nationwide. It's only April but it's an election year, he's 3 1/2 years into his first term, there are accomplishments to take credit for and controversies to be laid to rest.
Continuing Support For The Tech Sector
The PM's first stop in the morning was Communitech in downtown Kitchener. He pledged millions and continued government support for the tech sector and the blossoming start-ups incubating there. But Cambridge was going to be a different story. A stuffed-to-capacity gymnasium which had the potential to play out like Facebook LIVE.
Be Polite And Respectful Like True Canadians
After a rock star welcoming, the PM began with a pre-town hall prep talk. He laid out some ground rules of engagement, how everyone's opinion mattered, and how everyone has the right to ASK and Be HEARD. Of course, like everywhere, he knew very well that even on an exceptionally polite evening, in a Liberal stronghold, there were those in the audience who came for a scrap. To SHOUT and be HEARD with little regard for anyone else in the room. But as a result of social media arriving on the scene, the silent minority will no longer be silenced even under threat of expulsion.
Circumcision...The Question On Everyone's Mind...
The first question out of the gate was the circumcision discussion. Whether or not it should be outlawed by a process of government. Men squirmed, as did mothers with male children...the PM took it in stride. But astonishingly enough, I got the distinct feeling there were some in the audience who felt that perhaps circumcision didn't go quite far enough. Possibly, the woman whose continuous outbursts resulted in her being ushered out of the auditorium by the RCMP was one such individual? At any rate, she got what she came for. Picked her seat methodically, right in front of the television cameras, and at times addressed the media over the PM. She was led away, disruptive to the very end.
Everyone Who Was Anyone Showed Up
All levels of local government had representation. Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Regional Chair, Karen Redman, numerous councillors, Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin...And other party candidates and hopefuls all came out to see the Prime Minister of Canada in a school gymnasium.
After a twenty minute monologue the restless became more restless. If he was for it--they were against it. But the PM handled himself incredibly well, playing off the positive and negative energy in the room. True, he was hand picking attendees from the audience, but he took the loud ones too, just not right away. He wasn't about to be rewarding unruly behaviour. He was, after all, a teacher.
One attendee stood up with a large piece of paper ...you knew he had written a document of grievances at least the length of the Charter of Rights. He was gun control and auto worker jobs motivated. He had no question. He merely wanted to reach the bottom of the page before he sat down. The crowd yelled "What's your QUESTION???" ...He paid no attention, he kept reading until the PM said "thank you" and the microphone was retrieved from his hand.
There was a heart-felt human rights concern tabled about the type of activities going on south of the border which saw parents separated from their children. One woman was brought to tears as she thanked Trudeau for not being like Trump, just glad to be living in Canada. This played out well in the PM's favour. It was sincere and unscripted, as were many of the questions being asked.
One very cute elementary school girl asked; "Are there other things we can be doing at recess?"
It was beautiful. A politician's dream come true. Justin wasted no time bringing in his family and his sense of family values...And the importance of recess to even adults in our everyday jobs. It was about as far away from his party woes as you could get and he handled it brilliantly.
There were anti-government-in-general folks in attendance who came to grunt and squawk. A hard-done-by new Canadian with mental health issues was just trying to catch a break, having become entangled in the red tape of democracy. Trudeau assured him that Bryan May's office would follow up with him in the coming weeks.
There were several deaf Canadians who made an appeal to have signing given official language status. There was one conspiracy theorists (that we know of) who felt that we were all being systematically exterminated, poisoned as we go about our day-to-day lives...Yet nobody knew much about this genocide except for him. He got a fair bit of the PM's time despite push back eventually from the audience.
There were also some very bright young students in attendance who just wanted a safe world to productively live out their lives. They probably felt that Justin Trudeau might be their man.
Trudeau didn't elaborate on his electoral reform promise other than there needs to be consensus across the board.
The SNC-Lavalin controversy did not erupt into a major problem for Trudeau. The PM explained that it was a party problem and that: "Nobody wants to see Liberals fighting Liberals." Surprisingly, the audience allowed him to move on to the next question without further scrutiny.
Will Things Get Ugly This Fall?
How will things play out this fall? We'll just have to wait and see. But it could get "Facebook Dirty" like the 2016 election south of the border...minus the Russians.
The Prime Minister knows how to work a room. He stayed on message: "We have lifted 825,000 people out of poverty, we have cut taxes for the middle class, and we added tax credits for parents."
Trudeau assured attendees that he will not run a scare tactics campaign like some of the other parties have in the past. (Well, one party for sure.)
But he asked everyone in attendance not to be influenced by alternative facts on social media. Research the issues, understand the implications of the issues and cast an intelligent vote ...even if it wasn't for him.
Will It Be Enough To Get Him A Second Term?
Whether you like him or not, Justin Trudeau delivered a tremendous performance. He made Liberals feel cautiously confident given the recent political upheaval in Ottawa. He seemed to connect well with a good number of young students. He also helped the audience confirm and embrace the idea that Canadians in general, are hard working, generous, caring individuals, different from any other nationalities on earth, and what we have going for ourselves is well worth preserving.
Justin Trudeau believe's he's the one to do it.
But are beavertails, maple syrup and Tim Horton's enough to give him a second term? Canadians are unique and funny, and sometimes forgiving when it comes to our politics. While some of us have gravitated to the Starbucks brand, we're still largely a "Timmy's Nation" by nature... At least we were.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Chief Larkin and friends take a Selfie
MP Bryan May engages with attendees
Deaf attendee makes a case for "signing" as an official language
St. Benedict students are the greatest - setting up and tearing down the seating in the gym
Chief Larkin is with Dr. Scott Hamilton (NDP Candidate) and son Hoxton Hamilton...The Chief is always looking for young recruits...He may have just found one:)
PM talks about the importance of understanding the issues before casting your vote ...not just alternative facts