Justin Trudeau came to Nanaimo as part of a leadership race, but he has grander plans, too.
Trudeau stopped by the Port Theatre on Friday to address a few hundred supporters and onlookers. Rather than try to make distinctions between himself and the other Liberal leadership candidates, the MP for Papineau, Que. focused on highlighting his party’s differences from rival parties.
“This country does not want, does not need to go down the path of being polarized between two parties of left and right,” he said.
He accused the Conservatives of playing divisive politics, and said he thinks Canadians are tired of being cynical about their political representatives. Trudeau also slammed Thomas Mulcair after the NDP leader voiced opposition to the Keystone pipeline in Washington, D.C. this week.
“For me it’s extremely important to start removing the habit of kneejerk partisanship, of always needing to score points to reassure your base instead of looking responsibly toward the kind of future that Canada needs to play a very big role in,” Trudeau said.
He didn’t offer much insight into policies or platform priorities, taking instead a more philosophical tone.
“Leadership is about engaging, leadership is about listening, leadership is about building together and that’s what I’m committed to,” he said. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
After his speech, Trudeau held a media scrum across the street at McGregor Park. What he saw and heard in Nanaimo, he said, was that people are hopeful that politics can be done differently.
“They see something in the renewal of the Liberal party that responds to their hopes and dreams for the country,” he said. “We have a lot of work ahead to turn their interest into support and votes, but that’s work we’re going to be doing together.”
Trudeau was asked about his expectations in places like Nanaimo, where the Liberals have been running third or fourth in federal elections. He said if he is chosen leader, he will not appoint any candidates, and thinks the nomination process will help engage people.
With the Liberals’ overall seat count falling in every recent election, Trudeau said there needs to be growth right across the country.
“If we want to be a credible national party that reflects the values and hopes of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we want to make it truly, as my friends in Newfoundland would say, from Island to Island, from the Rock to Vancouver Island,” he said.
Registered Liberal party members and supporters will vote for a new leader in the second week of April. Other leadership candidates include Joyce Murray, Martha Hall Findlay, Martin Cauchon, David Bertschi, Deborah Coyne and Karen McCrimmon.