Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau stopped in Kingston yesterday to speak to students and local supporters.
Trudeau spoke to a packed house in Wallace Hall, his second time on campus in less than a year and a half. By the start of the event, the hall was at full capacity, with most people standing along the walls or at the back of the room.
“I’m going to do something different here today,” Trudeau told the crowd, and to that end, answered questions from those in attendance rather than deliver a prepared speech.
“What matters the most to me is that politics be an open conversation.”
He was introduced by Peter Milliken, former Speaker of the House and MP for Kingston and the Islands, who spoke about his personal connection to Trudeau and his late father Pierre Elliott.
Kingstonian John Matheson, a former politician and the leader of the parliamentary committee tasked with choosing the country’s current flag, was also in attendance.
The first question Trudeau answered was in regards to national youth service. He discussed the Katimavik youth volunteer program, which was started by his father and was eradicated in 2012 after the federal government cut funding.
Trudeau, the charity’s former chair, said although Katimavik didn’t advertise, they still received around 10,000 applications each year, and still had to turn away one out of every nine applicants.
“We could not give young people who wanted to serve their country opportunities to travel across and offer their hard work, their service, to communities across the country,” he told the crowd.
He added that he’s in favour of offering a gap year between high school and university during which young people can serve their country through programs like Katimavik, abroad or in the military.
Other question topics included the deficit, Senate reform and how Trudeau plans to distinguish himself from the other candidates running for leadership. In response to a question about his famous father, Trudeau discussed the inspiration he found in his mother and maternal grandfather as well as his father.
Trudeau also spoke about his disdain for Stephen Harper’s government, and told the Journal how he believes the political climate has changed since his previous visit.
“I think we have seen first-hand what Harper has chosen to do with his majority,” he said.
“The politics of division and negativity and attack gave him a majority, and he’s continuing to choose to be divisive.”
He added that he believes Harper has made decisions for the country in pursuit of short-term electoral advantage.
“That is more than anything what got me to decide that politics needs to change,” Trudeau said. “Canadians’ response right across the country has, quite frankly, humbled me, because we all know we deserve better than what he’s been offering.”
Following the talk, he headed to Market Square where his supporters — as well as supporters of the Idle No More movement — waited.
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