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Justin Trudeau: in touch with the people of Papineau

Trudeau hangs out with kids at the Garderie Centre Educatif St-Roch daycare

April, 2009

On a sunny afternoon in March, Justin Trudeau, eldest son of the late former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is strolling along the main commercial street of Park Extension in the federal riding of Papineau, which he represents as a Liberal Member of Parliament.

He is approaching and meeting people, handing out his business cards, and conducting himself very much like a politician out campaigning for an election. Yet the last election was only seven months ago.

So why does Justin Trudeau appear to be in campaign mode? “I’m not really campaigning, so much as trying to do my job as an MP,” he says.

He points out that he won the seat by watching and learning from what other local and highly successful politicians, like city councillor Mary Deros, were doing to stay on top. Deros, who had sought the Papineau Liberal nomination, but lost it to Trudeau, the outsider, keeps busy in an average week attending dozens of community events sponsored by the many ethnic organizations whose members populate this highly multicultural Montreal district.

In this way, over the course of her decade-long career as a city councillor, Deros has been able to cement important community and political bonds, and Trudeau has publicly acknowledged emulating her. “The way I won the seat was two years of (attending) about 10 events a week every single week,” he says, noting that he and a political aide have recently been hitting the streets for an hour or so every few days.

However, Papineau, which was for more than a half-century a Liberal fortress, has in recent years become a swing riding. In 2006, the Bloc Québécois unseated senior Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Pettigrew by a narrow margin of 990 votes, and Justin Trudeau won it back two years later by fewer than 1,200 votes. Trudeau actually claims he chose Papineau because of this uncertainty.

Fast-food photo op

“I didn’t want a riding that would allow me to sit back and feel safe and complacent at any point,” he says.

Trudeau has a BA in English literature from McGill University, a B.Ed. from the University of British Columbia, and his job experience includes a stint teaching French and social studies at a secondary school in Vancouver.

“My thought was that if I was going to go into politics with this big name that I have, Trudeau, I needed to make sure that I justified it somehow.

“For much of my life, it was always a focus on, okay, I have to demonstrate my worth, prove myself outside of politics before I ever go into politics. But then something shifted in my thinking as I started to realize that there was another option. I could go into politics from the ground floor and prove myself that way, and that was the path that I chose.” After initially seeking to run in the upper class riding of Outremont, where he lives, only to be turned down by Liberal Party brass in Ottawa, Trudeau maintains now that working class Papineau was the best choice. “Outremont would have been perceived as a much easier riding for a Liberal to win,” he says. “We know now that it’s not as easy a riding for a Liberal to win anymore.

“More importantly, the concerns of the people in Papineau, the challenges of people who live here – economic challenges, integration challenges for our newer citizens, a large population of elder citizens who are challenged to try and continue to find their relevance and quality of life as they move on – these challenges are exactly the kinds of challenges that Canada as a whole needs to be addressing in the coming years.”

While rumours abounded at one time of Justin Trudeau’s aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps and become leader of the Liberal Party and perhaps even prime minister, he now acknowledges his lack of experience and seems content with humbler ambitions.

“Hopefully I’ll get to be a minister some day,” he says, adding that the lamentable treatment meted out to former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion served as a reminder of the brutal nature of politics.

“I have a lot of sympathy and admiration for Stéphane, and to see a good man churned up the way he was is always difficult,” he says. “It makes a lot of people think twice about whether or not they would want to go into politics.”



At April 14, 2009 at 3:02 PM , Anonymous Agnes said...

Please. This is the kind of fluff we can expect from the virtual Senior Times? Bring back the print edition.

At April 17, 2009 at 7:48 PM , Anonymous opteryx said...

A friend of mine saw a paper copy at the metro, so they're still doing some…. just around Cote St Luc I think. They went away in January then came back smaller. I hope they survive. We need newspapers!

At April 18, 2009 at 6:19 PM , Anonymous Senior Times Editorial Desk said...

The print edition is still widely available, and the articles posted online are the same as those in the print edition. Thank you for your comments.

At April 22, 2009 at 4:16 PM , Anonymous Neal said...

How does he feel getting behind a snake like Iggy? Is he really that in touch? Michael Ignatieff's double-speak on Israel


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