Justin Trudeau visited Calgary on Jan. 28 as part of his bid for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals have made big efforts over the past two years to reach voters in Alberta where they have traditionally had little success.
Trudeau gave a speech at the Hotel Arts in downtown Calgary to a full room. The crowd was an assorted mix of business people, young supporters and local Liberals.
During his speech, Trudeau frequently joked about his last name and the party’s long-standing unpopularity in Alberta. When talking about developing a new national energy policy, Trudeau got some laughs when he said, “Here, I will make sure not to use the words national, energy or program.”
Energy was a big topic all night, as Trudeau discussed several ideas for Canada’s energy future. He said he supported oil sands development several times, but with certain limitations.
“With the oil sands, it’s very important that we get it right,” said Trudeau. “We need to be smart about how we build our future.”
He got another laugh from the crowd when someone asked about ‘tar sands’ development.
“We call it oil sands, not tar sands,” said Trudeau.
When asked about the cost of post-secondary education, Trudeau stressed the importance of controlling student debt.
“[For] student debt, we need to make sure that it is manageable, that people aren’t stuck in a position of not wanting to further their education because they are worried about getting further and further into debt, which is a reality for far too many of our undergraduates who are finishing their degrees,” said Trudeau.
Sure to score some points with young voters, Trudeau said that if in power, the Liberals would legalize marijuana.
“I’ve been very clear that I am not just in favour of decriminalization of marijuana, I’m in favour of tax and regulation, that is, legalization of marijuana,” said Trudeau. “I don’t think it makes sense criminalizing an entire generation of users.”
He also answered questions about Liberal Harvey Locke’s recent loss in the Calgary Centre byelection. Trudeau said the Liberals are not as disappointed as many may think.
“Of course, we would have loved to have won, but if a year ago someone said that the Liberal Party could come within a hair’s breath of winning a seat in Calgary Centre, we would have been laughed off Parliament Hill,” said Trudeau.
Locke lost the byelection by less than 4 per cent to Conservative Joan Crockett.
At one point, Trudeau took a stab at Conservative MPs who might see Alberta elections as easy wins.
“All across this province, people are tired of being taken for granted for by this Conservative government,” said Trudeau. “People are tired of having their MPs spokespeople for the prime minister’s office in their ridings. They want MPs who are, once again, spokespeople for their communities.”
Trudeau has visited Calgary several times in the past year. On his most recent trip, he made speeches in Lethbridge, Red Deer and several small towns across Alberta.
The trip was part of Trudeau’s current drive to become the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He currently holds a strong lead over his closest competitor, former astronaut Marc Garneau. A new Liberal leader will be chosen on April 14.
If elected, Trudeau would replace current interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
The Liberals have struggled with broadening their voting-base since losing official opposition status in the 2011 federal election. The party has lost seats in four-straight federal elections since 2004.