Justin Trudeau Visits BU

Justin Trudeau speaks to the crowd on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at Brandon University.
(Holly Kalyniuk / The Quill)

Over 200 people came out to hear Federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speak at Brandon University this past Thursday.

The event was organized by the Brandon University Politics Society. President Brad McClelland was thrilled by the chance to host Trudeau. “It’s really important to engage students,” he said. “I think to have a charismatic, potential national leader come to our campus and engage youth like that – that’s invaluable.”

During his hour-long appearance, Trudeau spoke on a wide variety of issues, the majority of which came from audience questions. When asked about his position on the legalization of marijuana, he said “I’m in favour.” He went on to explain legalization would make it easier to control who has access to the drug.

Trudeau often referred to the need for the Liberal party to re-establish their connection with Canadians. “What we need is not just to stand at the podium and put out a great five point plan and wait for people to come back to the Liberal party, the past years have demonstrated that’s not the way it works,” he said. “We need to get out and reconnect and draw people in.”

He spoke at length about the “Idle No More” movement that has been sweeping across the country, saying it represents an “extraordinary opportunity” for Canada to “re-start” relations with the aboriginal population. Pointing to the large percentage of young people living in First Nations communities, Trudeau stressed that future growth in Canada is going to depend on “empowering [aboriginal people] to be the drivers of their communities, of their economy, [and] of society, that they can and must be.”

Speaking on postsecondary education, Trudeau emphasized the need for greater ease of access. “We’re still having a lot of difficulty in access to postsecondary education – access being financial for many people, needing help with tuition fees, needing help to allay the fears of the level of indebtedness that students are getting into.”

Without getting into specifics, he also pointed out that accessibility needs to be improved for Canada’s aboriginal youth, whom often don’t receive a quality high school education or sometimes even the primary education required for success in the postsecondary environment.

Trudeau also noted the government must ensure that all levels of postsecondary education are providing a high enough quality of instruction to allow Canadians to “build a stronger economy on it.” He added the federal government needs to take a leadership role on education, while “respecting provincial jurisdictions.”

Carissa Taylor, President of the Brandon University Students’ Union said Trudeau’s visit was important in creating political dialogue. “No matter what political party students are aligned with, I think it’s good to have political discussions on campus, and get students engaged – and I think he’s a really great candidate to do that.”

She notes that although Trudeau didn’t give any concrete answers regarding postsecondary education, he had mentioned wanting to increase accessibility. “He has also expressed an interest in educating aboriginal students, which I think is extremely important,” said Taylor. “They are very under-represented in post-secondary education.”

Taylor was impressed Trudeau made a stop in Brandon. “It’s always a little bit frustrating when these things happen, and everything is in Winnipeg, because there exists a world outside the Perimeter [highway].”

Overall, McClelland was pleased with the day, and extended his thanks to the executive of the Politics Society and the members of the community who helped make the day a success. “All in all, the event ran really smoothly, and I think it was a great success. We had an awesome turnout, and everyone seemed really happy.”

Trudeau was also delighted at the number of people who attended the event. “I’m really touched by the number of students and people from the community who came out to talk about how we can change politics.”

“People want to see politics done differently, and that’s what’s really exciting,” he said, while driving home that his campaign is about listening to the people, and brining all Canadians together. “In 2015 there will be a robust, strong, clear platform for the Liberal party […] right across the country.”

The new leader of the Liberal Party will be announced on April 14th.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 20, February 5, 2013.