It was quite an exciting buzz Sunday afternoon as a dashing international superstar paid a visit to South Delta – that’s what it seemed like, anyway.
Justin Trudeau was in town and his Trudeaumania was beyond robust at a Liberal barbeque at Didar Berry Farms in East Ladner.
Also having first-term Delta MP Carla Qualtrough and other regional MPs on hand, about 2,000 attended the event, which was open to not only party members but the public, many eager to shake hands and get a selfie with the 46-year-old prime minster who was elected in 2015.
Had the weather been sweltering as the week before, it seemed the gung-ho crowd in all odd likelihood wouldn’t have been much smaller. It’s also safe to say 104th Street, a narrow two-lane country road, was a bit of a gong show of vehicles trying to make their way to the dusty farm field, but those wanting to see the uncommon Trudeau make his brief appearance would not be denied.
Once inside, the positive vibe was palatable, made all the more so with the media not allowed to field questions. Not even a group of drumming anti-pipeline protestors could bring the mood down.
Stiff-lipped RCMP security, viewing everyone and everything with the same suspicion of a prison guard clutching a rifle, were close at hand, as usual. It’s something you’d expect not only for a leader of a nation but also for a world-famous celebrity, which was how he was peculiarly and wildly received Sunday.
Under the baking sun, his spirited address to the receptive audience was more a campaign speech, which included announcing that Qualtrough will be the Liberal candidate for Delta once again in the next election.
“We have an awful lot of hard work to do and we only do it by working together, by leaning on each other, by pushing back against the politics of fear and division, the old ways that are trying to attack people and forcing false choices. We know that listening to each other, respecting each other and focusing on pulling people together is the only way to build a stronger future for us all, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Trudeau declared, his voice going hoarse.
Also having taken part in Vancouver’s Pride Parade, Trudeau had a tough time exiting from the sea of eager fans, many with camera phones jostling for a shot.
Self-assured, articulate, at ease in a crowd and obviously intelligent without a hint of condescension, not to mention having a maddeningly lovely head of hair, Trudeau, despite now having some serious controversy in his time in office, continues to be a popular as well as entrancing figure around the world.
Facing sharp criticism from detractors, he’s unlike the stuffed-shirt PMs before him who spouted the usual jargon. That’s not to say, however, Trudeau hasn’t inherited some slick political and savvy people skills from his former prime minster dad, the late Pierre Trudeau, whose rise in the 60’s sparked the original Trudeaumania. Justin seems to be the softer, more thoughtful version, though.
One attendee told the Optimist that although critics attempt to sell the PM as more style than substance, it’s a message most Canadians aren’t buying.
Coming across as down-to-earth and always sincere, the trim and fit Trudeau, one of the few world leaders who doesn’t embarrass himself jogging shirtless, and who beat the you-know-what out of Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match a few years ago, has also gained an international celebrity status. It’s the type reserved for hit musicians or the very best-looking A-List actors. Who can forget TMZ running segments on our very own well-dressed PM, focusing on his looks as well as derrière?
The faces of several who got to shake hands with the smiling Trudeau appeared to convey the thrill of meeting a famous Hollywood actor, not the man in charge of running the affairs of a nation including dealing with an incredulous U.S. president, who accused the Canadian PM in a tweet this summer as “meek and mild” as well as “dishonest and weak”.
At ease photobombing (perhaps going out of his way to do so), the striking PM has been called “The North Star” by Rolling Stone Magazine, which noted Canada is “led by a man who wore a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy T-shirt on national television, rides a unicycle and welcomed 40,000 Syrian refugees with open arms.”
Likely having the seal of approval of the most ardent of hipsters, Trudeau’s unique, transcendent blend is no act. But can this politically-correct, dreamy package remain appealing for voters? And will he be seen as a strong enough leader for Canada down the road?
According to another gushing supporter at Sunday’s gathering it’s “of course, yes!” Another went so far as to say he’s been the best prime minster this country has had, a rather grandiose statement about someone who has been in office less than three years.
Another attendee was keen to point out people in U.S. wish they had Trudeau as their American president, or someone at least less like Donald Trump and more like Trudeau.
As far as his policies, Sunday’s event took place just a stone’s throw from Rubicon Organics which is converting an existing greenhouse into a cannabis growing operation, made possible thanks to Trudeau’s promise to legalize recreational marijuana, set for this October. Several other greenhouse operations in Delta are also getting in on cannabis in a big way, creating a great deal of angst for the City of Delta and Metro Vancouver, both calling on the provincial government to preserve the Agricultural Land Reserve for growing food.
City councillor and longtime Liberal party member Bruce McDonald said the party has gone a long way in Delta thanks to Trudeau and a strong candidate like Qualtrough
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the Port of Vancouver’s controversial Terminal 2 project for Roberts Bank, which is undergoing a panel review, gets the green light from Trudeau’s government, as well as any funding for river channel dredging and another crossing to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel. A delegation of civic representatives including the mayor went to Ottawa several weeks ago to discuss the ongoing Delta issues with federal officials, coming back with a sliver of hope that money might be available for a new crossing if a third-party is involved.
And politically for Trudeau, it appears the “honeymoon” period for the youthful-looking PM may have lost a little of its sheen. One recent example is the Friends of Clayoquot Sound issuing an open letter to the Tofino community, where Trudeau was vacationing again with his family, calling on people and businesses there to make the PM feel unwelcome. That’s thanks to Ottawa’s surprise and odd move to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Still, the popularity of Trudeau, who has an ambitious vision of strengthening Canadian unity, seems to be holding up with 15 months to go until the next election. A poll last month indicated his government’s approval increased and that if an election were held in July he would have won 39 per cent of the popular vote. Will it hold, considering the myriad of thorny issues, as well as delicate high-wire act Trudeau has been on with the combative Trump? Will polls start looking more favourably on Andrew Scheer? Will Jagmeet Singh have the numbers to be the difference maker?
Handily winning the riding in the last election, which was a huge reversal of fortune for the once sad sack federal Liberals in Delta, Qualtrough, a member of Trudeau’s cabinet, was brimming at his making an announcement she will be the Delta candidate.
“I think people are really drawn to his personal style. He’s a good man, he’s got a good heart and people respond to that, and he calls it like it is. He knows how to inspire people, he knows how to bring them together. That’s the way I would describe it,” she said.
“I get the privilege of sitting next to him in the House of Commons and we get to have these chit chats where he really, sincerely, wants to help people. You can hear it when he talks about what he wants to do for families and what he wants to do for seniors…having him here today to announce my nomination, it’s a real honour.”
Qualtrough will have her own annual constituency summer barbeque, which is also open to the public, next month.
The next federal election is set for Oct. 21, 2019.