And then there was Justin – 18 months before the campaign
I remember how I felt on April 27th, 2007 like it was yesterday. For the past 8 years of my life, since I made the switch from pursuing a career in the sciences as a meteorologist to ‘something’ in the Human Sciences, I have been either following various levels of political (municipal, provincial and international) or involved in politics at a lower level like President of the Vanier College Students’ Association and Vice-President (Finance & Operations) of Students’ Society of McGill University. But having Justin Trudeau running for the candidature of the Liberal Party for the riding of Papineau, my riding, was more than enough to draw me out that day.
By then, I had been aware of Justin for approximately 8 years as well. Like many Canadians of my generation, Justin was introduced to us at a sad moment in Canadian history: while offering the eulogy at his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s funeral at Notre-Dame Basilica in 1999 (Justin Trudeau Eulogizes His Father, Pierre: Part 1 and Justin Trudeau Eulogizes His Father, Pierre: Part 2). The next time I heard about him was throughout my time at McGill University from 2001 – 2005. Let’s just say that, like his father, Justin drew (and still draws) polarizing opinions about himself.
So, here you had a potential ‘rockstar’ political candidate, born and raised in 24 Sussex Drive, wanting to represent a working class / 3rd poorest riding in Canada. Back then, I was suspicious of his intentions with the riding – with Canadian politics in general.
I did not vote that day firstly due to the fact that I was not a member of the Liberal Party of Canada (or any party for that matter) and only pre-registered members were allowed. Secondly, I didn’t want to. I had approached the day as an observer. I observed the candidates as they made their way around Collège André-Grasset and spoke to the Federal Liberal members of the riding. I made sure to speak with none of them, not even shake their hand. I observed how the members of the riding reacted to the candidates especially, Justin (who for the only time since I began volunteering for him campaigned under the banner, “Trudeau”). He had stiff competition with Mary Deros and Basilio Giordano and required all his resources to be aligned in order to win the way he needed to win. The members wanted to see “the name” in their riding again anyways.
I left that day before the ballots were counted. Sticking around in order to find out who won was not important. I left the volunteers at the door my contact information, letting them know that I am willing to help whoever won, and went home. It was only the following day, when I read the article “Trudeau wins Montreal riding nomination,”
“In the fall of 1965, he said, his father ran in the neighbouring Mount Royal riding, part of which is now included in the Papineau district.”
“Trudeau told voting members that some of them helped nominate his father who eventually gave Canada one of the most evolved tools for human rights in the world — the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
“What you were part of 40 years ago changed Canada forever,” he said. “We are all children of the charter. You can understand how fiercely proud I am to be able to say that your prime minister was also my dad.”
“I’m a teacher; I’m a convenor; I’m a gatherer; I’m someone who reaches out to people and is deeply interested in what they have to say,” he said.
“And people see that I’m not faking it. I’m actually genuinely committed to this dialogue that we’re opening up, and this understanding that needs to happen in order to be an effective MP.”
I was able to relate to the sincerity of his message and decided he was at least worth an opportunity to prove himself.