Hundreds of Kelowna residents, Liberal supporters and curious passersby made their way to Kerry Park Tuesday morning to listen to the man who has been tasked with reviving the Liberal Party of Canada.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau was in town as part of a multi-day B.C. tour, which began Sunday in Cranbrook.
He spent the majority of his time in Kelowna shaking hands, answering individuals’ questions and posing for photos with his fans.
“A lot of people say this is about Justin and the hair—it’s not about that,” Trudeau told the crowd.
“This is about people feeling that, for once, there might be room for Canadians in Canadian politics.”
Opting not to use a microphone, Trudeau lifted his voice to encourage the crowd to raise their expectations of the federal government.
Daniel Germain, who lives in Montreal but considers Kelowna his second home, was one of hundreds in attendance Tuesday.
“I believe Canadians are looking for a breath of fresh air—that’s what Justin is bringing,” said Germain.
Remi Ouellette wasn’t willing to label himself a Liberal supporter; however, he spoke positively about Trudeau.
“I’ve got a lot of praise for the man,” said Ouellette, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if Trudeau eventually became prime minister.
“He’s going to make it, as far as I’m concerned. His name’s Trudeau, and we all knew his dad, but I think he could do it on his own.”
Trudeau touched on several issues Tuesday, including his opinion that marijuana should be legalized.
“The current model isn’t working,” said Trudeau.
“We need a government that’s going to be able to actually listen to the facts and do the right thing, not just pander to fears and try to win votes on ideologies.”
He noted his current B.C. tour isn’t about convincing people to vote Liberal; rather, “getting them to think a little bit differently about politics, with a little more openness and a little more hope.”
Although the Kelowna audience included all ages, Trudeau has been praised for his ability to connect with youth. He said he credits that to “making space” for young people in his campaign.
“I understand we have a generation of young people who are more involved, more engaged, more aware of what’s going on in the world around them than ever before.”
On Monday, Trudeau was expected to hike to Kokanee Lake, the site where his younger brother, Michel, drowned in 1998.
With five drownings throughout the province over the past weekend, Trudeau said increased awareness and investments in search and rescue should be made to help keep people safer.
“One of the most basic responsibilities of a government is to do anything it can to keep people safe.”
Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan was on hand for Trudeau’s visit Tuesday.
He said he agreed with several things the Liberal leader had to say.
“I believe in working together, as Justin advocates,” said Cannan.
“What he said, it’s hard not to agree with—all comments about balancing the environment and the economy, working together for a stronger future for not only our children, but our grandchildren (as well).”
Kelowna-Lake Country voters heavily favoured the Conservative candidate in the 2011 general election; Cannan earned about 57 per cent of the vote.
But Trudeau said those numbers don’t phase him.
“There are areas across the country—now that we’re down to (34) seats—that are not Liberal right now.
“I’m just trying to get out and meet as many people as possible right across the country and I’ve been really touched by the extraordinary response.”