WELLINGTON — Hector Arsenault told Justin Trudeau he would be prime minister.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Janice Gaudet and grandson, three-month-old Ty Simpson, pose for a photo with Justin Trudea, who made a stop in Wellington Monday for a meet at greet at the Vanier Centre. Trudeau is vying for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Those words were spoken while Trudeau visited the ailing man in his Wellington home in the summer 2010.
The 40-year-old Liberal MP, the son of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, earlier this fall took the first major step on the road to becoming prime minister by throwing his hat in the ring for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Monday, he returned to Wellington where he was greeted by almost 300 party faithful. Absent was Hector, who passed away from cancer in October 2011.
However, several of his family, armed with pictures of that day in 2010 when Trudeau visited their father and husband, came out to support his leadership bid.
“Dad was a big fan of Justin Trudeau’s dad. He read so much about him and he knew all about their lives. When Justin was over, there wasn’t anything he needed to ask,” said Hector’s daughter, Bernice. “Dad was so choked up. He couldn’t believe Justin was in our house.”
The visit lasted about 30 minutes and hundreds of photograph were taken.
Before Trudeau left, Hector put his hand on the Liberal MP’s shoulder and spoke.
“I will see you as the next prime minister of Canada, just like your father.”
Bernice believes that her father’s words will come true.
Casually dressed in jeans, Trudeau weaved his way through the crowd, stopping to chat with supporters, posing for photos, shaking hands and listening to concerns of those who came out for the event at the Vanier Centre.
But it was his almost 20-minute speech — done entirely off the cuff and with no talking notes — that captured the crowd’s attention.
In French and English, Trudeau spoke of the need to unify the Liberal party, a party, he said, for all Canadians.
“The challenges we face are significant. The Liberal Party went from 170 seats in 2000 to 135 in 2004… to 35 in the most recent election. That’s a pretty straight line,” said Trudeau. “We have to change. We have to realize that there is a lesson in this, that the Liberal Party spent an awful lot of time turned in on itself, focusing on its own ambitions and its own future instead of focusing on the future of this country, focusing on Liberals and not just Canadians.”
One of the main reasons he decided to run for the leadership was the sense of cynicism he feels among Canadians when it comes to politics and government.
Trudeau said although the wealth of the country has grown, the working class has not reaped any benefits.
“We have a government that doesn’t so much believe in government and is doing its darnedest to convince everyone else it isn’t much good either,” he added. “We need to change that because this is a very special place to which people have come from all over the world… to build a better life for themselves.”
But, said Trudeau, the promise of prosperity, which Canada was built on, is one he feels Canadians no longer holds true.
“That’s why I have launched this campaign, to try and serve my country the best way I possibly can imagine, which is fighting for hard-working Canadians of the middle-class,” he added. “We’ve just been neglecting the hard-working Canadians who keep their heads down and put food on their table.”
Trudeau criticized what he called the Republican-style politics of the Stephen Harper Conservatives, saying they are playing on “fear and envy and mistrust, regional differences and different perspectives” to get elected.
“You can’t actually govern worth a damn once you divided the country that way.”
Trudeau said differences from coast to coast to coast should make Canada stronger.
“What this country deserves is to have, once again, a political party that speaks to, for and with all Canadians, a party that will say the same thing en français in a community hall in P.E.I. as they’ll say in an office tower in Calgary,” he added. “A prime minister needs to be a prime minister for all Canadians even if you voted for him or not.”
And that is who Trudeau feels he is.
The campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada officially kicks off on Wednesday. Five other Liberals have announced their intention to run for the leadership with the deadline for those to announce their intent being Jan. 14.
A new Liberal leader will be decided April 14, 2013.