Speaking to an audience of supporters during a special dinner at the Prince Albert Elks Lodge, Trudeau -- currently MP for Papineau -- minced no words as he offered a frank assessment of his party’s declining fortunes over the past decade.
“What this Liberal Party has decided to do with this leadership (campaign) is to realize that we’ve had trouble in the past elections,” Trudeau said.
“We went from 170 seats in the year 2000, to 135 in the election after that, to 100 in the election after that, to 77 in the election after that, to 34 in the election after that. I mean, that’s a straight line and it ends up at two seats, because there’s no way we’re losing Wascana or Papineau,” he joked to laughs from the crowd.
“We need to turn that around.”
Delivering a brief speech, Goodale made clear he believed Trudeau was the Liberal leadership candidate best suited to accomplish that task.
“You’ve seen tonight, I think, the intellect and the toughness and the vision and the hope that he expresses for the future of Canada,” Goodale told the audience.
“But the key quality that he represents, and that’s so important in the leadership campaign, is the ability to make the Liberal Party grow, and I think over the last number of years, we’ve kind of lost that talent, more looking inward than outward, and we’ve seen the party diminish, atrophy, and we’ve got to get past that.
“We’ve got to reach out to a whole new group of people and a brand new generation of Canadians, and more than anyone else, Justin has that capacity for the outreach, for the inspiration to attract literally thousands of new people to the Liberal Party.”
Much of Trudeau’s remarks reflected the Liberal soul-searching that has resulted in moves such as the decision to open up its leadership election to all members of the public that are not active members of competing parties.
In terms of economic policy, Trudeau kept to the cautious centrism that has become a Liberal trademark. While criticizing the rise in income inequality, he drew careful distinctions between proposed solutions of the Liberals and those of other parties.
“The prosperity of this country is not being shared by those who work hardest to create,” he said. “And the solution is not in punishing the wealthy, the way the NDP do. But it’s not about dividing up a small pie in ever-smaller parts.
“The solution is to grow the pie. The solution is to invest in the kinds of things that are going to improve our economy. But improve it not just for those lucky enough to be at the top, but for everyone, and particularly those who work hard, day-in, day-out, to earn a living.”
Trudeau put forward five proposals for improving the economy: Investing in education; opening up Canada’s natural resources; expanding trade by attracting foreign investors and foreign investment; turning towards responsible fiscal management and balanced budgets; and researching technology that might lead to greater productivity and new investment opportunities.
What this Liberal Party has decided to do with this leadership (campaign) is to realize that we’ve had trouble in the past elections. - Justin Trudeau
Given that supporters of the Idle No More movement -- which Trudeau said have “legitimate concerns and legitimate complaints ” -- have raised concerns about land development without consent, how does the candidate intend to balance those concerns with his support for projects such as a proposed west-east pipeline?
“You balance the two by opening conversations, by bringing people to the table, by talking about what the short-term, medium-term, long-term expectations are (and) talk(ing) about how we empower people living in First Nations communities,” Trudeau said.
“It’s not just about the future of those communities. It’s about the future of our country, because 48 per cent of anyone who lives in First Nations communities is under 25 years old. This is about the future we’re trying to build. We cannot continue to exclude significant parts of the people who live in Canada from that progress.”