WINNIPEG – As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the stage in Winnipeg in front of more than 1,000 cheering Liberals, he remembered another day in the Manitoba capital when he arrived to a large group of supporters.
During his speech at the Liberal Convention Saturday, he recalled arriving to crowds stretching for blocks around the St. James Civic Centre two days before last fall’s federal election.
“We’d been drawing some pretty big crowds, but Winnipeggers brought it to a whole new level,” he said.
One hour before Trudeau’s address Saturday, thousands of Liberals from across the country crammed together in the hallway, waiting to ascend to the third floor and fill up the large room in the Convention Centre to see their leader speak.
Trudeau reflected on the Liberal movement that took them from one of the party’s darkest times – the 2011 election when they finished third – to a majority victory last fall.
“It was almost the end of us. We didn’t luck our way out of it. We worked our way out of it,” he said.
This afternoon, the party voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing its constitution, which Trudeau strongly endorsed.
He said the old party constitution is a product of the era they worked hard to put behind them.
“The era of factional battles, and of hyphenated Liberals, of regional chieftains and behind the scenes power brokers. Of the closed, insular thinking that almost killed this party. That is the constitution that we need to replace,” he said.
The changes mean Liberal memberships will be free, and anyone registered will be allowed to participated in things like leadership votes.
Critics said the new constitution would create distance between the leader and the grassroots. Trudeau acknowledged the bravery of those who spoke out with concerns, but strongly disagreed. He says the new constitution will strengthen the voice of the grassroots.
Trudeau also thanked former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his service to Canada, following the news Harper will resign as an MP.
He also chided the Conservatives over their debate on marriage equality at their weekend convention in Vancouver.
“They’re debating the merits of marriage equality in 2016. More than a decade after we made same sex marriage legal in Canada. Better late than never,” he said.
Outside the convention, local marijuana advocates protested the convention.
Steven Stairs says Trudeau’s government isn’t moving quickly enough on its promise to legalize marijuana.
“His talk for the past three and a half years about legalization has just been poise for Canadians to vote for him. He could immediately decriminalize pot right now,” he said.
Trudeau To Meet With MB Premier Next Week
The Prime Minister will be back in our city next week for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.
Trudeau will meet with Premier Brian Pallister while he is here. He says he will take the opportunity to speak to him about Manitoba issues for the first time since he congratulated him on his election victory by phone.
When asked for his thoughts about the proposed sale of MTS to Bell, he said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment as the deal is going in front of federal regulators.
He did say it’s important for consumers to have reliable access to high-quality phone and internet service.
Bowman, Other Mayors, Address Liberals
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman spoke to a couple of hundred Liberals as part of a panel of mayors, outlining some of the ways municipalities and the federal government could work together better.
He said the federal government is good at raising money and municipalities are good at knowing the needs and priorities of communities.
Bowamn suggested each level of government should leverage its strengths to make a better system.
“(Municipalities) collect about 8 cents of every tax dollar, but we are responsible for 60 per cent of Canada’s infrastructure. If you do the math, you can see by the state of the roads in many of the cities, the system is broken and needs to be reformed for the better,” Bowman said.
He described how it has taken about ten years of political debate to get half of a rapid transit line done in Winnipeg. The other half will soon be built to connect downtown to the University of Manitoba.
But he says Winnipeg needs help getting lines built to connect the rest of the city.
“We need to have greater partnering in getting the other lines done pretty quickly… including the capital region, by 2030, (Winnipeg’s population) is expected to be around the million person mark. If you think about another 300,000 people on the roads you’ve been driving on lately, you know why we need to invest in rapid transit, in addition of course to combating climate change,” he said.