In the Summer of 2013, Justin Trudeau, the 'B.C. boy' enjoyed celebrity status as he crossed the province on his RV tour of the Kootenays and Okanagan and arrived in Vancouver where he was surrounded by the media and supporters in the city's West End.
The leader of the federal Liberal Party started his tour in Cranbrook on July 21 with a meet and greet at Rotary Park unusual in politics for its informality. Introduced by Mayor Wayne Stetski, Trudeau then hopped onto the stage dressed in designer jeans and casual shirt and gave an impromptu speech - a formula that was followed at every stop of the tour with minor variations.
Two years later, Stetski is the NDP candidate in the Kootenay-Columbia riding currently held by Harpercon David Wilks.
In Creston at Truscott Farms he was presented with a cherry pie, and in Nelson he arrived for the meet and greet on the city's famous street car with his wife Sophie Gregoire and children Xavier and Ella-Grace.
The no frills approach continued across the province perhaps defining a new political style consistent with the kind of politics Trudeau wants to see in Canada. Based on the reaction from the crowd in Cranbrook and news reports from other communities he visited, it worked. I just can't imagine Stephen Harper, the prime minister, trying it, although he did wear cardigans at one point.
Some of the shine has gone from Trudeau as the federal election approaches, but he can still attract a crowd and methinks his best asset is the no frills to get out and meet folks approach across the country.
Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre told The Province newspaper, she believes Trudeau’s popularity is rooted in his authenticity. “I think he is not like other politicians,” she said. “When people see him there is a deep sense of trust. People just seem to naturally gravitate to him. He is a B.C. boy and British Columbians seem to be warming to him".
Yes indeed, he is a B.C. boy, and although he is the son of Pierre Trudeau, from Quebec, his mother is Margaret Sinclair, the daughter of James Sinclair, a Liberal MP representing Vancouver area ridings from 1940 to 1957, and minister of fisheries from 1952 to 1957. Trudeau also attended the University of British Columbia and taught in the province.
In Cranbrook, Trudeau talked about paddling the Kootenay River with his father and brothers more than 25 years ago, and prior to a meet and greet in Trail, Trudeau and his family hiked to Nelson’s Kokanee Lake, the site where Trudeau’s brother Michel died in 1998 during an avalanche.
Trudeau posed the question along the way: "Why has politics itself become such a dirty word?", in recent years.Answering his own question in part, Trudeau commented that it is always easier in politics to divide, to attack, go negative, calculate where most votes are and practise the politics of division.
He even admitted elections can be won this way, but he hopes to turn it around despite many advising him that he must go negative.
In Vancouver, in a speech from atop a table at English Bay, Trudeau is reported by The Province as saying, ""What I have seen across the county is people want to reconnect – we want to be once again part of the solution,This is what people are excited about across the country. I’m just an excuse for it. It’s not really about me, it’s about all of you."
In Kelowna, Conservative Party MP Ron Cannan attended theTrudeau meet and greet and told a local newspaper he agreed with several things that the Liberal leader said. "I believe in working together, as Justin advocates.
"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.
Good that this MP showed respect and common decency by attending the Trudeau function. Maybe the prime minister will get the message. So far, two years later, Harper still has not gotten it but remains totally surrounded by Steve.
As I was reflecting two years later, on Trudeau's road tour, and the positive reaction, one thing I sensed for sure, and heard it in Cranbrook, and still hear it, folks are fed up with the present negativity and general goings on in Ottawa in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Duffy Senate affair.
I covered the "Trudeaumania" election campaign in 1968 as a reporter and editor and witnessed it first hand -- but hold on to your seats folks, in my view the son re-ignited the flame on this RV tour. Can he do it again in the Summer of 2015?