Federal leaders head to Stampede, show solidarity with flooded Calgarians

OTTAWA – Federal political leaders will be doing more than whooping it up when they make their annual pilgrimage to the Calgary Stampede next week.

They’ll be showing solidarity with residents of the flood-ravaged city and sending a signal that Calgary is back on its feet — perhaps a bit wobbly, but still a force to be reckoned with.

And while they’ll doubtless flip pancakes at one of the ubiquitous Stampede breakfasts, they may also find themselves wielding shovels and brooms as part of the volunteer cleanup brigades.

“I certainly, when I go to Calgary, will not just be celebrating the Stampede; I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and helping out as well,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

“We need to demonstrate that this is something that goes beyond just a local issue. It’s an issue that all Canadians should be focused on.”

The Stampede grounds and much of Calgary’s downtown core were submerged in last week’s devastating flooding. But city and Stampede officials have vowed the “greatest outdoor show on earth” will start as scheduled on July 5, “come hell or high water.”

Trudeau agreed that the show must go on, calling the Stampede “a point of pride” for Calgarians and all Canadians.

“To demonstrate that we’re able to deal with adversity and come back stronger is an essential thing to do at a time like this.”

A spokeswoman later said Trudeau’s office is trying to organize a small group of volunteers to join the leader on a cleanup crew. It is in touch with Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s office to determine where the crew could be most helpful, without getting in the way.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who represents a Calgary riding, toured the damage in his hometown and surrounding area last week and “will be going home” again for the Stampede, a spokesperson said.

Details of Harper’s schedule remain to be announced but his wife, Laureen, was back in Calgary on Wednesday helping with the cleanup and thanking volunteers.

“Working with great volunteers in the Mission area today cleaning out garbage,” she tweeted.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is also slated to be in town, helping out at the CBC’s annual pancake breakfast and taking part in the opening Stampede parade.

“The leader is totally committed to go there and to participate in the Stampede because it’s a prime example of Canadian resilience,” said spokesperson Karl Belanger.

Mulcair’s office is also in touch with city and Stampede officials to see what else the NDP leader can do to help the recovery effort. He may also visit one of the First Nations just outside Calgary which were hard hit by the raging flood waters.

“The goal of the visit is to show support for the community and help them get restarted,” Belanger said.