On Saturday afternoon, at a convention centre in Halifax, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a keynote address to the largest ever policy convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. An estimated 3,000 members attended the convention, and the crowd for Trudeau’s speech left standing room only, with members shaking noise makers and others making noise without any props at all. After an introduction by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Trudeau’s bilingual half-hour address focused on policy achievements so far and the groundwork ahead. Here’s the Prime Minister’s speech.
Bonjour à tous. Welcome to Nova Scotia! Hello Halifax! And thank you, Ralph, for that warm introduction but mostly thank you for your steadfast leadership and service to our country through extra times and through difficult times like the one, we all stand with you, in Saskatchewan.
I also want to congratulate our newest President, Suzanne Cowan. Suzanne, you’ve been there for me and for our movement since the very beginning of this great adventure. Since the very, very beginning, in fact. Nobody has put more work into getting us where we are today. We wouldn’t be here without you so thank you for being along.
For anyone out there who has at one point in their lives even had a single five-minute conversation with Suzanne, you will know where she’s from because she will have told you.
I have never met a prouder Haligonian. It is quite fitting and right that you begin your Presidency in your hometown. Welcome home.
What a crowd. What an amazing convention. I’m told we’re around 3,000 strong, and that almost 1,600 of you have actually never attended a convention before. So welcome to the most open political movement in Canada.
It is now yours. Yours to shape and build and grow. We need your enthusiasm and ideas, your positivity and your energy, but most of all, we need your hope and hard work. Hope and hard work are exactly what got us where we are today.
Five years ago this month you put your trust in me by making me your leader, and the argument I tried to drive home during the leadership race was simple: Canadians had lost faith in the Liberal Party, because the Liberal Party no longer placed its trust in Canadians.
I never claimed to have all the answers. But I always knew that together Canadians knew what needed to be done. And I promised you back then that no one would work harder alongside you to find those answers. And having said that we find the very same challenge all over again today.
And that is to build a platform that focuses on Canadians and the middle class and Canadians who work hard each and every day to join it.
And to build the political movement that will make Canadians’ dreams a reality. And that is exactly what we have done.
And that is what you did alongside hundreds of thousands of your fellow Canadians, who volunteered to make phone calls and go door to door, and millions of Canadians placed their trust in us, to make those ideals and their dreams a reality.
We didn’t join in the gutter
Together, we did it by challenging conventional wisdom, by blowing the doors off the echo chamber that had become politics in this country, which makes it possible to have a convention room that looks like this one, that looks just like Canada. We did it by having the courage to present new ideas to Canadians about the economy, about how to create good, middle class jobs in the 21st Century. We did it by reaffirming our values and standing up for them.
See when the Harper Conservatives spent millions upon millions of dollars on personal attacks and the politics of fear and division, we didn’t join them in the gutter. We beat them the old-fashioned way. We had better ideas for Canadians and recruited a better team to turn those ideas into real change. We challenged pessimistic, divisive politics with a positive vision of the future that includes all Canadians from all backgrounds, regions, and walks of life.
Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways.
And let me tell you this: We can stack our record up against any government’s. There are those who say our movement is about image and not policy. Well, tell that to the three hundred thousand kids who were living in poverty three years ago and who aren’t now, whose families can enjoy simple things like better school supplies and healthier food.
Just try to tell that to the millions of working Canadians who now have a stronger Canada Pension Plan, which Conservatives voted against and opposed every step of the way.
Tell that to the more than 700,000 plus seniors aged 65 and 66 who still get $8,100 every year from Old Age Security. Those grandparents who can now afford to take their children’s children to a movie or a local junior hockey game.
Try and tell that to the families whose loved ones would be suffering through needless and excruciating pain in terminal illness, who now have the choice to die with dignity in the care of a doctor.
Try telling that to more than 3,600 communities with projects from our infrastructure plan, projects that wouldn’t exist otherwise because the Conservatives and NDP didn’t have the confidence to invest in Canada’s future.
And you just try telling that to the more than 50,000 Syrians who would still be fleeing persecution if the Conservatives had their way but who are instead building communities and growing the economy all across the country today.
Try telling it to victims of domestic violence whose assailants will no longer be able to own a gun, thanks to common sense gun control legislation. The Conservatives oppose that too.
Try telling it to all the Canadians – particularly young people – who want Canada to do its part to fight climate change and protect the environment. Because they now have a government that is pricing carbon pollution, investing in clean technologies, and protecting our coasts with a world-class Oceans Protection Plan.
Dear friends, it is easy to give into cynicism when it comes to politics.
It’s all too easy to sit back and watch the news and read the newspapers and come to the conclusion that all politicians are cut from the same cloth.
It’s all too easy to tell yourself that elections really don’t matter, because politicians only think of themselves and at the end of the day nothing really changes.
But when you hear folks making that argument, thinking of Tareq Hadhad, who spoke here yesterday.
Tareq was living in Syria with his family and started his chocolate business when the war broke out seven years ago.
The war destroyed his community, killed members of his family, his friends and loved ones.
And it’s a war that made him cynical and downcast about an uncertain future.
And today not only is Tareq safe, but he’s making a huge contribution to the Antigonish community in Nova Scotia and to the whole of Canada
Now, when I think about Tareq I also remember Alan Kurdi.
And I’m sure you remember young Alan. You will recall his corpse that washed up on a Turkish beach on the 2nd of September, 2015.
At that very same time we were in the midst of a close electoral race, and I was passing through my birth city that morning, and I have vivid memories, I can tell you, of that image, and those memories have remained etched in my mind forever more.
More than 50,000 people escaped a future that might have been like Alan’s, but wasn’t because of a choice Canadians made. A choice that illustrates everything that is so great about our country, and it wasn’t just about changing their government. The government of Canada didn’t turn more than 50,000 Syrians into Canadians. Their fellow Canadians did.
Nearly two million Canadians have been involved in sponsoring refugees. Not just from Syria, but from all over the world through church groups and neighbourhood associations, their kids’ schools and their own workplaces. Two million Canadians saw a great wrong in the world, and did what they could to right it.
What makes me proudest of our fellow citizens is that they did it despite the flood of fact-less fear-mongering that aimed to dissuade them from doing it, but we Canadians know who we are.
We know from daily, personal experience that diversity is a great source of strength, not weakness. We see it in our homes, our community centres and our workplaces, in our mosques and churches, in our gurdwaras and our synagogues. We are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
When Canadians come across someone in need they reach out their hand and help them.
When we are faced with Canadians who have been excluded, we work even harder to include them.
And when we are faced with the fundamental injustice that is the gender wage gape, we do something about it, and we work hard to make sure that all Canadians enjoy equal opportunities to succeed be they men or women.
And why do we do this? Well, we’re feminists.
And why? Because it is the right thing to do, the right thing to be and the smart thing to do.
We know that when women succeed the entire economy flourishes alongside them.
At a time when far too many nations are forgetting the hard lessons etched in the pages of our shared history, Canadians stick to their values.
When we make honest efforts to create opportunities for everyone, we learn the forces that bind us together are much stronger than those that would pull us apart. Canada is a living, growing testament to that fact.
Conservatives politicians want people to believe that “Canada is broken.” Well, I say that shows you how little they’ve learned from the election they lost in 2015. Canada is not perfect.
We have many problems to solve, many challenges to overcome. And I’m not perfect. Sophie’s been telling me that for 15 years. And of course, neither is any other government. We all have miles to go before we sleep.
We still have a long way to go before we can look into our children’s eyes and tell them that we’ve done all that we can to fight climate change and build a greener economy.
We face an uphill battle before we can tell them that we have arrived at genuine reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
And still a whole lot of work to do before we can say proud and high that the Canadian economy is working for all Canadians
Despite an exceptionally low unemployment rate there are still so many Canadians who are left by the wayside.
But let me make one thing clear.
Canada is the best country in the world.
And I will repeat this to the Conservative Party: Canada is the best country in the world.
There is not a single country on Earth that wouldn’t trade their problems for ours.
I love this country down to my bones, and I will defend it and our values against anyone who says it’s broken.
But of course, my friends, as we all know, better is always possible. I am looking forward to the 2019 campaign because I can’t wait to put our plan, our team, and our vision of Canada up against theirs. In fact, I’m looking forward to it because I don’t think the Conservative Party learned anything from its last campaign.
The current Leader of the Opposition introduced himself to Canadians a year ago as “Stephen Harper with a smile.” His words. Not ours. As if the biggest problem with the previous government was Mr. Harper’s facial expressions.
The same politics of fear and division
I’ll tell you this: It wasn’t Stephen Harper’s frown that created the worst growth record since the great depression. It wasn’t his demeanour that cut Veterans’ pensions and closed their service centres. It wasn’t his mood that failed to either get a pipeline built or to act on climate change.
No, my friends, Stephen Harper’s personal disposition didn’t fail Canada. His policies did. And if there’s one thing – and only one thing – that we’ve learned about the Conservative Party under Mr. Scheer’s leadership, it’s this: It may be Andrew Scheer’s smile, but it’s still Stephen Harper’s party.
The same policies, the same politics of fear and division. If anything, they’ve been emboldened by successful campaigns elsewhere in the world to divide people against one another.
They are threatening to undo our plan to fight climate change, and to go back in time.
Worse still, the Conservatives refuse categorically to acknowledge that this is a problem that we must deal with.
And let’s not forget that Andrew Scheer promises to go even further than Stephen Harper by further weakening gun control laws.
They fought against each and every measure that we put forward to raise taxes on the top one per cent, and to bring tax relief to the middle class.
Well, my friends, let’s see if a lesson taught twice is a lesson not forgotten. In 2015, Canadians rejected the politics of fear and division. Perhaps they wanted to teach the Conservative Party a lesson, but it didn’t want to learn and evidently still doesn’t.
Positive politics means you fight for your ideas. You don’t demonize your opponents. As I said to you at our convention in Montreal in 2014, Canadians who voted Conservative are not our enemies. They are our neighbours. We will fight for Canadians, all Canadians. We will fight for their future, and for their hopes and dreams. We will fight for their right to have a government that respects them, that listens to them, that sticks up for them, and that cares about them.
That is why we do this.
You were the ones who started this movement five years ago. Just look around you, you’ve already written a page in history. But our greatest challenges are still squarely ahead of us. Are you ready?
Get out there. Go knock doors. Make phone calls. Don’t take a single Canadian for granted. Trust in Canadians, my friends. Tell them about the work we’re doing. Tell them about the movement we’re building. We have every right to be proud of our accomplishments, as a movement and as a country.
But they didn’t happen by accident and they won’t continue without effort. You all know—we all know—that Canada is the best country in the world. With hope and hard work, we can make it even better. Because we all know: Better is always possible.