© Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian
Liberal MPs and senators are heading back to Ottawa with an infusion of excitement after a week of meetings in P.E.I. that saw their leader remain squarely in the national spotlight.
Justin Trudeau, who surprised the nation last week by calling for marijuana legalization and admitting to smoking up since becoming an MP, spent much of the week fielding questions about both pot and his decision to delay releasing a policy platform until 2015.
Despite facing criticism on both fronts, MPs and senators left their party’s summer caucus meetings in P.E.I. feeling bolstered.
Trudeau’s public appearances in the province drew big crowds of supporters and every movement he made was documented by national media.
“I’m not sure we saw as many (media) at Montebello a year ago, and that was an hour drive from Ottawa.. I didn’t see a satellite truck parked outside meetings we had two years ago,” said Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc.
LeBlanc said the public’s interest in Trudeau has not waned, as pundits predicted during his leadership campaign, but is instead growing momentum for the party.
P.E.I. Senator Percy Downe agreed.
“There’s no question that Justin Trudeau has revitalized the federal party,” Downe said.
“The second part of that is we have a very old and tired federal government now. They’ve been in for seven years, most federal governments don’t last for a particularly long time anymore.”
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey likened the federal party’s current status to that of the provincial Liberal party when Robert Ghiz became leader in 2003.
“It’s deja vu,” Casey said.
“We had one seat in the legislature, we were $600,000 in debt, we had no staff. We had a young leader who, they said, ‘His resume is too thin, all he’s ever done was politics, he’s trading on his father’s name.’ Sound familiar? It’s happening all over again.”
As the party’s national caucus meetings wrapped up in P.E.I. Thursday, Trudeau and his MPs and senators pledged to work toward drawing up policies that would help Canada’s middle class, who they say are struggling with stagnant incomes while costs for living and raising a family are ever on the rise.
“The middle class is falling behind,” said Malpeque MP Wayne Easter.
“We did spend a lot of time in caucus talking about the middle class and strategizing on how we move ahead for Canadians with the party in terms of developing policy that will improve life for the middle class.”
Easter said he believes it was beneficial to have the party’s federal leader and full membership visit the Island and hear the concerns of Islanders first-hand.
“Having the whole caucus here talk to people on the ground to hear about some of the EI issues, the farm issues, the fisheries issues ... that’s invaluable to all Islanders because the leaders in the party better understand the situation on the ground in P.E.I.”
“I think what it does is energizes the party,” said Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay.
“They feel good that people really want to hear what they have to say.”
As for how they plan to keep the excitement built around the party and Trudeau this week in P.E.I. going forward?
“Just watch us,” Casey said.