The morning after the first leaders’ debate of the federal election campaign Thursday night, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was seen pressing home his perceived gain from the exercise by taking the battle into Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s Eglinton-Lawrence riding in Toronto.
“Joe Oliver might have a lot of ways to make his Ottawa numbers look good, but the Conservatives have no plan to make the numbers families crunch every day look any better,” Trudeau told a rally at the Columbus Centre, an Italian-Canadian cultural hub. “Stephen Harper is out of touch with Canadians, and I am determined to replace his government with a strong team and a new plan that will make a real difference in their lives.”
“While the second generation of all waves of immigrants always had the opportunity to do better, this is the first such generation facing a bleaker future. That opportunity, the aspiration to join the middle class has to be brought back.” – Adam Vaughn, Liberal candidate
While the crowd (pictured left) was made up of candidates and their supporters from all the downtown Toronto ridings, the home ground advantage belonged to Marco Mendicino, who had recently defeated former Conservative MP Eve Adams in a contentious nomination fight for the party ticket.
Asked if his decision to welcome Adams into the Liberal fold was a mistake that would hurt Mendicino’s chances, Trudeau deflected, saying he was proud of the open nomination process his party has used across the country.
On the absence of any specific message from Trudeau for new immigrants in Thursday’s debate, Adam Vaughan, another Liberal contender for a Toronto riding, said it would come out in subsequent debates.
“Canadians know an economy that works for the middle class means a country that works for everyone; that better is always possible.” – Justin Trudeau, Liberal leader
Speaking to New Canadian Media on the sidelines, Vaughn said immigrant specific issues like foreign credential recognition, precarious jobs and affordable housing will be addressed by his party’s “can do better” messaging. He said changes brought in by Bill C-24 and those made over the past few years, makes immigration the most broken of all systems.
“While the second generation of all waves of immigrants always had the opportunity to do better, this is the first such generation facing a bleaker future,” said Vaughan. “That opportunity, the aspiration to join the middle class has to be brought back.” The current MP from Trinity-Spadina, Vaughan will now be sparring with the NDP’s Olivia Chow in the newly created riding of Spadina-Fort York.
On C-51, the other bill that has come in for criticism and put the Liberals in a corner for supporting it, Vaughan said voters would understand his party’s position once they have a clear understanding of the Anti-Terrorism Act. He said independent judicial oversight is essential. “The party that brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will get the balance right,” he stated.
‘Better is always possible’
In his speech to a crowd charged-up by his debate performance, Trudeau said Harper is telling Canadians to stay the course, but in reality, his plan gives billions in benefits to the wealthiest few and will do nothing to help the majority of Canadians get ahead. He said it has not worked for the middle class or for lower-income Canadians that have had to work harder and harder to find the ladder of opportunity.
“The Liberals have a plan that will deliver fairness and growth that works for everyone. We will cut taxes for the middle class and create one bigger, fair, automatic and tax-free monthly benefit that will help families with the high cost of raising their kids,” Trudeau said. “Canadians know an economy that works for the middle class means a country that works for everyone; that better is always possible.”
‘Like Usain Bolt’
This aspirational message of doing better, which was his closing statement at Thursday’s debate, resonated well with a group of mostly new Canadian Liberal supporters who watched it on television at the Scarborough Centre office of candidate Salma Zahid.
“Tonight’s debate gave Canadians the opportunity to compare the Liberal plan for real change against Harper’s failed plan and [NDP leader] Thomas Mulcair’s empty promises.” – Ashwani Bhardwaj, Liberal party worker
“Although there were ups and downs for all leaders during the debate, the heat is on Harper,” said Ashwani Bhardwaj, a party worker. “Tonight’s debate gave Canadians the opportunity to compare the Liberal plan for real change against Harper’s failed plan and [NDP leader] Thomas Mulcair’s empty promises.”
“Justin’s ending was amazing,” exclaimed another partisan. “He was like Usain Bolt,” he said alluding to that extra speed the sprint champion produces when he nears the finishing line.
It was a fresh and different take from the boxing analogies the pundits were using because Trudeau is adept in that sport. To good measure, as part of the prep-up for the debate, Trudeau’s PR team had put out a photo of him working out that morning at Paul Brown Boxfit in Toronto.
But the photos that would be trending on social media are the hundreds of selfies Trudeau supporters had been taking throughout Friday. While there was some order at the Columbus Centre in the morning, it was all chaos at Zahid’s campaign office. The Liberal leader got a raucous welcome and did his best to accommodate as many selfie seekers as possible.
As the Friday prayers at the nearby mosque had just ended, the moot question is whether the timing chosen for the stop was deliberate. But as Trudeau’s campaign bus moved on, no one complained about the cramped space or limited parking. And the halal pizza laid out for the party volunteers quickly recharged energy levels for another round of phone calls, door knocking and distribution of lawn signs.