Justin Trudeau: Town halls bring new format and skeptics

Ottawa –

Every town hall starts the same way. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in a blue or white shirt with his sleeves rolled up, takes the microphone, and speaks poetically about the state of the world, acknowledging the difficult years Canadians have faced in recent years. .

Those in the crowd who have the opportunity to ask the prime minister immature questions are used to those struggles.

There are Muslim mothers who worry about their children’s safety. Immigrants worried about their future in Canada. Blue-collar workers who can’t afford to eat. Those who cannot find work or access mental health support. Young people who can’t sleep due to climate change. Indigenous people who say they feel left out.

At the 14-hour town halls Trudeau has attended over the past 11 weeks, he puts himself in a position to hear their concerns in the question-and-answer session that follows his speech.

However, some attendees at the event said they were encouraged by Trudeau’s efforts, but found themselves cynical about whether Trudeau and his government were actually listening.

For Trudeau, it’s a familiar format, and some experts say it will serve the party well, even if its usefulness to the wider public is questioned.

“This is what I want to do,” Trudeau told a group of merchants in Winnipeg earlier this week.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the prime minister has been restricted from interacting with the public due to public health measures keeping people at a distance from each other.

Philippe J. Fournier, a polling analyst at 338Canada, said, “He must have wanted to do these throughout the pandemic and during the 2021 (election) campaign. Voting site.

“He’s really happy to be back on tour. This is his best.”

But nearly eight years into office, Trudeau faces a different political culture.

Fournier noted that Trudeau was treated like a rock star when he visited places like Mississauga, Ontario, in 2016. He ran into angry protesters in many constituencies.

A man in London, Ontario even threw stones at him.

“The country has changed,” said Fournier. “People are angry and would shoot him if they could.”

So while Prime Minister Trudeau was attending a town hall event open to the public, his office said the format had to be changed due to new security threats.

To prepare the tour, the Prime Minister’s Office contacted specific special interest groups such as unions, universities and businesses to ask if they would like to host a town hall.

Some participants said that they were in a professional environment that was often linked to their workplace and that they needed to be treated with respect.

“We were told we could ask questions. Feel free to ask difficult questions, but please be respectful. Local Union.

The group that organizes City Hall is responsible for the guest list but must keep the event private.

“We had to keep it a secret and be careful about who was invited,” Bullock said.

Most people invited to the event don’t know who the speakers are and are said to simply be “government officials”.

Many Canadians who attended City Hall said they appreciated the opportunity, knowing it was a rare opportunity to voice their grievances face-to-face with the Prime Minister.

It’s common for people to live-stream their interactions with him on social media and flock to him after the event to take selfies and shake hands.

When attending City Hall at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg this week, Prime Minister Trudeau was documented by a Reddit user in an exchange with a self-proclaimed Canadian People’s Party supporter that quickly went viral online.

The young man said it was “anti-Christian” for the Liberal Party to support abortion rights and asked if the prime minister should have the right for women to “choose what happens to their bodies”. At the time, he replied, “Personally no.”

The exchange continued, and Prime Minister Trudeau finally tapped the young man on the shoulder and said, “It sounds like you need to think a little more and pray a little more.”

Prime Minister Trudeau was praised for handling interactions on social media.

“Historically, these events have been very kind to Trudeau,” Fournier said. “He’s very good at talking to people.”

But Scott Reed, a former senior adviser to Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, warned that city hall could become a bubble that doesn’t necessarily reflect the mood of the country.

And the excitement of being in the same room as the Prime Minister can wear off quickly.

Manitoba rancher Tyler Fulton attended City Hall in Ottawa, hosted by the Canadian Farmers Federation, asking questions about prairie prairie conservation. He said it would be a good opportunity to engage with the leader, even though Trudeau said he might come across a hoax.

However, Fulton said he tried to contact Trudeau’s office to follow up on his concerns but received no response.

“If you have these venues, you have to follow up,” said Fulton, who also works for the Canadian Cattle Association.

“Otherwise people will only become cynical about the purpose.”

At City Hall in Port Coquitlam, Brock asks Trudeau about his mental health. His answer included encouraging people to take a mental health first aid course.

She later joked that she should have worn a “no mansplaining zone”.

“I think it shows another side of Justin. It makes him more relatable,” Bullock said. If he does, it will serve the public.”

Stuart Barnable, senior director of public affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, said that after all, City Hall is a Liberal government because it gives Prime Minister Trudeau a chance to talk about his agenda and publicize what the government has been doing. He says it makes a profit.

“I think this will only benefit what the Liberals are trying to achieve,” said Barnable, who also served as Senate Speaker George Fury’s chief of staff.

“They are setting the story,” he said. “Will it resonate with Canadians?”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on April 15, 2023.

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