Today in 2014, why is it so important to make sure that your voice is heard in politics? This is the question that Liberal party leader,Justin Trudeau, posed to the 300-plus students who gathered to hear him speak at Concordia’s D.B. Clarke Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 6.
The event was organized as part of a campus tour where Trudeau spoke at McGill University, Université de Montréal and Concordia all in one day.
His message was one of youth voter empowerment, in an attempt to combat the “tremendous amount of cynicism surrounding politics.”
“Getting young people to choose to vote and to get involved isn’t just about getting a few more people who are unlikely to vote for Mr. Harper to the ballot box. That’s just a pleasant bi-product,” he said. “What it really is about is changing the nature of conversations that happen in Ottawa and in government.”
According to Elections Canada, in the 2011 federal election, the estimated percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds who showed up to the polls is 38. While Trudeau was there as a representative of the Liberal Party of Canada, he refrained from expressly encouraging people to vote for him. Instead, he called for students to research different parties and find one that would best represent their beliefs.
During a question period following the speech, Trudeau was asked about his position on Quebec Premiere Pauline Marois’ secular charter.
“I had the good luck of being able to sit down with Mme Marois, the very day that the newspapers were leaked information on what would be the [charter of values] and I told her straight out, that I thought that it was a very unhelpful direction to be taking — to try and make people choose between their religious beliefs and their jobs.”
He went on to say that the charter would only lead to “divisiveness and polarization” and that “it does us all a disservice when a politician chooses personal electoral gain over service to the society that entrusted her with power.”
Trudeau was also asked about his views on the environment and comments he made in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Calgary Petroleum Club.
“The one thing that I have been consistent on,” began Trudeau, “Whether I’m speaking to the Sierra club, or the Petroleum club, is that we need to figure out how to make what is good for the economy and what’s good for the environment go together.”
While Trudeau took a few shots at the Harper government’s environmental track record, he did not go into detail about his own platform on the topic.
Cameron Ahmad, president of the Quebec chapter of Young Liberals of Canada, said after the event concluded that he was inspired by the student turnout.
“Whenever there’s a room full of young people that, like us, want to discuss politics and get involved and just hear about the ideas of a major lead, that’s hugely inspiring to us. It means we aren’t alone,” he said. “It means that there are other people out there who are interested and that youth aren’t apathetic.”