KEMPTVILLE, Ont. — A byelection candidate Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau stumped for in eastern Ontario Tuesday says she believes their party is gaining momentum in territory the Conservatives have owned for 14 years.
On a quick afternoon outing, Trudeau and Mary Jean McFall first greeted supporters at a coffee shop in Kemptville, just south of Ottawa, where about 75 people in an overflow crowd waited outside in damp snow for selfies and handshakes.
Standing on a chair and speaking to about 50 supporters inside the crammed Geronimo coffee house, Trudeau said this is a good time to talk about the community and the country’s futures. He said in Canadian and global politics alike, people are emphasizing how we’re different from each other, but politics should be about bringing people together.
For her part, McFall thanked Trudeau for coming to the riding, calling him the Liberals’ “fearless leader.”
But a win in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes would take a big reversal of the Liberals’ recent fortunes there.
The riding was previously held by Gord Brown, a Conservative MP who died suddenly of a heart attack earlier this year. He’d won the seat comfortably in every election since 2004; McFall gave him his closest race in the 2015 campaign but still lost by almost 4,000 votes. The Tories are running local councillor and party activist Michael Barrett in Brown’s place.
After less than half an hour in Kemptville, Trudeau and McFall moved on to Richard’s Coffeehouse down the highway in Brockville, a town on the St. Lawrence River where McFall was once a councillor herself. (More recently, since the Liberals won power but she didn’t win a seat, she was chief of staff to Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.)
A few protesters awaited, demanding changes to foster care. There were also signs in a window across the street that showed a General Motors logo and expressed support for the automaker in Canada.
“We are so energized that Justin Trudeau came into our riding,” McFall said in Brockville, adding that she believes the Liberals have gained momentum in the region.
Richard’s Coffeehouse was crowded enough that not all the selfie-seekers could get one. One lamented she couldn’t make her way to the front of the crowd to see Trudeau — but she figured she’d only make that kind of effort for Elvis Presley or Barack Obama.
Within minutes, Trudeau was gone again, back to Ottawa for an evening reception.
Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press