Assistant News Editor
While disco fever may have died with the 80’s, it seems that Trudeau-mania is still very much alive.
Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minster Pierre Trudeau, MP of Papineau, Quebec since 2008 and current Liberal critic for youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport, came to McMaster on Oct. 12 to participate in an open-mic question and answer session sponsored by the Young Liberal Association of McMaster.
“This is an extension of something I was trying to do, which is getting out talking to people who are more or less engaged in politics,” said Trudeau to a group of roughly 300 McMaster students and faculty.
While many of the attendees may indeed have been “engaged in politics,” Trudeau was quick to highlight the voter apathy that characterized much of the political system.
“Politics is more polarized than it’s ever been. It’s source of cynicism more than it’s ever been. It’s more about strategic divisions than it’s ever been.”
Despite such a pessimistic political portrayal, realistic as it may have been, Trudeau’s presence seemed almost a contradictory reflection of the current political system and a hint of what the future could hold.
Arguably following in his father’s footprints, Justin Trudeau began his stretch in politics throughout the 2000s after four years of working as a high-school teacher in British Columbia. Beginning his political career with open support for outgoing prime minster Jean Chrétien at a 2003 Liberal leadership convention, Trudeau is currently the Member of Parliament for the Montreal electoral division of Papineau. At 39, Trudeau is still young for a politician, but many believe he is scrutinized through the lens of legacy: to one day take office as prime minster.
Trudeau did not comment on this directly. Instead, he stressed that there is dire need to change the current mechanisms of politics, calling this, “the need to change space and time.”
“In the past, civilizations either adapted or perished. We don’t have that luxury. We are not a cluster of local civilizations. We are global. Everyone is connected.”
He added, “If our system collapses, it collapses everywhere. We cannot let the issues of poverty and economic instability to hit full force before we shift our behaviours.”
Such issues, most of which captured the dialogue surrounding politics, are only as important as people make them. Trudeau acknowledged this. He admitted that while politics is meant to stress the importance of social issues, there has been a systematic dissatisfaction at all level of governance.
“Partisan politics turns people off of politics,” he noted, “but it’s never been more important to connect people with politics because the stakes have never been higher. We have to rethink very basic assumptions of where we are in this world and what we want to do.”
Only through commonalities between individuals, rather than division between them, can this be achieved.
This, however, is not a task necessary for the leaders of tomorrow. Instead, Trudeau stressed it was an absolutely necessity for the present.
“I hate when people say to the young, ‘You will be leaders of tomorrow,’ because it’s conditional,” he said. “If you do homework, get good grades, meet the right people, then yeah, you’ll be leaders of tomorrow. If. We don’t need that. We need to give you the tools to be a good leader.”
One of these tools implicitly stated was questioning the status quo and those who represent it. In this light, an open question period followed Trudeau’s brief speech.
Students, faculty and members of various organizations queried on variety of topics from teenage pregnancy to less than optimal funding for research in Canada.
While each response was different, whether it addressed access to post-secondary education or mitigating political differences to ensure the nation’s best interests, Trudeau seemed to centralize on the common theme of choice, and ultimately, passion for that choice.
“I don’t care if you get involved in active politics or not,” he said. “I care whether you get passionate about something in your community or not. Politics are not for everyone … but if more individuals find what they are passionate about, change will come.”
He stressed, “As soon as individuals realize the power to shape the world – when they choose this to do, not to do, to support, not to support – then the ability to change the world goes from a nice idea to being flat out inevitable.”
And maybe, just maybe, changing the world, or at least the political system, begins with inspirational words like those.
Justin Trudeau will be visiting two other Universities throughout the week, delivering similar non-partisan talks to students, after which he will return to his Papineau riding.