LACOMBE — Rookie Liberal MP and former environmental activist Justin Trudeau spoke for almost an hour to nearly 160 people at the Lacombe Composite High School on Friday. Trudeau, 37, the MP for the Quebec riding of Papineau, spoke to students and citizens about sustainability, the environment and youth issues.
The son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, he spoke directly to the students about their pivotal position in the world today.
“What we desperately need is an ability to bring young people in and harness their hopes, dreams and idealism to start shifting our thinking,” said Trudeau, eliciting applause and cheers from students and members of the community alike.
He also addressed the exhaustion and annoyance most young people have with politics.
“The extreme partisanship, the sound bites and blips that we now consume as politics are exactly why young people look at politics and say ‘Ah, I never want to get involved with that,’ ” said Trudeau. “It’s not because young people aren’t just getting it; it’s because, all too often, politics isn’t getting it.”
Trudeau talked about “the elephant in the room,” the environmental issues surrounding the Alberta oilsands.
“The world is working as hard as it can to find an alternative to fossil fuels,” said Trudeau.
“But we’re realizing that we need to pump it out as fast as we can before it’s worthless.
“All it’s going to take before fossil fuels are out is someone to invent a better battery.”
David Westwood, 18, a Grade 12 student at Lacombe Composite High School, was impressed that a Liberal politician came out to Alberta and seemed to care about the opinions of students.
“It was really nice to have a politician really take an interest in us as young people, to really care what we had to say and shake our hands,” said Westwood.
Kathleen Galloway and Corvin Uhrbach, the teachers who organized the event, were also impressed with the turnout and the attention Trudeau gave to students.
“All of the students who came out on a professional development day were here out of their own interest,” said Galloway, who added that about 30 students in Grades 10 through 12 came to the event.
“One thing we’ve really tried to do in this school is to get students involved, encourage them to vote,” said Uhrbach. “One element of that is to give them as many perspectives as possible.”
Both teachers saw this as a positive opportunity for learning and as something the students won’t soon forget.
“I think these students will come back to school on Monday and tell their friends what they missed,” said Uhrbach. “And I think that’s pretty rare for a politician. He made them feel special.”
Ian Vandaelle is a freelance journalist based in Lacombe.