Red Deer resident Shirley Challoner shares a laugh with Justin Trudeau

Marijuana, mental health among Trudeau’s priorities

Justin Trudeau promised a Red Deer crowd on Sunday that he’d seek the legalization of marijuana and the development of a national mental health strategy if he becomes national Liberal leader on April 14.

Justin Trudeau promised a Red Deer crowd on Sunday that he’d seek the legalization of marijuana and the development of a national mental health strategy if he becomes national Liberal leader on April 14.

Speaking to about 150 people inside Red Deer College’s Far Side Bar & Grill, Trudeau said a group of non pot-smoking mothers urged him to take a stand for legalizing marijuana.

“They said, ‘it’s really important that we keep pot out of the hands of kids,’” said Trudeau. “When it’s illegal and only available in the black market, someone pushing it doesn’t check for ID.”

By legalizing it, Trudeau said they’re in a better position to control and regulate the drug and in that way, it would be tougher for youth to access. But the government would have to ensure that marijuana isn’t used even more because “it’s still not a health food supplement.”

Trudeau also said a comprehensive mental health strategy is important and that it’s long overdue. Getting tough on criminals by building more prisons is not the answer, he added.

“It’s about creating more community police officers, it’s about investing in schools and after-school programs and community centres,” said Trudeau.

Trudeau also said that over the past 30 years, the Canadian economy has doubled in size, but during that time, the middle class have seen their average income only rise 13 per cent.

Politics have become divisive in this country, said Trudeau, the eldest son of Margaret Trudeau and Pierre Trudeau, the late former Prime Minister of Canada. The 41-year-old was first elected as an MP in Montreal in 2008.

He said in a spirit of working together, the Liberals are encouraging Canadians to vote for the party’s leader. They don’t have to be a member of the party to do so.

Trudeau told news media later that he wants to build the party so that it’s representative of all Canadians, including Western Canadians who increasingly feel like they are being taken for granted by federal Conservative government, which doesn’t seem to listen to the people at the grassroots level.

If elected as party leader, Trudeau said he knows how to drum up support in Alberta where it’s lacking.

“The work is done one community at a time,” said Trudeau, who spoke in Ponoka to a crowd of about 200 people earlier Sunday. “To have 200 people here in Red Deer, shows a huge sign that people are hungry for a different kind of politics.”

He said he’s always been well received in Alberta. This tour isn’t about hitting the few Liberal strongholds that are here, but it’s been about reaching out to Canadians who want something different, Trudeau added.

When asked about the Idle No More protests among aboriginal peoples, Trudeau said the Liberals would handle it differently from the ruling Tories.

“The current government looks at the Idle No More as a problem to be solved,” Trudeau said. “I look at it as an extraordinary opportunity. We have young native activists and grassroots in our aboriginal communities across Canada who are saying it’s time they be involved in the conversations and solutions going forward around natural resources, stronger communities, education.”

Nine candidates are running for the party’s top job — MPs Marc Garneau, Joyce Murray and Trudeau, former MPs Martin Cauchon and Martha Hall Findlay, lawyers David Bertschi, Deborah Coyne and George Takach, and Karen McCrimmon, a retired Lieutenant Colonel.

The first leaders’ debate was held in Vancouver on Jan. 20.

The Liberal leadership race will travel to Winnipeg for a second debate on Saturday.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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