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Liberals 'too woke?' No, it's time for Poilievre to 'wake up,' Trudeau tells party convention

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The Liberal Party of Canada kicked off its three-day policy convention in the nation's capital on Thursday, seeing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet and mingle with members, before delivering a partisan rallying speech to the party faithful about the progress made and work left to do, while taking aim at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

"We have to be honest, and clear-eyed about it… And this is why we have to be at our best. Canadians are counting on us, on our positive vision for the future, because the alternative is too bleak," Trudeau said.

While noting that many Canadians are struggling, and the world is experiencing uncertainty "like we've never seen in our lifetimes," the prime minister said it is because of this that Liberals have to "remember who we are."

Addressing the entire convention, the eight-year prime minister and 10-year Liberal leader appeared to be making an effort to reset and recharge the party's base at a time where the federal government is facing a barrage of questions in the House of Commons and feeling the impacts in the polls over issues such as foreign interference and inflation. 

"None of this is easy, and sometimes we get bruised up, but it's worth the fight," Trudeau said. "This great country didn't happen by accident, and it wont continue without effort."

He spoke to the crowd about how the concerns he's hearing from Canadians across the country, are not what the Conservatives are focused on in the House of Commons.

"It has never been more clear that everything is interwoven. But again, Conservative politicians just don’t get that…They either say investing in Canadians is a waste of money, or that our policies are too woke. Too woke? Hey, Pierre Poilievre, it's time for you to wake up," Trudeau said, pointing right at the camera.

"Wake up to the fact that a gender-balanced cabinet is a good thing, that women fully participating in the workplace is a good thing, not something to snub when it gets a shoutout from the President of the United States in the House of Commons," Trudeau went on, receiving a standing ovation referencing the viral moment where Joe Biden called out Conservative MPs during his address to Parliament.

Trudeau later referenced Biden saying that he'd never been more optimistic about the future the two countries were building together, telling Liberals that this was the "type of excitement we need to tap into when Conservative politicians are amplifying fear."

"As progressives, let's be confident about what we stand for. When trolls try to bait you into their culture war talking points, don’t fall for it. Instead, ground yourself in what we're working on: this great unfinished project of a nation," Trudeau said. 

Introducing the prime minster, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly teed up Trudeau for his attacks on his main opponent, receiving a boisterous response from the crowd when she said that the Official Opposition leader can yell "freedom" all he wants, but Liberals know that he means freedom for some, and not for all.

Trudeau, building on his disagreement with Poilievre's assertion that "Canada is broken," said Thursday night that Liberals want to "build things up" while the "brokenist" Conservative party "wants to tear things down."

He concluded by re-stating he plans to lead the party into the next election, calling it the honour of his life. 

Before the prime minister took the stage, a panel of cabinet ministers talking about the government's ambitions—when it comes to innovation and clean economy—tried to warm up the crowd of Liberal supporters.

"It's about making sure that we seize the moment," said Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to a mild reaction from the crowd. The energy in the room began to build as the crowd inside the main plenary space grew and outgoing Liberal Party President Suzanne Cowan took the stage.

"Our party grows because of you. You took our aspirations and our ambitions and your tuned them into action," Cowan said to the many members who volunteer each election and knock on doors in the times between.  

OPPOSITION POINTS TO TRUDEAU'S TRACK RECORD

Earlier in the day, Trudeau dipped in and out of meetings, and took selfies with those who asked. Trudeau—donning a delegate ID lanyard like everyone else—appeared bolstered by being able to see his supporters in person. He did not take questions from reporters on site to cover the convention, about the latest on the foreign interference file.

"It's been five years since the last convention," Trudeau remarked while speaking to one attendee.

The party's last policy confab happened virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making the 2018 Halifax, N.S. convention the last time Liberals from across Canada convened to discuss the party's direction. According to the party, 4,000 delegates are expected to attend either in-person or virtually.

Speaking to the party's Indigenous Peoples' Commission, Trudeau said that Canada is facing "a really, really big choice" in the years ahead about the kind of country they want to live in and leave for future generations.

"I can’t wait to see all the energy you’re all generating, I can’t wait to see all the ideas that are being brought forward, but I especially can’t wait to see, once we get back to our communities across the country after this exciting weekend, how motivated we’ll all be not just to drive forward on these ideas, but to get out there and to go knock doors, and talk with Canadians about how we’re going to build a better future together."

Timed to the convention presenting different views on the Liberals' governing, the Conservative Party of Canada released a new attack ad titled "Out of the country" that is expected to run on TV and social media platforms in English and French.

In it, the Conservative voiceover talks about "lavish" foreign trips, crime, and affordability before concluding with the tagline: "Justin Trudeau: You're out of money, he's out of touch."

The NDP are also using the convention to issue a reminder in a social media video of Trudeau's broken promises since coming to power, listing eliminating First Nations drinking water advisories and implementing a national pharmacare program among the items. Both are issues the Liberals say they’re still working on.

Still, despite some rumblings about cabinet ministers considering runs to replace him when the time comes, Liberals young and old spoke to reporters about how Trudeau still has their support squaring off against Poilievre in 2025 or—given the minority Parliament dynamics and key Liberal-NDP deal pledges left to accomplish—whenever the next election is called. 

WHAT'S ON THE CONVENTION AGENDA?

In addition to talking policy, party conventions are a chance for ministers, MPs, their staffers, those hoping to join them and the grassroots supporters to network.

Between Thursday and Saturday, delegates will be gathering at the convention site in downtown Ottawa to discuss and vote on policy, attend campaign training sessions, and also elect a new party president. 

They will also be able to sit-in on a series of keynote conversations, including the convention headliner Hillary Clinton, in conversation with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Among the topics being discussed in various breakout sessions featuring Liberal ministers and MPs over the next few days are:

  • "Leading on climate action for clean air and a strong economy"
  • "Fighting racism and hate, and building a Canada for everyone"
  • "Stronger gun control and a Canada where everyone feels safe"
  • "Women’s leadership in the economy"
  • "Young Canadians and growing our movement" and "GOTV"

There are also a few dozen member-backed policy resolutions that have made it to the convention floor and could potentially end up in the party's next election platform, they include: 

  • Making voting mandatory, lowering the voting age to 17, and extending voting over multiple days.
  • Developing a "clear, costed proposal" for a return to balanced budgets as of the next campaign.
  • Calling on the Chief Electoral Officer to "develop a model code of conduct for federal political parties, candidates and third parties."
  • Analyze, consult on, and propose a guaranteed livable basic income policy.
  • And, increasing the federal defence budget to $32 billion while making major NORAD investments.

Other issues touched on in resolutions include affordable housing, climate change mitigation, whistleblower protections, and justice reforms in line with Indigenous reconciliation.

With files from CTV News' Kevin Gallagher, Ian Wood, and Mike LeCouteur

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