POLITICS

Liberals wrapping up summer caucus in positive moods

08/29/2013 09:23 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 05:12 EDT
The federal Liberals are wrapping up their summer caucus meeting this morning in Prince Edward Island after a full day of discussion Wednesday and an evening rally that attracted hundreds of people.

The caucus will hear from finance critic Scott Brison during its morning session, and there will be more discussion about the struggling middle class. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will speak to reporters at the close of the caucus before he heads for Nova Scotia for more touring and events later in the day.

Heading into the meeting, MP Irwin Cotler said the mood at caucus had been "very positive."

"The discussions have been good. I think Justin inspires an approach of transparency and frankness," he said. Cotler said the party is demonstrating that it offers an open, transparent, accountable alternative to the Conservatives.

In Trudeau's nearly 20-minute speech Wednesday night at the Liberal event, he addressed the controversy he prompted last week with his admission about smoking marijuana about three years ago.

"Only in Stephen Harper's Canada could people actually argue that being honest was a calculated risk," Trudeau said.

The Montreal MP said he wanted to be honest because of the policy position he's taking that calls for the legalization of marijuana.

Trudeau pumped up the crowd and said that through his travels across Canada this summer, he has learned people are open and hopeful about the Liberal Party, but that they still have work to do to win back Canadians' trust and confidence.

He also took a few shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "He's unambitious, he lacks hopes and dreams for this country," he said.

The big crowd drawn to local MP Lawrence MacAulay's home for the BBQ wasn't a surprise given that Prince Edward Island is mostly Liberal territory — the party holds three out of the four federal seats — but organizers said attendance surpassed their expectations. People arrived on buses from different parts of P.E.I. and MacAulay's lawn was packed with cars.

Trudeau 'building a movement'

Beth Butland had never been to any kind of political event, but when she heard Trudeau was going to be on the Island, she wanted to come see him. She said she's tired of the way politics is being done in Canada and that "we need a change."

"He is building a movement," she said. "We need fresh and we need new, and we need accountability."

Trudeau's admission that he smoked marijuana since getting elected as an MP didn't bother her. "He gave a direct answer instead of a direct lie."

It didn't bother Butland's mother, who is in her 80s, either. "Oh no," Frances Hanscome said, shrugging it off.

Hanscome brought a book to the event that she wrote about her brother, a fighter pilot who died in the Second World War, and planned to give it to Trudeau as a gift. She wrote a message inside telling him he hopes it will one day be on his bookshelf at 24 Sussex Dr.

Liberal MPs said Canadians are enthusiastic about the hope and hard work that Trudeau has been showing since he took over the leadership in April.

"I feel that we've been rejuvenated by the expressions of confidence from Canadians to us over the summer," said Frank Valeriote, MP for Guelph in Ontario.

Kevin Lamoureux, MP for Winnipeg North, credited Trudeau for generating excitement among Canadians. "People love the guy, they want pictures with him. Trudeau Mania 2, whatever you want to call it, it's great to see," he said.

The MPs said they have no problem with the decision to post their expenses online, and they have nothing to hide.

The Liberals will begin doing that this fall on the party's website. They also announced Wednesday that they would be back at work in Ottawa the third week of September, as scheduled, despite Harper's plan to ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until later in October.