MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was greeted by a couple of thousand enthusiastic supporters Thursday evening at a byelection campaign event in Medicine Hat, a southeastern Alberta city known for its staunch support of the Conservative party.
"I am so excited to be back," Trudeau shouted to the 800 people packed inside the venue, noting that he accompanied his father on a visit when he was just seven months old.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a campaign event for Liberal byelection candidate Stan Sakamoto in Medicine Hat, Alta. on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)
"The last time a Liberal prime minister came to Medicine Hat, it was 1972. I was there but what's important from that visit of my father in 1972, from a historical perspective, that was the moment that we started the decades-long dominance of the Liberal Party of Canada in southern Alberta."
Trudeau quickly made it clear to the cheering crowd he was joking, since the Liberals have never registered in southern Alberta.
"No, that didn't happen, but you can hear it — the times are a changin'," he told the rally for Stan Sakamoto, the Liberal candidate in the Oct. 24 byelection for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.
Indeed, it was pandemonium outside the venue where an additional 1,600 people lined up around the block.
'He's quite arrogant coming into Medicine Hat'
Trudeau waded through that crowd, giving those who couldn't get inside a chance to see him.
"I think it was just an excellent opportunity to see the community become engaged in this election," said Jan Dynes.
"The lineups extended about four blocks around the corner. It was just pretty exciting for downtown. I saw him arrive and then saw him as he was going through the crowd," said Dynes, who intends to vote Liberal.
Across the street, about 100 protesters angry at Trudeau for his plans for a carbon tax held their own gathering.
Signs included "Trudeau Not Welcome," "Not all Canadians like what you are doing" and "You have nice hair but nothing you say is Tru Deau."
"We just wanted to show that he's quite arrogant coming into Medicine Hat," said local farmer/rancher Clark Walker. "This is PC country and that we don't like what he's doing running the country.
Protesters gather outside a Trudeau event in Medicine Hat, Alta. on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)
"He's arrogant and he's just trying to stuff it down our throats. I don't know why he'd show up."
The byelection was called following the death of popular Conservative MP Jim Hillyer, who succumbed to a heart attack in his Parliament Hill office earlier this year.
Trudeau made no mention of Hillyer but did take a shot at the federal Conservative Party for voting against the Liberal-sponsored tax cut for the middle class and against higher taxes for the rich.
'Alberta deserves better'
"They're just as out of touch today as they were at the end of their last mandate," said Trudeau.
He encouraged voters in the riding to make a change.
"You can be part of sending a very clear message that Canada deserves better, Alberta deserves better, Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner deserves better," he said.
"I'm here tonight to tell you we can make it happen. You can make it happen. So my friends, let's get it done."