N.L. MPs hope new leader paves way for bright party future
Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire and their children Xavier and Ella-Grace celebrate after he won the Federal Liberal leadership Sunday in Ottawa. — Photo by The Canadian Press
News of Justin Trudeau’s victory in the Liberal leadership race was well received by Liberals who sit in Parliament.
Trudeau, eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, swept 80 per cent of the vote in a final field of six candidates.
Some candidates had dropped out of the race in recent weeks, citing the fact it was a fore-gone conclusion Trudeau would win.
Liberal MPs reached by The Telegram Sunday evening — all Newfoundland Liberal MPs were in Ottawa for the big event — were pleased to have a new leader in place.
Gerry Byrne, the MP for Humber-
St. Barbe-Baie Verte, will be serving under his sixth leader with Trudeau now at the helm. He is the longest-serving MP in the province.
In a statement emailed to The Telegram shortly after Trudeau concluded his speech at the leadership convention, Byrne said Trudeau’s victory shows the Liberals are going places.
“With the decisive victory Justin earned in a leadership race that was marked by having the largest citizenship participation of any national leadership contest in Canadian history, it is clear that the Liberal party is on the move,” he said.
Byrne said Trudeau is young yet seasoned, energetic and patient, and light-hearted but serious. He also appeared to be extremely optimistic when assessing what Trudeau will mean for the party.
“As someone who has been around a while, I can tell where he is going and where he will take our party. This party has just taken the next step to being asked by the people of Canada to form the next government of Canada.”
Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor MP Scott Simms has known Trudeau ever since he was elected in the Quebec riding of Papineau in 2008 — he sat directly behind Simms in Parliament during question period.
“I’m extremely proud a very dear friend of mine became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,” said Simms, who has invited Trudeau to his home district on a number of occasions.
“To see him up there now as the leader — I don’t know — it seems like it happened quite fast. I reflect on it now, and I go, here is the guy who just showed up in Ottawa, and here he is now, the leader of the Liberal party, and in two and a half years, the next prime minister.”
Scott Andrews, MP for Avalon, said support for Trudeau is very strong in his riding. Amongst districts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrews said more voters came from Avalon than any other in the province, with 97 per cent of voters in the riding choosing to support Trudeau.
“It goes down to team work and ground game, and Justin has had that ground game, and we’ve got more to do,” said Andrews. “This is only the beginning.”
Looking towards an election in 2015, Andrews said the party needs to continue to work hard. That work may be especially hard for a party that finds itself in the uncustomary position of being neither the governing party nor the official opposition.
“We’ve got to fix a lot of the broken parts of the Liberal party,” said Andrews. “Over the years they’ve been neglected, and now in provinces like Quebec and Ontario we’ve got some work to do.”
Both Andrews and Simms made reference to the upcoming Labrador byelection as a place where the party can show its strength in the short term. Longtime Labrador MHA Yvonne Jones is representing the Liberals in a race against former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue and NDP candidate Harry Borlase.
Andrews said it was a neat experience to take in the atmosphere Sunday night as Trudeau’s victory was announced.
“Today is one of those days where you say, ‘I was there the day this all sort of started,’” he said. “It’s an end today (to the leadership campaign), but it’s also the beginning of something good.”
That comment seemed to echo what Trudeau said during his victory speech Sunday night.
“This is the last stop of this campaign but it is the very first stop of the next one,” Trudeau told his audience when the results were finally announced.
A total of 30,800 points were up for grabs and Trudeau won on the first ballot with 24,668 points.
Almost 300,000 supporters signed up to participate in the contest. A little more than 40 per cent of them actually registered to vote.
Liberal MPs were gathering for a caucus meeting following Sunday’s leadership event and are set to return to Parliament this week.
— With files from The Canadian Press