Michaels: Has the west been won by Trudeau?

Controversial townhall meeting raised ire, does it signal a shift in Trudeau-mania

It wasn’t quite as colourful as his father’s Salmon Arm salute, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasn’t without moments of friction when he made his way to Kelowna this week.

The photogenic photo-bomber met hecklers head-on at least twice during his nearly week-long visit.

During the UBC Okanagan town hall meeting that brought 2,600 area residents to the campus, someone from the crowd yelled that he was a liar when Trudeau said the province had benefits for doctors in need of maternity leave.

“I said I was fairly certain and I’m happy to be corrected,” Mr. Trudeau said, calmly, fingers politely enclosing a microphone in a way I wouldn’t have been able to muster.

Earlier that day, while Trudeau was speaking about why he prefers the term acceptance to tolerance at a Canadian citizenship event, a passerby yelled out what sounded a lot like “F&** Trudeau, go home” at the prime minister.

Without pause, Trudeau looked up, smiled and said, “and I tolerate you too, sir.”

The quick response brought laughter from his audience and, while it wasn’t nearly as controversial as the gesture, it showed that the West has yet to be fully won over by Canada’s first family.

For those who don’t remember the details of the famous “salute,” Canada’s 15th Prime Minister—Pierre Elliot Trudeau—flipped the bird to B.C. protesters from a rail car in 1982.

According to archive newspaper articles, protestors had met the prime minister on the rail line to express their displeasure about the use of the plush railway car in a time when there was 30 per cent unemployment.

Trudeau appeared at the coach window with two of his sons, “smiled then scowled and then gave us the old Trudeau one-finger salute and pulled down the shade,” read one account.

Trudeau trouble in the region, of course, is Liberal party trouble.

Only twice in Kelowna’s history has a Liberal MP been elected.

The first time was when Trudeaumania swept the nation, in the 1960s. Kelowna got a one-term Liberal MP, who fell out of favour along with the party leader.

Next was in 2015 when Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr was elected along with 184 Liberal MPs.

It will be interesting to see if Fuhr’s future is tied to that of the current PM, especially as more controvery arises.

While it seemed as though he could do no wrong in the last year, the tide of public opinion is starting to change and these proposed taxation changes could be just the thing to see him lose favour with Kelowna residents, at the very least.

This is what they call the “cradle of free enterprise” and goodness knows rocking it is always a problem.

We still have a few years to see how it all shakes out, mind you, but it’s always interesting to keep an eye out for whether history will repeat itself.