Some Brandon residents got a bit of a surprise when they opened their doors Wednesday night to see the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada standing on their steps.
Justin Trudeau went canvassing with Brandon-Souris Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale after a busy day of campaign stops in the riding.
"It’s exciting," said Joy Wiltsey, after meeting Trudeau and Dinsdale in her Monterey Estates neighbourhood. "It’s kind of refreshing. I think we do need a change … It’s going to be a boost for Mr. Dinsdale’s campaign."
The day began at Westman Lions Manor, where Trudeau and Dinsdale were greeted by about 40 people.
"We’re feeling very confident about our message of a positive change in politics reaching people," Dinsdale said. "Things are looking up these days, I hope you agree."
Trudeau then spoke to the crowd of primarily seniors about his goal of counteracting the "tremendous cynicism that exists around politics these days."
Wendy Taylor, who works with the Canadian Cancer Society, came to Lions Manor to hear Trudeau speak.
"I’m a concerned voter," she said. "The news, what’s going on with our national leaders … I’m not so sure I like that anymore. So for the first time I am looking differently at politics."
Taylor said the fact that Trudeau was back in Brandon yet again, for the third time in about seven weeks, "speaks volumes" to what’s happening in the riding.
"He seems to be a grassroots guy and I’m glad he’s here," Taylor said. "Good on him, he didn’t have to come back."
The waiting list for Lions Manor is about 10 years, and the issue of seniors housing is a growing concern in Brandon-Souris. It was brought up at the Brandon Friendship Centre candidates debate on Tuesday, and the Brandon Sun asked Trudeau what he thinks needs to be done to address the lack of affordable seniors housing.
"The federal government is the only level of government with any money at all anymore. Provinces and municipalities are all extremely strained, and we have more and more seniors retiring into poverty and not even just retiring with meagre pensions but retiring into debt as well," Trudeau said. "The federal government needs to take a leadership role."
The next stop was across the street at Victoria Landing seniors residence, where after the usual hand-shaking and picture-taking, both Trudeau and Dinsdale took a few turns at a bocce ball game that was going on.
In between stops, Trudeau sat down to speak with the Brandon Sun.
When asked if he has any regrets about the comments he made regarding China at a recent ladies-only fundraiser in Toronto, Trudeau said "I’m someone who’s authentic ... who shares what I think and tries to challenge people."
Trudeau has been under fire for saying China’s "basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around."
But Trudeau says he believes it’s better to engage with people than to hide, "the way the Conservative candidate is doing."
"I’d rather people be able to judge me for what I say and how I say it, rather than not have anything to judge on," he said.
Trudeau was referring to Conservative candidate Larry Maguire pulling out of the first all-candidates debate at the last minute due to scheduling issues.
"It’s typical. It shows that the Conservatives do not actually think that they have to do anything but take this community for granted," he said. "This is really disappointing because it continues the kind of cynicism that people have towards governments and towards politicians."
Trudeau wouldn’t comment much on recent polls, but said he is enthused by the response he’s seeing on the ground.
The campaigning continued Wednesday afternoon at Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. Trudeau and Dinsdale spoke to a gymnasium full of high school students, teachers and community members.
Kevin Nabess, director of education with Sioux Valley Education Authority, said it’s the first time he has seen a federal leader stop in to speak with students in Sioux Valley in the 13 years he has been there.
"I think it’s a good, positive step towards political awareness amongst First Nations people," Nabess said. "Providing a venue that Sioux Valley has allows the Liberal leader to come into Sioux Valley and get his message across."
Nabess said with First Nations people being the highest growing demographic, it’s important for young people to attend these types of events and realize that their votes make a difference.
Desiree Wasicuna, manager of the Sioux Valley radio station, was pleased to see Trudeau stop in the reserve.
"I’m glad he actually chose to visit the community and he can see first-hand what’s going on and how we live," she said. "It’s good that he cares that much and wants to come out and do this type of thing. I wish the other (candidates) would do that, too, and actually take the time to care to come out to our community."
Trudeau will continue on the campaign trail in Manitoba today. He will join Provencher Liberal candidate Terry Hayward in Lac du Bonnet.