Trudeau prepares to fight for the middle ground

Voters should not be surprised to find Liberals landing on their doorsteps this weekend, toting a deadline and a cheque.

The deadline is theirs — this weekend marks the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the October election. The cheque, or at least the promise of one, goes to Canadian parents — Liberals are heading into this weekend’s mass door-knocking sessions, in nearly 200 ridings all over Canada, armed with material to talk up next week’s increase to the Canada Child Benefit.

Nothing says “election season has begun” like a politician at the door with promises to pad the pocketbooks of hard-working Canadian voters.

Justin Trudeau has been moving into election gear over the past week too. The prime minister will do a Stampede breakfast for Liberals in Calgary on Saturday morning, then swing into B.C. to go knocking on doors with Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal.

Over this past week, Liberals held an election-planning session in Ottawa with riding officials from across the country, while Trudeau has been trying out some campaign rhetoric with selected audiences.

On Thursday, it was a group of teachers. Trudeau sat down for about a half-hour with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation at their annual meeting in Ottawa, for what was billed as an “armchair discussion” on issues of interest to educators. It was a friendly crowd. When Trudeau reminded them that he’d been mocked by his political opponents for being a teacher before he entered politics, many in the crowd cried “shame.”

At the very end of the session, the prime minister was invited to talk about what was on his mind. The election obviously looms large — not just the next one, but the last one too, and what’s happened to politics, and him, in between.

“We are in a time where it’s very easy for people to be divisive or divided,” Trudeau said. “That’s easy. And it’s tempting for a lot of politicians.”

He went on. “It’s a lot harder to find a place of compromise, where instead of pleasing everyone, you end up upsetting everyone on different issues. But as a country that celebrates its diversity, that recognizes that diversity is an enormous source of strength, we can’t just be talking about diversity of backgrounds, or religion or geography. We also have to talk about diversity of perspectives.”

Trudeau was floating this same line of thinking when he talked to pipeline workers at an event in Alberta on Friday, arguing that the government’s job was to balance opposing views on resource development and climate change, and to make sure everyone feels heard.

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