KAMLOOPS — GIVE A HECKLER a microphone, and Justin Trudeau is at his best.
The prime minister’s two-day chock-full-of-events visit to Kamloops got underway as expected Wednesday morning with a couple of hundred protesters — many on one side or the other of the pipeline debate — making a lot of noise and waving placards outside a Liberal party fundraiser.
Inside, pipelines were barely mentioned when Trudeau spoke to a crowd half the size of the one out on the street. The real “action” came last night.
That’s when Trudeau hosted what’s become a bit of a trademark for him — a town-hall meeting that was, at times, funny and heartwarming and at others raucous.
For an hour and a half, he answered questions from the 1,000-strong crowd ranging from softballs such as “what’s the best part of your day?” (answer: morning snuggles with his kids) to tougher ones like the disastrous India trip (answer: “It was a trip that happened”), and the economy, immigration and Donald Trump.
Surely, though, everybody in the room was waiting for the inevitable disruptions by indigenous anti-pipeline protesters and they soon started in. There was shouting, there were accusations.
These are people who demand respect but give only disrespect in return. They demand dialogue but they don’t listen. No government, no matter how much it gives, could ever make them happy.
But Trudeau handled them with patience and courtesy. At such times, he shows his mettle. He refuses to take the bait, he refuses to play who-can-yell-the-loudest.
These interruptions didn’t define the evening by any means; the majority was there to respectfully engage.
But they were a perfect opportunity for Trudeau to demonstrate once again that democracy is for everyone, even those who try to demean it.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at [email protected].