Justin Trudeau says a federal Liberal government would treat new immigrants like "nation builders" and "not just units of production."
Roughly 600 supporters ponied up $100 each to hear the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada during a party fundraiser at the Mirage Banquet Hall in Cloverdale on Wednesday night.
"I commit, as a Liberal government, we will restore family class immigration so we can actually build strong communities," Trudeau said to applause. He said the Conservative government is "slowly closing the doors" on immigration and that whenever it talks about it, it's always "cracking down" on this or that and "saying something negative.
"This government only looks at people as workers," he said. "It hardens our hearts as a country.
"Liberals understand that our new Canadians are nation builders, not just units of production."
Before Trudeau was bagpiped onto the stage, grainy photos and archival footage of past Liberal prime ministers, starting with Canada's second prime minister Alexander Mackenzie (1873-78), played across three large screens.
Trudeau said the Liberal Party is serious about "reconnecting" with Canadians and that the current Conservative government's vision is "too small" for this nation.
"We need to work together to show what this country is capable of," he said.
"We know that we are better than what our current government is offering. We know that we can build the solutions that our kids, and our kids' kids, deserve."
"For the first time in generations, people are now worried that the next generation might not have the kinds of advantages that the last generation did," he noted.
"That's a source of tremendous anxiety, and this government is not addressing that right."
After speaking, posing for photos with supporters and taking some questions from news reporters, Trudeau visited a mosque in Newton.
He has been touring B.C. in an RV, with his wife and children. The Now asked him what he's learned along the way.
"That British Columbians are tired of sending good people to Ottawa to be their voice and instead getting back the voice of the Prime Minister," he replied. "My themes of openness and transparency have resonated extremely well across B.C., as they have across the country. People are tired of the secrecy, the spin, the default position of mistrust towards Canadians that this government has to have.
"I think Canadians want a government that actually trusts Canadians."
Asked what he's doing differently than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Trudeau listed a catalogue of items including having open MP candidacy nominations, superior financial disclosure, and putting on-line by this fall "all the expenses of all my MPs and senators, which is something this (Conservative) government has not committed to and doesn't want to see."
"We have committed that in the next election every single riding across the country will have open nominations," Trudeau said. "The 338 ridings across this country, including my own riding of Papineau - although I don't recommend anyone tries to take me on," he grinned. "I'm a very hard worker in my own riding.
"But that principle of making sure that every Liberal candidate is the choice, not of the back room in Ottawa, but of the people who live in the community, is part of my commitment towards a truer form of democracy where people actually represent their communities," he said.
Trudeau was also asked what he thinks of Harper's recent cabinet shuffle.
"There's only one minister in this government that has any power and that's the prime minister himself, and he didn't shuffle himself out of a job. So he's going to have to wait until 2015 until we do that ourselves," he said.
Trudeau identified one of the biggest challenges, heading into the next general election, will be to overcome the "small-mindedness" of the current government and getting people re-engaged in politics.
"I think the biggest thing that needs to be undone, even before the election comes, is this sense of cynicism that Canadians have about politics. We're being constantly challenged, constantly expected to think that politics is all about attacks, is all about division, is all about scoring points against an opponent," he said.
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