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Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Justin Trudeau's victory speech was generous, but toughly repudiated Stephen Harper's divisive rule

| October 20, 2015
Justin Trudeau

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Justin Trudeau's victory speech last night touched a gracious note of tribute to the losers, especially the evening's principal loser, Stephen Harper, as such speeches must.

But it was tough-minded nevertheless, recognizing that we all have a lot of work before us to repair the damage done by the divisive and destructive Harper Government Canadians so decisively repudiated yesterday.

Surely it was no accident Trudeau borrowed a line from Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Speech, delivered on March 4, 1861, when the greatest American president still had hopes of binding up his country's great divisions. "We are not enemies, but friends," Lincoln told the people of the seven states who had seceded from the Union in his famed appeal to "the better angels of our nature."

"You can appeal to the better angels of our nature and you can win while doing that," said Trudeau, while he too strove to disavow the divisions sown during the Harper Era, which is thankfully now at an end.

This sent a chill up my spine for reasons that should be obvious to any person who has thought about the hard lessons of the nineteenth century. For, alas, the Harper Era may be over, but the divisions that were created and exploited for electoral gain by Harper and his collaborators are nevertheless bound to remain, and it will take good will and hard work to make them fade.

So while the PM-elect thanked Harper for his years of service, he did not shy from acknowledging that we have yet to confront the reality that will be that prime minister's troubled legacy.

"You and your fellow citizens have chosen a new government, a government that believes deeply in the diversity of our country," Trudeau said, as if addressing a Muslim mom he told of meeting during his campaign. 'We know in our bones that Canada is a country built by people from all corners of the world, who worship every faith, who belong to every culture, who speak every language.

"We believe in our hearts that this country’s unique diversity is a blessing bestowed on us by previous generations of Canadians -- Canadians who stared down prejudice and fought discrimination in all its forms. We know that our enviable, inclusive society didn't happen by accident, and won't continue without effort...

"Have faith in your fellow citizens, my friends, they're kind and generous, they are open minded and optimistic, and they know in their hearts of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian....'"

Where I watched the CBC's broadcast, in a movie theatre in the Edmonton Strathcona riding, the crowd was heavily weighted toward disappointed New Democrats. Still, at this moment in the speech, they cheered Trudeau's words lustily. They may have been disappointed by the NDP's lack of success, but they were far more relieved to see the back of the Harper Government at last.

"My friends, we beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work, we beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together," Trudeau said. And whatever the reality of the Trudeau Government turns out to be -- and of course there will be some broken promises -- that is not a call to do business as usual, or anything but a tough and direct condemnation of the way Harper and his minions ran our country.

Was it just me, or did I hear an echo of the last Prime Minister Trudeau's tough "just watch me' interview in mid-October 1970 in Justin Trudeau's Oct. 19 victory speech 45 years later?

Surely if there are any lessons from last night, they are that politicians (and karate black belts) underestimate Trudeau at their peril, and that if they try to create wedges among voters to divide and conquer, they also underestimate Canadians!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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