As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the stage in Winnipeg in front of more than 1,000 cheering Liberals, he remembered another day in the Manitoba capital when he arrived to a large group of supporters.
During his speech at the Liberal Convention Saturday, he recalled arriving to crowds stretching for blocks around the St. James Civic Centre two days before last fall’s federal election.
“We’d been drawing some pretty big crowds, but Winnipeggers brought it to a whole new level,” he said.
One hour before Trudeau’s address Saturday, thousands of Liberals from across the country crammed together in the hallway, waiting to ascend to the third floor and fill up the large room in the Convention Centre to see their leader speak.
Trudeau reflected on the Liberal movement that took them from one of the party’s darkest times – the 2011 election when they finished third – to a majority victory last fall.
“It was almost the end of us. We didn’t luck our way out of it. We worked our way out of it,” he said.
This afternoon, the party voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing its constitution, which Trudeau strongly endorsed.
He said the old party constitution is a product of the era they worked hard to put behind them.
“The era of factional battles, and of hyphenated Liberals, of regional chieftains and behind the scenes power brokers. Of the closed, insular thinking that almost killed this party. That is the constitution that we need to replace,” he said.
The changes mean Liberal memberships will be free, and anyone registered will be allowed to participated in things like leadership votes.
Critics said the new constitution would create distance between the leader and the grassroots. Trudeau acknowledged the bravery of those who spoke out with concerns, but strongly disagreed. He says the new constitution will strengthen the voice of the grassroots.
Trudeau also thanked former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his service to Canada, following the news Harper will resign as an MP.
He also chided the Conservatives over their debate on marriage equality at their weekend convention in Vancouver.
“They’re debating the merits of marriage equality in 2016. More than a decade after we made same sex marriage legal in Canada. Better late than never,” he said.
Outside the convention, local marijuana advocates protested the convention, arguing the Liberal government isn’t moving quickly enough on its promise to legalize marijuana.