Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a virtual visit to Kwantlen Polytechnic University to take questions in a town hall from his office in the nation’s capital.
Students, staff, and faculty attended the Zoom event on Nov. 4, with topics including climate change, cybersecurity, and drinking water in Indigenous communities.
“It was a great event. We were pleased to do it,” says Dr. Alan Davis, KPU’s president and Vice-chancellor, who introduced the prime minister along with Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal.
The hour-long event began with technical difficulties on the prime minister’s end, leaving some of his remarks and his early answers unclear.
Jason Creighton is a second-year environmental policy studies student at KPU and one of the people who asked Trudeau a question.
“Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the prime minister. I thought for the most part, to pretty much all the questions except for mine, he really gave excellent direct answers,” says Creighton.
Creighton’s question was, “How do you justify, economically, the spending of four billion dollars to purchase, and at least eight billion dollars to complete, a pipeline that most experts agree will never recoup the money spent?”
“He didn’t answer my question … I never once suggested that Canada needs to get off fossil fuels right away, and that seemed to be the thing that he answered.”
Trudeau’s response, in part, said there are “other studies and analyses that still point out a very strong business case for the Trans Mountain Pipeline.”
“There’s a reason that he didn’t say anything directly about that, because they don’t exist,” says Creighton. “That was true when they bought [the pipeline] four years ago. That’s no longer the case.”
Dilpreet Basatia is a former international student who now works as a graduation officer at KPU. She asked the prime minister what the government would do to stop employers and immigration consultants from exploiting newly graduated international students.
“It was really great. I felt really honoured … I was asking my question on behalf of all the other international students as well. I posted the video online, and they were all really proud of me,” she says.
“His answer was not 100 per cent focused towards the question that I asked, but it was good knowing that he said they will do something.”
It was Trudeau who approached the university about organizing a virtual town hall, says Davis.
KPU received over 100 requests from students and staff to participate in the town hall, from which they randomly selected 20 people. At the prime minister’s request, none of the questions were disclosed beforehand.
“He wanted to emulate a real town hall,” says Davis, adding that they’ve since sent Trudeau the questions that didn’t make it into the town hall in hopes of getting a response.
Trudeau is the second prime minister to make an appearance, virtually or in-person, at a KPU campus. In 2015, Stephen Harper visited the KPU Tech campus in Cloverdale in what Davis says was a “tightly run” affair.
Davis says the university has expressed interest in an in-person visit from Trudeau in the future.
“I pay attention a lot to what’s going on in the United States, and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the leader of our country and the mess that’s going on down there right now,” says Creighton.
“The fact that he was willing to open himself up to university students and faculty in such an intimate and open way, I thought was really impressive. I was really proud of our prime minister and really proud of our country.”
The recorded virtual town hall can be found on KPU’s YouTube channel.