Trudeau’s cross-country town halls are back with a new format — and new skeptics


Every town hall begins the same way: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in a blue or white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, takes the microphone, waxes poetic about the state of the world and acknowledges the challenging years Canadians have recently faced.

The people in the crowd who will have the chance to ask unvetted questions of the prime minister are no stranger to those struggles.

There’s the Muslim mother who fears for the safety of her children. Immigrants who worry about their future in Canada. The blue-collar worker who can’t afford to eat. People who can’t find work or access mental-health supports. Young adults who lose sleep over climate change. Indigenous people who say they feel left behind.

At the 14 hour-long town halls Trudeau has attended in the past 11 weeks, the prime minister has put himself in a position to hear their concerns during the question-and-answer sessions that follow his speeches.

But though some attendees who participated in the events said they were encouraged by Trudeau’s efforts, others found themselves cynical about whether he and his government were actually listening.

For Trudeau, it’s a familiar format — and one that some pundits say could serve the party well, even if its utility to the broader public is in question.

“This is something I love doing,” Trudeau said to a group of tradespeople in Winnipeg earlier this week.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the prime minister had been limited with his interactions with the public because of public-health measures that kept people distanced from one another.

“I’m betting that he was itching to do these during the whole pandemic and during the 2021 (election) campaign, because for the most part he couldn’t do it,” said Philippe J. Fournier, the polling analyst behind the 338Canada poll website.


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