My career as a politician began in a parking lot. A grocery store parking lot, to be precise, directly across the street from a shawarma restaurant and a barbershop. It was just me with a clipboard, approaching strangers to ask if they would pay ten dollars to purchase a Liberal Party membership. This wasn't the actual election campaign. It was the opening days of the nomination battle to choose the candidate who would carry the Liberal banner in Papineau once the election was called. I was in the fight armed with limited money, barely any retail-politics experience, a couple of friends as volunteers, and a staff of one, who happened to be my wife.
"My career as a politician began in a parking lot. A grocery store parking lot, to be precise, directly across the street from a shawarma restaurant and a barbershop."
By the time the day of the nomination meeting arrived, I had been up and down every street in the riding, visited every mall and shopping area, shaken hands with thousands of people, and listened to innumberable stories. I felt I had gotten to know the people of the riding and their concerns. Thanks to the support of people I had met during those months, I won on the first ballot that evening, taking 690 of 1,266 ballots casts.
From late 2007 through the first half of 2008, I continued to campaign enthusiastically in Papineau. During the election campaign of that year, my days began at seven, when I stood outside one of the nine metro stations in the riding handing leaflets to commuters rushing to catch their morning trains. When morning rush hour ended I began mainstreeting at stores and restaurants throughout the riding. Lunch was usually shared with volunteers in the campaign office to help keep them motivated. Afternoons were a good time to visit seniors' community centres before heading back to a metro station, greeting passengers returning home at the end of their work day. Evenings were filled making telephone calls to community leaders, encouraging them to attend the next day's events. After a few hours' sleep, I would get up to do it all over again.
On election night, I was elected to win Papineau by a narrow margin. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. Most of all, I loved the interaction with the people of Papineau. So much of politics is fleeting and ephemeral. But the connections you make with the people who invest their hope and trust in you, that's what gets you through all of the rest. That's what makes it worth doing.
Like many Canadian adventures, my campaign for Leadership of the Liberal Party began around a campfire. A group of close friends, advisers, and family was gathered at Mont Tremblant in July of 2012. I said a few words about what I hoped we would accomplish over the course of the weekend. I talked about how it was very important that we come out of our gathering with a shared sense of purpose. I asked everyone to answer a simple but important question: "Why are you here?" One by one, people told stories that any Canadian would recognize. It was a heartening conversation.
When it was my turn to answer the question, I concluded very simply that I believed this country was better than its current government. Canadians are broad minded and big hearted, fair and honest, hard working, hopeful, and kind. I said Canada had some big issues to tackle, but none bigger than those we had successfully wrestled in the past. Too many people were being left out and left behind in Mr. Harper's vision.
Soon after I made up my mind to run, I recognized this leadership campaign would be different. We would have to draw in the passengers, build the train as we rode it, and lay most of the track at the same time. This is where the idea of hope and hard work started to take shape. We needed both a solid work plan and the positive outlook to build the numbers and momentum that would draw in the kinds of people required to get the job done.
Over the course of my leadership, I would come back to the same issues over and over again: growth that works for the middle class, and fair economic opportunity for everyone; respect for and promotion of freedom and diversity; and a more democratic government that represents all of Canada. These were the pillars upon which we wanted to build our campaign, and a program for governing this country. They still are.
On election night, Canadians told us they shared that vision, and entrusted the Liberal Party with a majority government – with seats in every province and territory across the country. On November 4, 2015, I was honoured to be sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister, with an equal number of men and women in Cabinet — a first in Canada’s history.
I am deeply grateful to have this opportunity to serve you – and every Canadian across our great country. I am committed to leading an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, brings our country together, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds.
Thank you for taking this journey with me, and thank you for putting your trust in our team. We’re just getting started.