It was Trudeaumania in White Rock’s Five Corners district Wednesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was visiting the neighbourhood to drum up support for South Surrey-White Rock Liberal candidate Gordon Hogg next month’s byelection.
More than a thousand people, young and old, turned up for his arrival – with some waiting more than two hours to meet the prime minister. A few people waiting for his arrival were carrying placards, and many poised with their cellphones ready for photo-ops.
The prime minister arrived at Laura’s Coffee Corner (15259 Pacific Ave.) around 2:15 p.m., shaking hands, giving high-fives and posing for selfies as he made his way to the coffee shop. About 15 minutes later, he walked to Five Corners Café (1173 Johnston Rd.) through a crowd of people, greeting as many as he could along the way.
Several people used Trudeau’s arrival as a platform for activism, including White Rock residents Eve Weimer and Pat Kealy. They said that former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s late father, made a commitment in 1972 that he would have the railway, which passes along White Rock’s waterfront, relocated.
The women were among the first residents to camp in front of Laura’s Coffee Corner, and were given a chance to speak to the prime minister as he walked to Five Corners Cafe, across the street from Laura’s original location before being destroyed in the May 2016 Five Corners fire.
Kealy and Weimer both asked the Trudeau if he knew that his father made note of relocating the waterfront railway in 1972.
“Yes, I know,” Trudeau responded, according to the women. “Ma’am, Transport Canada is looking into it.”
The visit followed Trudeau’s speaking engagement at the United Nations Peacekeeping Conference in Vancouver Wednesday morning. Although he held a question-and-answer period at the UN event, a member of Trudeau’s entourage told Peace Arch News he would not be taking questions from local media at the White Rock event.
Among those mixed in the crowd waiting to meet Trudeau locally were a group of Grade 11 high school students from Earl Marriott Secondary.
Emma Rees, one of the students, said they skipped class see the prime minister, which she said drew a mixed reaction from her teacher.
“It’s rare that he would come to White Rock,” Rees said.
Hogg, who was previously South Surrey-White Rock MLA and mayor of White Rock, accompanied Trudeau throughout his walking tour.
Prior to the prime minister’s arrival, Hogg told PAN the turnout was “a great tribute to Laura (Cornale, of Laura’s Coffee Corner).”
“Way more people than I anticipated,” he added.
On Nov. 5, the Liberal Party of Canada officially announced Hogg as its candidate for the South Surrey-White Rock seat. Monday, the Conservatives selected former minister of national revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay.
The seat, previously held by Dianne Watts, has a long history of being a stronghold for the Conservative party. Watts forfeited the seat to run for leadership of the BC Liberals.
A Conservative news release Wednesday morning announced that Leader Andrew Scheer would be in South Surrey this evening to “deliver remarks at an event for volunteers and supporters.”
Scheer is to be at the Pacific Inn and Convention Centre, located at 1160 King George Blvd., at 5:15 p.m.
The byelection takes place Dec. 11.