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Chrétien, Trudeau call for national unity during Hamilton stop

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made a campaign stop in Hamilton with Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Sunday.

'It's great to be back in Hamilton!': Former prime minister Jean Chrétien

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau brought a popular companion with him on a visit to energize the party base in Hamilton: former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. 

It was Chrétien who drew the loudest cheers in the Sunday afternoon rally in a very warm and packed ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Hamilton.

"It's great to be back in Hamilton!" Chrétien roared as he took the stage before Trudeau Sunday. 

In a city that was once a Liberal bastion, the rally called for "real change" and took aim at both the Conservatives and the NDP, which hold most of the Hamilton's federal seats. 

Chrétien reiterated his call for the Canadian government to up its response to the refugee crises in Syria and Iraq. 

"There's a large consensus in Canada that we should do something," he said. He cited several refugee crises from the last century and said Canadians are proud they did something then. 

"There was no controversy," he said. "It was Canada opening their hearts." 

Chrétien and Trudeau both focused on a unified Canada as a defining election issue, taking special aim at NDP leader Tom Mulcair over what both speakers described as Mulcair flirting with Quebec separatists in order to add votes. 

"Any prime minister, or anyone who wants to be prime minister should be ready to fight to keep Canada together," Trudeau said.​ 

'He's going to inspire us to be a great country'

The speeches delighted supporters who laughed at the former prime minister's jokes and clapped along. 

Up ahead of the guests of honour were former mayor and longtime broadcaster Bob Bratina, candidate for Stoney Creek, and chemist and businesswoman Anne Tennier, Hamilton Centre candidate. Both welcomed their fellow Liberal candidates from around the region and thanked the hundreds of supporters in the room for coming out. 

"I'll tell you the one thing that Justin Trudeau is going to bring that none of the others are going to bring, and that's inspiration," Bratina said as he welcomed the crowd. "He's going to inspire us to be a great country once again."

Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin said seeing hundreds of people come out to the rally was an encouraging sign.

"It's an outward and visible indicator of the growing support we have," he said. "I think the NDP have ... peaked; I think the Liberals are ascending because they have a very practical agenda." 

Cheryl Hunt, 60, was born and raised in Ancaster and has lived all over the country. She lives in Stoney Creek now. She came as a Liberal supporter Sunday — she "lost interest" in the NDP camp about a dozen years ago. 

"I love listening to Jean Chrétien," she said. She said both Chrétien and Trudeau seem to "tell it like it is." 

"I don't see anything phoney in them at all," she said.

Both Mulcair and Harper have visited Hamilton on the campaign; this was Trudeau's first stop. 

Earlier Sunday, Mulcair accused Chrétien of "trying to revive the quarrels of the past because he sees a political advantage."

"I'll let Justin Trudeau continue with his golden oldies tour," he said in Vancouver. "We're talking about solving the problems for the future."

With files from CBC News

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