Young and old turn out for Justin Trudeau's town hall in Dartmouth
Liberals say they received more than 4,000 RSVPs for the event
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions ranging from pipelines to immigration policy from a mostly friendly crowd Monday night in Nova Scotia at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.
The event was part of Trudeau's cross-country tour.
Demand to see Trudeau prompted organizers to move the community meeting to the 3,000-seat arena within the Sportsplex, according to Halifax mayor and former Liberal MP Mike Savage.
The town hall meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. AT and was open to the public. Liberals say they received more than 4,000 RSVPs for the event, which started late.
Trudeau was asked about spending infrastructure money on fixing aging hospitals, but said it's not the federal government's responsibility to decide local priorities.
One highlight from the night included a question from retired lieutenant-general and former senator Roméo Dallaire, who asked about care for veterans.
"Can you continue to amend and to bring forward programs that will be proactive in reducing the casualties amongst the serving members, amongst the humanitarians, the diplomats, and also the first responders who have to respond to some of these terrible catastrophes?" Dallaire asked.
Trudeau said every brave person who serves Canada is "owed the utmost duty of care from this country and it is something that we have started to rectify, but there is still much more to do."
The prime minister cited the reopening of veterans' service centres as an example of how the federal government is making strides.
Retired sergeant Roland Lawless, who works with veterans, asked the prime minister about getting Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr to help with a walk-in clinic at the Camp Hill hospital in Halifax.
Trudeau promised he would bring the matter directly to Hehr.
When asked about how he came into politics, the prime minister briefly touched on the contract negotiations between the Nova Scotia government and public school teachers.
A large crowd of teachers gathered outside of the town hall. They have been on a work-to-rule job action, only doing the minimum amount of work required by their contract until their union can reach a new deal with the province.
"There's a few teachers in the room, I know you're here tonight," said Trudeau, a former teacher.
"It's great to be amongst my peeps, but I'm a federal politician so I'm not going any further into that."
Tammy Vogt came from Clayton Park with her daughter Emily, a Grade 6 student at Park West School. Both say they are fans of Trudeau and want to see him in person.
"I like him a lot," Emily said.
Plenty of politicians, but no premier
Savage and Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher hosted the meeting.
Local politicians of all levels attended the meeting, including Halifax councillors Lindell Smith, Bill Karsten and Lorelei Nicoll. Provincial cabinet minister Joanne Bernard was also in attendance, but Premier Stephen McNeil was absent.
McNeil spoke with Trudeau on the phone earlier Monday afternoon, according to the premier's spokesperson, who said the premier did not attend the town hall because he had a prior commitment.
There was no shortage of friendly MPs, since Nova Scotia elected all Liberals in the last federal election.
Ahead of the town hall, CBC Radio's Mainstreet asked Trudeau about ethics concerns over his Bahamas vacation to the Aga Khan's island, which appears to violate a section of the Conflict of Interest Act.
The prime minister said he is familiar with the law and that in the coming days "all this will be ironed out."
Trudeau's coffee run
The prime minister began his tour Monday afternoon with stops at two cafés — Java Blend Coffee Roasters in Halifax and Two If By Sea in Dartmouth.
Java Blend was packed with about 100 people inside and 50 to 75 people outside.
"It's not every day that you host a prime minister," said Jim Dikaios, whose family has owned the business since 1971.
Inside, Trudeau shook hands and took selfies with customers and Liberal Party supporters. He also posed for a photo with staff at the coffee shop behind the counter.
Trudeau told the owner, "It's good to be here. I've heard nice things about this place."
Three men stood by the entrance of the coffee shop with signs that read, "Please do better," "Respect Indigenous Rights," and "Military Support to Saudi Arabia is Murder."
After leaving Java Blend, the prime minister headed to Two If By Sea in Dartmouth, where customers cheered as he made the rounds from table to table, shaking hands and posing for more pictures.
At one point, Trudeau took pictures with a group of women who told him they were teachers, but the women didn't mention anything about the current contract dispute with the province.
With files from Paul Withers and The Canadian Press