Politics

Justin Trudeau's Liberals to meet in London, where economy is key

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his three dozen MPs are gathering in London, Ont., this week for a two-day caucus meeting to prepare for the return of Parliament next week. London is a key constituency that the party hopes to win back from the Conservatives.

Liberals hope to regain ground in London-North-Centre battleground

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is holding a two-day caucus meeting in London, Ont., starting Tuesday. It's a key constituency in southwestern Ontario that the party hopes to win back from the Conservatives. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his three dozen MPs are gathering in London, Ont., on Tuesday for a two-day caucus meeting to prepare for the return of Parliament next week.

The choice of location owes to this year's federal election: London is a key constituency that the party hopes to win back from the Conservatives.

The collapse of the Liberal vote in southwestern Ontario in 2011 hurt most in London-North-Centre, where Glen Pearson lost by less than 2,000 votes to Conservative Susan Truppe, ending the Liberals' two-decade grip on the riding.

Peter Fragiskatos and Wes Kinghorn are currently seeking the party nomination in the riding.

Josh Chadwick, riding association president for London-North-Centre, says 2011 was "a shocker," but the Liberals have been hard at work ever since.

"We realized we had work to do and we needed to work hard to move us forward."

With the Conservatives and New Democrats holding all the seats in southwestern Ontario, there's no doubt the Liberals have that work cut out for them.

"With Justin becoming leader, it's just put that shot in the arm that everybody really needed," Chadwick said in a telephone interview with CBC News on Friday.

Asked what he's hearing door to door, Chadwick said it's about the economy and jobs, despite the fact London's unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent is below the provincial (seven per cent) and national (6.6 per cent) rates, according to Statistics Canada.

Last week's news of the collapse of Target in Canada will leave hundreds in southwestern Ontario without jobs, including London, where the U.S. retail giant has two stores. That news comes only a few weeks after hundreds of employees worked their last shift at a historic Kellogg's plant just two days before Christmas.

'No room for partisan politics': London mayor

Newly elected London Mayor Matt Brown says his council is focused on jobs and economic development.

In a telephone interview with CBC News, Brown would not confirm whether he'll meet with Trudeau this week, saying only he looked forward to meeting with all federal party leaders.

"At the municipal level, there's no room for partisan politics. It's my responsibility to work with the government of the day focusing on what moves this community forward," Brown said on Friday.

The Conservative government has also kept a focus on London, with ministers making job-creation announcements (and re-announcements) at local manufacturer General Dynamics, including a $10-billion deal to supply military vehicles to Saudi Arabia last year.

London voters elected Brown in October to replace disgraced former mayor Joe Fontana, who resigned in the summer after he was convicted of fraud.

Fontana was the Liberal MP for London-North-Centre until 2006, when he resigned to run for mayor. He clinched the mayoralty in 2010, only to resign in 2014. He was sentenced to four months of house arrest for fraud and breach of trust related to expenses he filed during his time as a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

"Londoners delivered a very clear message during the 2014 election," Brown said.

"We have a very unique opportunity to turn the page and provide a different kind of collaborative leadership."

Brown and his city council are working on a 20-year plan that includes a strategy to welcome industry with "shovel-ready" land and new rapid transit programs. 

"These are ambitious plans... which will require assistance from both levels of government."

Trudeau has said a Liberal government would reverse some Conservative promises in order to pay for infrastructure investments as a way to create jobs.

While he has tasked an economic advisory team to come up with policy ideas, London voters will have to wait with the rest of the country until the party unveils its 2015 platform to assess the merits of the leader's plan.

The Liberals' two-day gathering includes sessions on the economy and security, and a speech Tuesday by Trudeau.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to provide further details about former London mayor Joe Fontana's conviction and sentencing.
    Jan 19, 2015 11:57 AM ET

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