Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau kept overt politicking out of his brief speech at a victory rally for 19-year-old tennis phenom Bianca Andreescu Sunday, but not the feelings he wants Canadians to associate with him as he seeks re-election.
Andreescu won the U.S. Open a week ago, the first Canadian of either sex to do it. Thousands gathered in the city centre of Mississauga, Ont., where she’s from, to cheer as she was given the key to the city.
Trudeau was invited as prime minister of the country, a city spokesperson said. The mayors of Mississauga and Toronto and the federal and provincial sports ministers were also in the party.
“She is an inspiration to all Canadians, old and young, but to be honest, especially an inspiration to young Canadians because she showed that young people can do anything!” Trudeau shouted into a microphone.
He thanked Andreescu’s parents, immigrants from Romania, for moving to Canada before she was born.
“In this country, anything is possible, and you and so many Mississaugans have proven it!” Trudeau said.
WATCH: Bianca Andreescu presented with key to city, street named after her in Mississauga
(“In Canada, better is always possible” was a signature line from the Liberal campaign of 2015.)
He was up for just a couple of minutes, hitting the tennis star’s rally in the western suburb of Toronto before zipping to an explicitly political one in Markham, northeast of the city. All of his campaign stops Sunday were in southern-Ontario districts the Liberals have to win if they’re going to be re-elected.
Sunday morning, Trudeau visited two local coffee shops in Cobourg, Ont., on Lake Ontario east of Toronto, with local candidate Kim Rudd.
Rudd won the seat for Liberals in 2015 by fewer than 2,000 votes — one of several tight races in the 905 region.
Trudeau and Rudd were greeted warmly by most residents they encountered at the two coffee shops he visited.
One of those in a crowd of people who waited in line for a handshake from Trudeau was Vicki Mink, a councillor from Port Hope — one of several municipalities within the riding of Northumberland-Peterborough South.
She said she believes the Liberals have a good chance of re-taking the riding, despite the closeness of the race in 2015.
“Kim Rudd has done a fantastic job, has worked very hard, and has really connected with the community,” she said.
“Coming in the first time not very many people knew her, but now she’s really made a presence in this community and has a lot of support.”
WATCH: Bianca Andreescu says she never thought she’d get key to city of Mississauga, street name
Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson, who was also in Cobourg to meet Trudeau, said the riding has gone both Conservative and Liberal in the past. Ultimately, the race will come down to local issues that affect the smaller communities, including economic issues such as ongoing demand for more skilled workers and a housing shortages.
But not everyone believes the Liberals will get a smooth ride in Southern Ontario.
John Morand, 77, also from Port Hope, expressed deep anger toward Trudeau — notably over his treatment of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott when they were turfed from the Liberal caucus amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
“The way he treated the women in his cabinet was with total disrespect and I wouldn’t be surprised if the RCMP actually ended up laying some type of charges,” said Morand, who identified himself as a Conservative.
“As a man I don’t like to see other men treating women, or anybody, the way he treated those two women. It’s disgusting.”
Philpott is running for re-election as an Independent in one of Markham’s ridings, where Trudeau was to finish his day.
WATCH: Toronto Mayor John Tory declares September 16 ‘Bianca Andreescu Day’