Justin Trudeau thinks big.
Speaking to students at the Yukon Arts Centre on Thursday, the Liberal MP challenged youth leadership, climate change, economics and even relativity.
“We have to shift our thinking about the most basic elements of space and time,” said the opposition youth critic.
Instead of looking for more land to settle and haggling over who owns the mud at the bottom of the ocean under the North Pole, “we need to become stewards,” he said.
And economics can’t be separated from the environment, said Trudeau.
Then, the former high school teacher jumped to the power of the individual.
“We are going through a crisis of relevance,” he said.
“You are told you are the leaders of tomorrow, but you are the leaders today.”
Trudeau, who spent five years working with Katimavik – an organization that sends Canadian youth to volunteer in different parts of the country – knows youth seek out opportunities.
The national youth service sees 10,000 youth apply and only one in every 10 is chosen, he said.
Trudeau would like to “harness the dynamism and idealism” of youth, to “make them more engaged citizens.”
But first, youth have to be engaged, he said.
“We have to shift from short- term thinking to a long-term vision of a world that sustains us,” he said.
“We are drawing from every corner of the planet” and the clothes you’re wearing are made in China and India, said Trudeau.
“What you buy, or how you get around are decisions you make every day,” he said.
“And those decisions resonate around the planet.”
It’s not government that’s going to make changes that will shift the course of civilization for the better, said Trudeau.
“It’s the essential role of the individual in this world.”
Canada’s diversity is its strength, he said.
“There’s a sense of responsibility we have as Canadians.
“And every young person must understand the value they have to offer, not in the future but right now, today.”
Standing on the apron of the stage in designer jeans, a casual tailored jacket and mukluks, Trudeau set out to inspire.
But he left the crowd with questions.
How do young scientists make governments take them seriously? asked two Yukon College science students.
We have an issue with the way “we consume science,” said Trudeau.
Too often it’s used to frighten people, not challenge them, he said.
Instead of making findings politically acceptable, we need to invest in what is best, he said.
“The only way forward is to rely on the cold, hard facts.”
You say the government is at a standstill until we buy in, said local youth Dan Ashley.
“But it’s a two-way street. I need the government to buy, in to make my buy-in worthwhile.”
The government breeds cynicism, said Trudeau.
And low voter turnout is a political tactic, he said.
The approach is to get half the population to vote for you, and the other half that won’t vote for you to stay home, he said.
Trudeau admitted it’s hard to escape partisan politics.
Billed as the “sexiest Liberal MP,” Trudeau is a poster boy who masterfully plays the part.
He’s casual yet eloquent; outdoorsy yet classy.”
But he downplays suggestions he’s being groomed for greater political gain.
“Right now I am working to serve my constituents in Papineau, (Quebec),” he said.
“What’s in the cards five to 10 years from now, who knows?”
Trudeau came to the Yukon for a Liberal fundraiser – on one condition.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell had to get him “out on the land.”
So, after talking to the students, Trudeau threw on a parka and went dog sledding.
He also made an appearance at Foxy’s Cabaret with the local can-can dancers after the $150-a-plate fundraising dinner.
Trudeau has big mukluks to fill.
But politics didn’t play a big part in his life growing up.
“My dad didn’t come home and say, ‘Guess what Rene Levesque did in the House today?” he said.
Instead, former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau took his young son on trips.
“I travelled with him to meet people in every corner of the country,” he said.
“And that’s when I realized all Canadians are similar in their hopes and dreams.
“A capacity to believe in Canadians is the one thing my father gave me.”
Contact Genesee Keevil at