Climate crisis, health care hot discussion points as PM endorses Bossio in Napanee

Justin Trudeau bumps elbows with a supporter (right) while Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau (in yellow, top left) greets supporters when Liberal Candidate Mike Bossio (in red plaid, center) hosted them Monday during a surprise visit at a Napanee restaurant on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

On the first day of campaigning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Napanee’s waterfront on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in support of Liberal Candidate Mike Bossio’s campaign to return to Parliament.

Bossio, who was ousted as MP in the last election by controversial, then-Conservative now-independent MP Derek Sloan, was all smiles as he welcomed the PM to town, on the patio of a riverside pub. The Prime Minister greeted well-wishers, masked and on their level, often squatting down to bump elbows with kids, asking their names. “I need you guys to support Mike because we gotta get him back to Ottawa,” he said to those assembled.

“Good luck and ignore the naysayers,” a vacationer who had come to the spot that day by boat via the Napanee river told the PM.

Trudeau chuckled, responding, “Well, you know what? This is an opportunity for all of us to come together and move forward.”

PM Trudeau bumps elbows with a young attendee as he joined federal Liberal candidate, Mike Bassio, in Napanee on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

As Trudeau made his way around the patio, he observed what a “great spot with a lovely view,” it was. One table of people celebrating a birthday posed for photos with the PM. “The Prime Minister came to my birthday party, that doesn’t happen every day,” said one excited woman.

The Greater Napanee community didn’t let the Prime Minister’s visit go by without some serious discussion among the pleasantries, though. A woman who identified herself as a Queen’s Professor, approached the PM and Mr. Bossio to quickly remind them that the climate emergency should get as much attention as the pandemic has been given. She emphasized to them that we are in a climate emergency, that climate has to be the top priority – none of the other issues will matter if we don’t get climate under control – and that the government needs to put the same resources into fighting climate change that it’s put into the pandemic. 

Later identified as Vicki Friesen, Professor of Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics with the Biology Department at Queen’s University, Kingstonist approached her for comment. 

“It was pretty brief because he had a lot of people and he’s already running late. I just wanted to keep the climate emergency high up on his priority list, encouraging him to put the same amount of resources into the climate emergency as he’s been putting into the pandemic,” Friesen relayed. “So it was pretty brief. And he responded that, yes it is a priority and they are working on developing green jobs associated with it.”

“I heard through the grapevine that he was coming and I just took a book, and I got a drink and sat on the shoreline there and waited for him to come. I’m really glad I did,” she continued.

Vicki Friesen, Professor of Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics with the Biology Department at Queen’s University discusses the climate crisis with Trudeau and Bossio.
Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Does Friesen think the Liberals have done a good job so far on the climate crisis?  “Definitely, but it’s got to be better. You know, people aren’t understanding just how urgent and how dire the consequences are going to be. I work on Arctic birds and read a lot about climate change and it’s really scary and it’s really really urgent,” she expressed. “… he’s been doing some positive things, but he’s really got to do more, partly because there aren’t enough people that understand the urgency. There aren’t enough people who are willing to make the changes that we have to make as quickly as we have to make them.”

Friesen, who is a constituent in Bossio’s riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington, continued, “It’s great that they are phasing out gas-powered vehicles, but the pipeline — I don’t understand why he put the money into the Trans Mountain when they could have been putting it into alternative energy solutions. We’re seeing initiatives coming from the oil companies and coming from big investors, but they have got to do more and they’ve got to do it faster. And I told him, as well, that this need to be his legacy — that he does the right thing in terms of climate change.”

Irene Backholm shares a laugh with the Prime Minister. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Another person who identified her friends and herself as nurses made sure to indicate they were “big supporters” and thanked him for his government’s support during the Pandemic saying, “things were wonderful here [in Napanee] because of it.”

The visit wasn’t without its detractors. A truck with signs featuring Conservative Party of Canada candidate, Centre Hastings resident, and financial advisor, Shelby Kramp-Neuman, was parked in the adjacent parking lot early on in the afternoon, though the Liberal campaign team quickly blocked it out with signage on their arrival. Before the PM visited, a woman seated at a patio table remarked, “If they had told me this was going to be a liberal rally here when I phoned, I wouldn’t have booked.”

Trudeau embraces candidate Mike Bossio before departing in a secure SUV. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Also, Austin Lloyd, 15, stood quietly by in a tye-dye Conservative t-shirt. Asked for his opinion, he responded that “[Trudeau] is only visiting this area because he knows he has a good chance of losing this riding to Shelby. I think a better government could have handled the pandemic better than he did in many situations, and I’m still mad that he gave $12 million to Loblaws and more to other large companies. I wish I could vote in this election.”

The Kingstonist will continue to follow the election in the area as it progresses to the vote on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

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