Sunday, June 23, 2024

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Aurora ON, the Best Kept Secret

Perhaps after his intriguingly colourful international trip to India, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed a safe place to hide; a place where he would be in good company. It is just my honest assumption that this is what he was looking for. The criteria probably being totally different, I think the Town of Aurora is honoured that Trudeau’s organizers chose to visit our Town of Aurora ON.

On March 08, 2018, International Women’s Day, Justin Trudeau made his first visit to Aurora as the Prime Minister of Canada, a community where You’re in Good Company is the official town slogan. In fact, this is Trudeau’s second visit to Aurora ON. The first time Trudeau was here back in 2015 he visited as the official Leader of Liberal Party.  Trudeau roamed and temporarily gridlocked Aurora’s already congested downtown core on Yonge Street while campaigning for the Prime Ministerial job.

For Trudeau, this March 08, 2018 visit to Aurora ON may not have been as historic as him receiving the 2018 Catalyst for Change Award on International Women’s Day earlier that day in Toronto. However, the Prime Minister visiting Aurora is a historic moment for our community. As well, a historic moment for all those from the Town and neighbouring communities who were fortunate to meet him, exchange a few words with him, shake his hand and take selfies.

It is unfortunate that the event was by invitation only from the office of Kyle Peterson, MP for Newmarket-Aurora and the office of Leona Alleslev, MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges, which was further extended to the Town of Aurora municipality and local politicians. I remain surprised that our municipality did not encourage the federal government organizers to provide an equal opportunity for all Aurora residents to be invited through at least a public notice. Candid community moments sometimes are far more interesting and make our local history more intriguing and hopefully engaging. Many people expressed their interest meeting or seeing Prime Minister Trudeau after our local politicians proudly posted their “Trudeau and me” selfies on social media. “I wouldn’t mind to see the Prime Minister too. He seems like a nice guy. Too bad I didn’t hear about it.”, one father told me after school. Well, most ordinary people of Aurora definitely wouldn’t have heard about it.

After school I told Matthew, “Trudeau is in Town.  We’ve got to go. Hopefully we can make it, or at least we can see him leaving.” He seemed pleased. “Hey guys, Trudeau is in Town, Trudeau is in Town,” he yelled out to his friends. Their reaction was amusing. “Huh?”, as they continued to walk away and play. I swiftly gave Matthew a crash course on how to take photos with my Canon DSLR just in case we would see Trudeau’s entourage. But we missed it! I guess inside of me I still wanted to be that curious onlooker. When we arrived at the SARC, some people were still chatting around, RCMP and media people were packing up. I saw CBC, the state media, on wheels driving away. Frankly, I felt half embarrassed for blasting news that was supposed to be a secret but Trudeau’s itinerary said nothing about being for a closed invitation only group. I should have known though that this wasn’t supposed to be one of his influential Town hall tour stops but instead a scripted and staged to-the-minute budget announcement.

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau visited Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex (SARC) in Aurora in order to deliver the highlights of Budget 2018’s Canada Child Benefit. A benefit which no longer applies to all families and is now calculated based on income. In addition, Aurora takes big pride in our local sports culture and history and I think choosing SARC as the event location where our own Aurora Sports Hall of Fame exhibit resides was an excellent choice. A family skating event in the afternoon was a nice touch for the Prime Minister’s photo opportunity. Having said all that, many Aurora families would have definitely benefited from the former Children’s Fitness and Arts Tax credit that ironically was phased out by his government.

In contrast, former Prime Minister Pierre Truduea, the father of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, visited Aurora back in the early 70s where the notice to public was given about two weeks before the visit. There was nothing secret about it. But if they had to keep a secret, they wouldn’t have to worry, they didn’t have leaky social media back then. Okay, maybe the Town would have to worry about a gossiper who in a small town then could be as effective as social media now.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau will visit Aurora on June 22 for a two-hour ‘bear pit’ discussion at the Community Centre. He’ll fly in by helicopter and appear at the arena from 8 to 10 pm. Mayor Dick Illingworth confirmed the Prime Minister’s visit in Aurora Council on Monday night, several hours after York-Simcoe Mp John Roberts told The Era he could not make any comment on whether Mr. Trudeau was coming or not.Source: The Era, Newmarket-Aurora-Keswick, Ontario, Wed Jun 9, 1971

“AURORA – When discussing the problem of commuter transportation in the Toronto area, the Prime Minister tripped on the nomenclature of the Spadina Express-way, calling it the “Spadina Speedway.” “I think the speed with which it hasn’t proceeded might have contributed to my mistake,” he quipped. After responding to audience queries on Arctic sovereignty, unemployment, the planned new Toronto International Airport and Canada’s past role as intermediary in the Vietnam conflict, Mr. Trudeau was asked by a youngster where his wife Margaret was. “Right about now, I hope she has finished washing the dishes, and that she’s still at home, and that she will be waiting for my phone call in an hour or two when I get home from this meeting.”Source: Trudeau keeps cool in heat, By John Lott,  The Era, Aurora-Newmarket-Keswick, Ontario, Wednesday, June 30, 1971, Vol. 120, No. 26.

When former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau visited Aurora, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasn’t born yet. If my theoretical math is correct, Margaret Trudeau would have been about three months pregnant with Justin at that time. Forty seven years later we have Justin visiting Aurora. Both Trudeaus in Aurora 47 years apart – both Prime Ministers, common name, different circumstances, some similar issues, and coincidentally declining popularity.

A combination of circumstances didn’t allow me and Matthew to be part of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visit, but it gave me an opportunity to research more about the local history and past politics. The Era archives have been a great source of old, and at the same time intriguing, news about our community and beyond. I am surprised about the amount of content in local papers that was written back then about federal politics and more so about Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. I think that The Era had more intimacy with the local community back then than today. However, today we have social media, digital cameras and more writing opportunities to report more on “our side of the story.

Now back to Pierre Trudeau. The former Prime Minister visited Aurora on June 22, 1971 for a “bear pit” discussion at the Community Centre. Interesting term, apparently means, a question and answer forum with a group of politicians. Something similar to Justin Trudeau’s question and answer forum with a group of people at Town halls. The 2018 visit was none of the above. It was Trudeau’s budget announcement to a select audience.

To further satisfy my curiosity and in reference to the above newspaper clippings from 1971, it would be interesting to know where the helicopter landed in Aurora on June 22 of that year, of course if it landed in Aurora? Who was that youngster who asked where is Margaret Trudeau? Was that person a resident of Aurora? I am hoping that someone will eventually share their story; but for now, for the local government who govern our community, the message is clear, let’s provide equal opportunity to everyone in Aurora to be part of our history. Inclusivity is paramount. If we lose continuity in our local history eventually the connection between past and present will thin out.


Evelyn Buck shared: “Helicopter came down in Fleury Park. RCMP were on the roof of the Community Centre. The centre was packed. I was there. It was unremarkable. John Roberts was a short-term M.P. Got the Go train going. I was surprised by how short the P.M. was.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON


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