Justin Trudeau, the front runner to lead the federal Liberal party, paid a visit to Vancouver Island on Mar. 15. Trudeau was met by several hundred supporters at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre for his first public appearance since former astronaut Marc Garneau withdrew from the leadership race.

Instead of drawing distinctions between himself and the other federal Liberal leadership candidates, the MP for Papineau, Que. chose to address the current ideological clash in Ottawa.

“This country does not want, does not need to go down the path of being polarized between two parties of left and right,” he says

Trudeau also criticized Thomas Mulcair’s actions, after the federal NDP leader voiced opposition to the Keystone Pipeline in Washington last week.

“For me, it’s extremely important to start removing the habit of knee-jerk partisanship of always needing to score points—to reassure your base,” Trudeau says. “Instead of looking responsibly towards the kind of future that Canada needs to play a very big role in.”

Trudeau held a media scrum after the event and explained that the once robust Liberal party has an “awful lot of growing to do.” The party has taken a nose dive from 170 electoral seats in 2000 to the present all time low of 35.

He said if he is chosen leader, he will not appoint any candidates, and thinks the nomination process will stir support within the party. The party is also experimenting with a new leadership process that gives equal weight to each riding.

“We have an awful lot of growing to do right across the country and that’s going to happen by drawing in top quality candidates that will be chosen by the communities,” Trudeau says. “We will instead allow our communities to draw together and choose the right Liberal candidate to move forward and I know that is going to be a really important part of how we engage with regions where the Liberal party hasn’t done strongly in the past decades.”

Throughout his campaign, Trudeau has also remained adamant about elevating access to post-secondary education to a high economic concern. Trudeau told the Nav. that “For a long time, we’ve had a federal government that has not recognized the importance of a federal leadership around education. We have a government now that doesn’t believe in federal leadership on many subjects including education and we have an opposition party that, because of its fear of Québec interests, will not weigh in on an area like education.”

He said that there is a great need for education and maintains that seven out of ten jobs in the future will require some form of post-secondary education.

“I put out a policy that mandates us to strive for 70 percent participation in post- secondary education right across the country and that’s a lofty goal we have to get to and that means investment, empowerment, working with provinces and institutions to offer the solutions for the Canadian workforce.”

When asked about affordability and accessibility to post-secondary education, Trudeau replied, “That remains a problem when we look at all sorts of barriers to education, whether it be financial, whether it be concerns about student debt, or structural barriers like lack of quality education in our First Nations reserves or distance from remote communities, there are all sorts of things we need to do to make sure that we understand that the single most important facet of developing equality of opportunity in this country is to make sure that people have access to top quality education.”

Allan Warnke, 66, a VIU Political Studies professor, says that Trudeau’s coronation as Liberal leader looks to be a certainty.

“Within the Liberal party, no matter where in Canada, the main buzz is Justin Trudeau,” the former Liberal MLA says. Warnke, who ran as federal Liberal candidate in 1988 adds that, aside from members under 30, many Liberals are nostalgic for the “golden age” of the Party during the Pierre Trudeau era.

“That has made any other candidacy insurmountable, as Marc Garneau discovered, and as the only one with any competitive celebrity status, even he recognized this was Justin’s time,” Warnke says. “But where Justin stands out is his ability to attract under-30 members, which has been most impressive. And this is the future of the party if it is to revive itself as the government or official opposition party. On this point, no other candidate has provided this hope for the party’s future success as Justin Trudeau.”

Registered Liberal party members and supporters will vote for a new leader in the second week of April. For more information on Trudeau’s campaign, visit <http://justin.ca/>.