In a whirlwind of activity Thursday morning, Jan. 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Clarence-Rockland’s seniors, inspected some local coffee and got his own personalized high-visibility safety vest.
Escorted by Mayor Mario Zanth, Member of Parliament Francis Drouin and entourage of RCMP and staffers dozens strong, Trudeau started off his morning with a visit of the residents of the Jardins Belle Rive retirement centre.
Afterwards, Trudeau and crew visited Café Joyeux, greeted by throngs of the regions political figures, including former Rockland mayor and MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde, and Don Boudria, the former Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP who served as Minister of Public Works, among other posts, in the government of Jean Chrétien. Café Joyeux owners Sandra Chabot-Ries, Alexandre Lauzeriere, Nicholas Andrella and Tania Andrella were also on hand to give the PM a warm Rockland welcome – despite Trudeau admittedly not being a coffee drinker.
The next stop on the PM’s itinerary was Fashion Sports & Workwear on Laurier Street. Owner Eric Lalonde said having the Prime Minister visit his shop in a small town outside of Ottawa was important.
« It was surprise that he wanted to come visit us and see our shop, » said Lalonde. « But it meant a lot to us. »
Trudeau was presented with a personalized high-visibility safety vest from Fashion Sports & Workwear, with PMJT emblazoned on the front and PM TRUDEAU across the back. The PM’s political wits where about him, because, without missing a beat, Trudeau said, in both French and English, the vest will come in handy for all the visits he makes to construction sites as his government works to build new housing and supports new businesses across the country.
Business owners weren’t given much of a heads up ahead of Trudeau’s visit. Both Lalonde and the owners of Café Joyeux were told only that an important visitor was going to come through, followed by a quick reconnaissance visit from the RCMP earlier in the week. The café even had the pleasure of meeting the RCMP’s sniffer dogs.
A Face-to-Face with the Mayor
While the visit from the PM was a little last minute, Mayor Zanth and Trudeau still had the chance to speak privately at Hammond Golf and talk about some of the challenges Clarence-Rockland, and many other rural Francophone communities, face today.
During his 15 minutes alone with the PM, Zanth discussed the threat of the annual spring flooding and the city’s issues with transportation, while flaunting much of the success Clarence-Rockland has garnered as it grows.
Zanth added that having Trudeau visit Hammond wasn’t just to accommodate the size of the PM’s entourage, but to show the Liberal leader that the municipality comprises of several villages beyond the urban centre.
« We wanted him to visit a rural part of our municipality, as well, » said Zanth. « It was important to us that he saw other parts of our municipality, not just Rockland. »
The Prime Minister did not make himself available for questions from the media during his visit.