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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Charlottetown for the Liberal Party of Canada’s annual summer caucus retreat. (Nathan Rochford/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Charlottetown for the Liberal Party of Canada’s annual summer caucus retreat. (Nathan Rochford/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau pans opponents for tiptoeing around Quebec religious symbols debate Add to ...

Justin Trudeau is criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair for tiptoeing around the debate in Quebec over religious symbols, arguing his decision to wade in shows he is not afraid to play politics differently.

The Liberal Leader again took issue with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois over her plans to bring in a secular charter that, according to media reports, would ban religious headgear and other visible religious symbols in provincial workplaces.

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Mr. Trudeau has focused on presenting himself as an open and transparent leader in his efforts, as the leader of the third party in the House of Commons, to carve out a position and be noticed.

This week, Mr. Trudeau is in Prince Edward Island for the Liberals’ annual summer caucus retreat, during which he will announce policies – such as requiring MPs and senators to post all of their expenses publicly – that play into that theme.

It will be Mr. Trudeau’s first summer retreat since he was elected leader in April. In addition to transparency, the caucus will deal with economic issues, in particular the plight of the middle class.

“I am certainly trying to make myself look different from the kind of politics that people have been suffering through for the past years,” he said. “We have politics that is polarizing, that is all based on spin and electoral advantage. Just look at the lack of openness or lack of even willingness to criticize the Quebec government’s irresponsible plan around discrimination on immigrants and new Canadians.

“The careful politics that my NDP and Conservative counterparts are playing is irresponsible,” he added.

As for Ms. Marois, Mr. Trudeau predicted she would pay a political price for undermining the openness and generosity of Quebeckers.

“We will have a discussion over the next few months, but Quebeckers that I have talked to are really worried with the substance of her proposal,” he told reporters.

Mr. Trudeau arrived in Charlottetown on Tuesday afternoon to do a little mainstreeting before the national caucus meeting on Wednesday at a nearby golf resort. He was treated like a rock star as he walked through the city’s downtown, with people coming up to him for autographs and to have their photos taken with him. It helped, too, that a pack of journalists was following his every step.

Most people said they remembered and respected his father and they wanted to meet him; others vowed to vote for him. It was in contrast to the reception that his predecessor, Michael Ignatieff, received during the past election campaign, when some Canadians refused to shake his hand.

Even some Americans, who had no idea who Mr. Trudeau was but shook his hand anyway, were intrigued by the entourage.

One Charlottetown resident wanted to get high with Mr. Trudeau. “Hey Justin, you want to get baked?” yelled Jeff Moynagh. The 30-year-old unemployed man was referring to Mr. Trudeau’s position that marijuana be legalized and his recent admission that he smoked pot three years ago.

“There is nothing wrong with weed,” he said to Mr. Trudeau, who stopped to speak with him and laughed off the invitation.

Later, Mr. Moynagh said he thought Mr. Trudeau “is cool” and that he would “probably” vote for him as he holds a lot of values his father did.

For his part, Mr. Trudeau said he believes he is not taking a risk with his efforts to be open and transparent. “I was raised to always trust Canadians and have confidence in Canadians,” he said.

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