Liberal 'rock star' Trudeau packs Richmond ballroom

Justin Trudeau packed a hotel ballroom with supporters Wednesday night in Richmond, one day after announcing his bid for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.

Organizers estimated over 1,000 people jockeyed for position in the largest room of the Radisson Vancouver Airport Hotel to hear the 40-year-old former school teacher.

In his half-hour speech, the MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau focused on national unity.

"The key to Canadian unity is a shared sense of purpose—so hard to define, yet so deeply felt," he said. "That when British Columbians do well, it creates opportunities for Quebecers. That when Quebecers create and innovate, it echoes across the country and around the world."

He acknowledged there are "a few Quebecers" who want to create their own country.

"I'm a Quebecer, and I want to build that country too," he said. "For me, that country goes from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Great Bear."

He also told the diverse crowd the road to rebuilding the Liberal Party of Canada, which has just 35 of 308 seats in the House of Commons, will be a long one. He said leadership change alone won't fix the party's woes.

"My candidacy may shine a few extra lights upon us…but what we do with that opportunity is up to us. When Canadians tune in we need to prove to them that…we are 100 per cent focused on the future—and not future of our party, the future of our country."

Justin TrudeauAmong those who came to see Trudeau was Joe Peschisolido, a former MP who last ran in Richmond for the Liberals in May 2011, when Conservative Alice Wong won with 58.4 per cent of the vote.

Peschisolido believes Trudeau will reinvigorate the party.

"I think Canadians are going to be surprised that this rock star also has substantive issues [to raise]."

Peschisolido acknowledged that "things are not good" with the party after it lost 42 seats in the 2011 election.

"We have to clarify for the Canadian public where we stand and what our values and principles are," he said.

Others who attended the election-like-rally included his mother Margaret Trudeau Kemper and Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer.

The B.C. chapter of the Young Liberals of Canada organized the event.

The resignation of Michael Ignatieff last year triggered the Liberal leadership race, which doesn't officially begin until Nov. 14.

Others who have announced their intention to seek the post include Vancouver lawyer Alex Burton, Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne and economist Jonathan Mousley.

Party members will choose their new leader at a national convention April 14, 2013.

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