I am not often surprised by politicians. They tend to be rather predictable creatures, but on occasion one surprises me. Sometimes it is in a negative way, but sometimes - on rare occasion - it is in a very, very good way.
When I heard that Justin Trudeau was visiting Fort McMurray this week I was surprised. This was his third visit during this by-election campaign, and this time he did something I have never heard of a federal leader doing in my thirteen years of life in this community.
He went door knocking.
The leader of a federal party went door knocking in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Let me be clear - door knocking is a chore. It is tiring and requires a lot of energy, going from door to door and never knowing what your reception will be. It is challenging and time consuming, but I am pleased to say that Kyle Harrietha and his Liberal campaign team have been knocking on doors ceaselessly during this campaign as evidenced by their photos on social media. And this time Justin Trudeau went with them.
Maybe that doesn't mean much to you, the leader of a federal party strolling down our streets, stopping to chat on front lawns and doorsteps. Maybe it doesn't mean much to you that he spent his time here that way but I will be very frank - it means a helluva lot to me.
You see, it means a great deal to me for two reasons.
One, the Liberal slogan is 'Hope and Hard Work". If anything sums up that slogan it is doorknocking, an exercise that can seem endless and exhausting, but is founded on hard work and the fervent hope that you are making an impact and connecting with the people you seek to represent. It is, perhaps, the very definition of hope and hard work.
The second reason it matters is because there is a lot of talk among politicians about this region. They talk about the oil sands and our importance to the national economy, our value and all we contribute...and those words ring hollow and empty as they are not followed by actions. I am immensely disappointed that the leaders of the main rivals of the Liberals, the leaders of the NDP and Conservative parties, declined to visit this riding before the election. It shows a distinct disconnect between words and actions, and putting your money where your mouth is (and maybe we shouldn't even talk about the money being drained out of this region daily and never really recompensed in any way with infrastructure or support from the current federal government).
I have stated in this blog that I support the Liberals in this election, but even if I did not I would be hard pressed to not be impressed by Justin Trudeau and the amount of time he has spent here. He could have easily written this constituency off as being solid blue forever, but thanks to Kyle, hope and hard work, the blue has begun to bleed a great deal of red, a colour now flooding across Facebook feeds and Twitter pages in a show of Liberal support I have never before seen here. And it is all because of hope, and hard work.
I won't predict the outcome of the election on Monday. I know how I will vote and I hope everyone votes as well (no matter who they vote for) because it does matter and it is important. I know I will be the first to congratulate our new MP, whoever they might be. But I also know one other thing.
I believe in hope and hard work. And whatever else you might think of him, so does Justin Trudeau. He has proven it to me, by hitting the pavement in a little community in Northern Alberta far too long neglected and far too long the home of plenty of hard work but faltering hope for the future as our true value was ignored and we struggled to "make do".
Hope and hard work. It isn't a slogan. It's Fort McMurray.