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'Happy Stampede': Prime minister mobbed by admirers at Stampede events

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Sunday in Calgary where he was surrounded by mostly friendly crowds as he attended a pancake breakfast, visited the Stampede grounds and spoke at a Liberal fundraiser.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes in the sights at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 10, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Sunday in Calgary where he was surrounded by mostly friendly crowds as he attended a pancake breakfast, visited the Stampede grounds and spoke at a Liberal fundraiser.

The Stampede, an annual 10-day celebration of the cowboy way of life, has become an irresistible magnet for politicians of all political stripes.

Trudeau, decked out in a white cowboy hat, red plaid shirt and jeans, is no exception and has made regular appearances year-after-year.

"This is a moment to gather and to celebrate being able to gather once again. It's great to see everyone in person. Happy Stampede," Trudeau said early Sunday when he attended a breakfast hosted by George Chahal, the lone Liberal MP in Calgary.

Trudeau briefly referenced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and global events before spending some time flipping pancakes.

"It's been a tough couple of years where people have had to pull together and make it through and we really saw the strength of community," he said.

"We're facing more challenges with the war in Ukraine and with the global inflation crisis, but at the same time we're seeing it — time and time again — Canadians stepping up and being there for each other."

A lone protester, carrying a Canadian flag, yelled "traitor" a number of times before being quietly escorted out of the parking lot and across the street.

Trudeau was mobbed as he slowly made his way through the crowd, posing for pictures, holding small children and shaking hands.

Similar crowds gathered around him at the Stampede grounds, where he met with Mayor Jyoti Gondek and various Stampede officials. 

Gondek said it was great to talk to Trudeau about the Stampede and their shared responsibility.

"We had a great conversation about the vibe that he's feeling in the city — his words — so it's really good to make sure that the federal government is aware that Calgary's in good shape," she said.

Trudeau stopped by one of the barns, where he talked to some heavy horse owners before walking through the crowds on the grounds, where many young families attended a Family Day event with free admission before 11 a.m.

People stopped him and asked for selfies as he talked to them about how nice it was to be back at Stampede. 

"It's been too long since we've been able to do this, so it's nice to get out and be with people again," said Calgarian Chris McLachlan after he talked to Trudeau.

Osman Husein, who was attending his first Stampede, said he felt like he had a celebrity moment.

"It's cool. It's cool to see him. I didn't expect him at Calgary, not at Stampede," he said.

Others took a moment to thank him.

"We've had Ukrainians thank him in Ukrainian, we've had Syrians thank him, we've had Afghans thank him," said Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, who's an Edmonton MP. 

"We've had five women come up and say, 'Thank you, you saved my house.' We've had people come and talk about saving their businesses."

At least one man was overheard saying, "Oh, it's Justin Trudeau, I want to punch him in the face," before walking away. Another woman said Trudeau wasn't her favourite, but it was great he took the time to visit Stampede.

One man could be heard yelling: "Prime Minister Trudeau, you're a tyrant" and "You're a failure."

After more than an hour of walking through the crowds, Trudeau was whisked off by his security detail to a Liberal party fundraiser at a brewery in northeast Calgary, where he spoke to a friendly crowd.

He took the opportunity to rally the troops by talking about a federal child-care deal, providing pandemic supports from Ottawa and standing up for democracy in places such as Ukraine.

Trudeau said the government will continue to "have people's backs" as inflation rises and supply-chain issues continue.

The prime minister's visit came on the heels of the federal Conservative barbecue in Calgary on Saturday night where four of the five leadership candidates had an opportunity to impress supporters before the party elects a leader in September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2022.

Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press