QUISPAMSIS, N.B. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flew across the country to briefly boost a New Brunswick MP at a rally Wednesday evening in a battleground riding where the Liberals managed a narrow 2015 victory in a traditionally Tory area.
Trudeau spoke for just four minutes, taking swipes at the economic records of former Conservative prime ministers, including his predecessor Stephen Harper, and R.B. Bennett, who was born in the province and led the country amidst the worst years of the Great Depression.
But Trudeau's main focus was on the Liberal MP for Fundy Royal, businesswoman Alaina Lockhart.
"I don't think I know anyone in caucus who works harder, is more connected to her community, who is a strong voice for rural issues, small businesses, tourism, and passionate about her community and all that it stands for," he said.
"I need you to make sure you send her back to Ottawa."
The Liberals hold all 10 seats in the province, but Lockhart's victory margin of 3.8 per cent over Harper-era cabinet minister Rob Moore was among the narrower of the wins in the last campaign, and she faces a tough race in the 2019 federal campaign.
After his brief comments, Trudeau handed the microphone to Lockhart, who spoke for the remaining time during the rally.
She proceeded to list off various investments in the riding in southwestern New Brunswick, emphasizing a coastal highway funded through a federal-provincial agreement that is projected to increase tourism in the region.
Trudeau, looking slightly weary, had flown from from Saskatchewan for his evening visit to the riding, his fourth since 2014.
His welcome at the Quispamsis gathering wasn't entirely friendly.
A group of disgruntled postal workers turned their backs on Trudeau during his brief comments.
The workers say they are bitter over the fact the federal government ended their strike in December by legislating them back to work.
"We just wanted to show the Liberals our disapproval with the events that took place when we were on strike and were illegally legislated back to work," said Dave Dudley, second vice president of the Fundy local of CUPW.
"Under the Canadian Charter, as a unionized workforce we have the right to negotiate a fair contract, and that right was illegally taken away from us," he said.
The group did not get a chance to speak with the prime minister or Lockhart.
Lockhart later said she understands the position of the postal workers.
"I appreciate that the postal workers are in a tough time right now and there's nothing I want more than for them to get a deal and continue to have a good career with Canada Post. In the meantime I have to balance my decision with what I was hearing from the rest of my constituents as well," she said.
Lockhart said she heard from a lot of seniors who were worried they would not receive their mail and their bills.
She said she hopes there will be an opportunity to sit down with the union and resolve the issues.
Trudeau is scheduled to make a number of stops in southern New Brunswick Thursday morning before heading to the north of the province for a town hall style meeting in Miramichi Thursday evening.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press