On Jan. 25, the University of Saskatchewan campus was buzzing with the news that a town hall would be held featuring Prime Minister — and one of Vogue’s top 10 picks for unconventional alternatives to the sexiest man alive — Justin Trudeau.
Unfortunately, tickets were in hot demand as the 400 free tickets provided on the Liberal website were snatched up promptly after becoming available. The Dubé Theatre seats approximately 500, leaving the remaining seats free to the public on a sort of first-come-first-serve basis.
Seemingly, the organisers of the event did not anticipate the hundreds of people who showed up hours in advance in an attempt to get one of those empty seats, resulting in a very unorganized and mismanaged ordeal.
Liberal Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale’s page for the town hall encouraged the public to arrive at 6:30 p.m. — when the doors were scheduled to open for the event — but lines started to form inside the Health Science Building around 3:30 p.m.
As the line of people grew, the officers in charge moved everyone out of the building so they could prepare the venue. The way in which the line was transported was not done in any coherent or authoritative manner, as there was confusion that resulted in the reshuffling of the order of the line as well as a number of line jumpers.
The line quickly grew and spanned from the E-wing doors on Wiggins Avenue around and down College Drive. A large number of the people in the line were outside in double digit sub-zero temperatures for multiple hours.
The line had been divided into two sections, to differentiate between those with and without tickets. When the ticket holders were allowed in at 6 p.m., opportunists found their chance to capitalize on the lack of structure that was supposed to be implemented either by the organizers or the officers that were present.
A number of people without tickets piggybacked off of the speedy entrance of ticket holders, which pulled them to the front of the line and allowed them to — in 10 minutes — bypass the three-hour-old line and gain entry before others who had been waiting.
Once the ticket holders had all entered, the public was allowed to as well. The problem was that when the public was allowed in, they were neither guided nor controlled in any legitimate fashion. Instead, a sort of anarchic free-for-all ensued as hundreds of people tried to squeeze through the two doors only to find there was another line forming in the tunnel within the Health Science Building.
As the line made its way through into the main corridor of the building, hopes to see the prime minister were decimated as the line was directed past the Dubé Theatre and into a separate overflow room.
The overflow room allowed for around 100 people to view a live feed of Trudeau on two projection screens, all while knowing that the likelihood of getting to ask a hard-hitting question was virtually impossible.
A general consensus of those in the overflow room was that they would have preferred to have been told when the theatre had filled, so that they could make alternative plans or cut in line earlier in the day.
Overall, the event was bungled from the perspective of the public who were encouraged to attend. The combination of a lack of structure and order while entering the building led to an unequal treatment of line members. This manifested itself in some being allowed to wait inside while earlier attendees were forced to wait in cold because no one was there to prevent budging.
Lastly, I can safely say the conditions leading up to the event for the public attendees were not outweighed by Trudeau’s less-than-compelling performance.
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor