A Political Forest Fire

Through Fire, New Growth

For much of the history of forest management, it was thought that the devastating impact of a forest fire must be avoided at all cost. Whether man-made or naturally caused, forest fires destroyed years of growth that would take decades to replace, if at all. More recently, forest fires have been looked on more favourably and are now seen as an essential part of the life-cycle of forests.

The extreme heat of a forest fire causes, for example, the cones of conifer trees to open and drop seeds on the forest floor. After countless seeds fall, some germinate and within weeks of a destructive fire, new growth begins to appear. Within only a few short decades, the new growth forest will be comprised of trees that tower over all who walk through and easily disguise the fact that a fire ever tore through that forest.

Without fire, forests fail to regenerate along a natural timeline and new growth is hindered. When fires are delayed, the impact is much more devastating and can actually reach a scale that makes regrowth extremely difficult. Forest fires help to regularly reset the cycle of forest growth and help continue the sustainability of that growth.

Liberal Seedlings

In May 2011, the Liberal Party of Canada was dealt a devastating blow. The Party was razed, winning just 34 seats and losing both senior and long-serving members in the blaze. Now sitting in third place in the House of Commons, many have written off the Party for good, suggesting that this was a special kind of defeat that the Party cannot come back from.

I hold a different view. I believe occasionally it is good and even necessary for an organization to be torn down so it can build again. The Liberal Party of Canada has a long history of decisive and prolonged losses that actually made the Party better and stronger afterwards. That is because the largest losses instil a deeper commitment to doing things differently, to bringing in new faces, and for calling on new, previously unheard voices.

Some of our longest droughts have been followed by some of our lengthiest periods in government. And that is because the losses made the Party re-evaluate and led to recognizing new talent, new voices, and new ways of thinking.

Wilfrid Laurier entered federal politics at 33 barely in time to serve in the Cabinet of Alexander Mackenzie. It would be eighteen long years in opposition before Laurier would lead the Liberals to victory in 1896. He then governed Canada for fifteen years straight. This despite entering federal politics through a Liberal government in its dying days.

Mackenzie King, born the same year Laurier became a federal politician, would himself enter federal politics at 34 and become the first ever Minister of Labour in Laurier’s government. His term was short lived as the Laurier Liberals soon lost power to Borden’s Union government. King did not sit on the government benches again until he became Prime Minister a decade later. Over the course of several stints at the helm of government, King would govern for 22 years, the longest in Canadian history. This too despite entering politics through a Liberal government in its dying days.

In 1962 a 33 year old John Turner joined the House of Commons and in 1963, a 29 year old Jean Chretien entered politics. Both joined the Liberal government that formed after six years in the wilderness and would play substantial roles in the governments of Pearson and Trudeau before each becoming Prime Minister. Turner’s term came after nearly 21 years of uninterrupted Liberal governance and was he turfed as a result. Chretien, however, would come to power after nine years out of power and led the country for the majority of the next 13 years of Liberal governance.

Pearson’s rebuilding in the 1960s played a major role in putting Liberals in office during the four decades that followed his time as Prime Minister. This despite the fact that his introduction as Liberal leader was being walloped by Diefenbaker in the 1958 election that placed Pearson, as Leader of the Official Opposition, squarely across the aisle from the largest majority government in Canadian history.

Death and Rebirth of the Liberal Party of Canada

Liberals found themselves in the wilderness from:

  • 1867 to 1873 (6 years)
  • 1878 to 1896 (18 years)
  • 1911 to 1921 (10 years)
  • 1930 to 1935 (5 years)
  • 1957 to 1963 (6 years)
  • 1984 to 1993 (9 years)
  • 2006 to 2015 at minimum (9 years)

Liberals followed these periods with governing records spanning from:

  • 1873 to 1878 (5 years)
  • 1896 to 1911 (15 years)
  • 1921 to 1930* (9 years –  brief interruption of Meighen government)
  • 1935 to 1957 (22 years)
  • 1963 to 1984* (21 years – brief interruption of Clark government)
  • 1993 to 2006 (13 years)

The Liberal Party of Canada has a long history of starting over again as far back as Confederation and coming out the other side stronger for that effort. We can either see this period as a challenge we might not be able to overcome or an opportunity to improve. I have full faith that if we remain focused, patient, and hard working we will see new and lasting growth take root.

The Liberal Party: A Substantial Heritage, a Future of Substance (Co-written with Joseph Uranowski)

Theresa Lubowitz on the Death of Substantive Policy

Canada is teetering dangerously close to the death of substantive policy as we know it, with the rise of a populist Conservative Government, a populist NDP Official Opposition, and a struggling Liberal Party so afraid of irrelevancy it has spent the last four years taking the safe road.

Government used to stand for something and had a proud legacy in Canada of improving the lives of its citizens. Some blamed nearly a decade of minority parliament as the culprit yet Pearson arguably put into action more substantive policy than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history despite the political environment he was forced to operate within.

Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government negotiated a $41 billion health care agreement with the provinces, legalized same-sex marriage, introduced the landmark Kelowna Accord, and had negotiated a national childcare program with the provinces before losing power. The Conservative minority government that followed has no record of substance to speak of, other than tearing down major advancements like Kelowna and national childcare.

Over 100 members of the NDP were elected in the May 2011 election, a feat that allowed the Party to take its place as Official Opposition in the House of Commons for the first time in its history. Yet what it was exactly the NDP championed during the election in their platform is murky at best. They successfully road the ‘Jack’ wave of platitudes and props and now find themselves sitting opposite a government that reads from the very same playbook of highly charged populist partisan posturing, delivering little of substance. The Party released a year in review video celebrating the ‘highlights’ of their first year as Official Opposition that was low on substance and heavy on reading from one’s notes.

While the Conservatives have a history of releasing election platforms at the last minute and the NDP have a history of releasing them with little content and even less costing, the Liberal Party provided voters with very little to get excited about in the 2011 election. The Party of balanced budgets, universal health care, pensions, student loans, official bilingualism, multiculturalism, same-sex marriage legalization, and Kelowna to name just a few, offered a platform built around something called the ‘Family Pack’. Reduced to what were at the time shocking levels of support in 2008, Liberals played it safe, turned their backs on a century of bold, innovative, and substantive policy that shaped a nation and created something that sounded like it could be found in the lunch meat section of a grocery store.

With populism on either side of the political spectrum, the Liberal Party cannot continue to play it safe. Canada cannot afford us to. We must again become the party willing to take bold political stands regardless of the political winds. Our most successful political leaders were those who did not apologize for who they were or what they stood for and were rewarded for that authenticity. Living authentically is good practice in everyday life and the same is true in politics. It must be made true again in our public policy.

Joseph Uranowski on the Revival of Substantive Policy

The NDP just released an attack ad  that looks like it was written and produced by Stephen Harper’s own attack machine. Like the NDP, it offers no real solutions. With so much vitriol coming from the Harper Conservatives and the Mulcair NDP (how far we’ve come from Nathan Cullen’s calls for cooperation and Niki Ashton’s constant usage of the phrase “New politics”) there is a large space (not necessarily one in the so-called “centre”) for the Liberal Party to become the party of substance.

In the past the Liberal Party brought forward great policy in the form of legislation. However, just saying “trust us, we’re great at governing” is the height of arrogance and is a terrible political strategy. When Bob Rae was an NDP MP he was quoted as saying “the Liberals are a beanbag kind of party that looks like the last person that sat in it.” As we drift through the summer, I have a fear that this might be happening to my party. My solution: the Liberal Party of Canada should start releasing white papers, one every month from now until the 2015 election. When the house is in session we should tie each white paper to a private member’s bill.

Some topics I’d like to see the Liberal Party release policy solutions on:

  • Reform of Question Period: Now, the NDP is so petty and ruthless in their desire to deny the Liberal Party a win (like the Republicans down South) that they have actually worked to defend Dean Del Mastro. The Liberal Party needs to do politics differently, if passing good policy gives one of our opponents a win, it is still worth it to pass good policy. In that vein, I believe at the next avaliable opportunity the Liberals should introduce a private member’s bill that is word-for-word Michael Chong’s QP reform bill. We should ask him to co-sponsor and support the bill. He can bring over the dozen other CPC votes we need and we can shame the NDP into doing what is right.
  • Electoral Reform: At the 2012 biennial convention convention we passed a AV electoral reform platform. We should flesh it out as soon as possible. Let’s start a real debate.
  • Cannabis Legalization and progressive crime policy: We also overwhelming passed a cannabis legalization motion in Ottawa. The crime debate has changed in Canada with legalization going mainstream. This would be a great area to differentiate ourselves from the CPC andNDP. It has recently been reported that private companies are lobbying the Harper government to privatize our prisons. We have a unique opportunity to explain how terrible this policy would be and shift the crime debate once again.
  • The Environment: Scientists have literally taken to the streets on this issue. We have Kirsty Duncan (who won a Nobel Prize for her environmental work), Ted Hsu and Marc Garneau. Let’s put forward policies to take by the environment as an issue from the Greens and NDP with a pro-economic growth Liberal twist.
  • The Economy: Scott Brison is doing a great job shining a light on youth unemployment. A plurality of the white papers should be economic. If we can’t talk about the economy (every Liberal, not just our leader) we will never be relevant to Canadians.
  • Rebuilding the farm safety net: In many ways the Harper government is tryng to balance the budget on the backs of farmers. Income in the agriculture sector has been declining for 30 years. We need policies that will rebuild the farm safety net and focus on sustainability and affordability.
  • Some other issues: High speed rail, safe injection sites, free trade, foreign policy, public transit, education, public housing and veterans’ affairs.

 Uranowski and Lubowitz on the Verdict

Canada will not be bettered by the lip-service of populist politicians. It will be improved by substantive discourse about intelligent solutions in public policy. The Liberal Party of Canada has the strongest record in Canadian history in this area and is the only party showing any interest in speaking substantively about the issues. We’ve had a substantial heritage in public policy and have a substantive future ahead of us. While the populists blather and take jabs at one another, we should lay out a clear path for a better future for Canada.

 

Follow Joseph on twitter at @Uranowski and visit his renowned website for more commentary here.

#NBD Liberal Prime Ministers

The #nbd Campaign

My sister and I like to jokingly say the letters ‘NBD’ to one another when we are sarcastically saying something is ‘no big deal’ when in reality it is. It occurred to me that the Liberal record of achievement in improving Canada is lengthy, even when broken down by specific Prime Ministers. It also occurred to me that it might make for some light-hearted fun to lists off the accomplishments of Liberal Prime Ministers in the first person and have the list end with ‘#nbd’ as one would humble-brag on Twitter. I made several images doing just this and they quickly spread around Twitter and Facebook. I thought it might make sense to create versions that Liberals could proudly display on their Facebook pages and below are the resulting Facebook cover photo versions of the images. Download and share at will!

(Click on the images to view and download them at their full size)

Building the Liberal Party of Canada

Very recently I had a conversation with some thoughtful members of the Liberal Party of Canada about the concept of rebuilding and how we could know as a Party we had been rebuilt, that a destination had been arrived at after this long process of renewal. I suggested that rebuilding, though possible to measure, was a continual process and not a destination. It became clear to me from this discussion that rather than call efforts we make to improve and revamp the Liberal Party ‘rebuilding’ we should simply call it ‘building’. That rather than simply act in a way that prepares us for the immediate next election, we should  continually strive for a stronger, improved Liberal Party that can deliver the kind of Canada we want now and in the future.

Building the Liberal Party

What do we mean when we say we want to build the Liberal Party? It is both a practical and philosophical question, one that needs to be answered before any tangible progress can be measured against it. In a practical sense we want to build a Liberal Party that can compete in and win elections, beginning in 2015 and in each election that follows. In a philosophical sense, we want to win in 2015 and beyond because we hope to create and implement policies as a government that improve the lives of Canadians across the country. But this is less a re-building exercise than a building exercise because we are not content with some sort of relative or temporal benchmark of success. Achievements delivered by a certain date indicate progress in the building process but are not ends in themselves. What is required in building the Liberal Party, to borrow a slogan from the Ontario Liberal Party, is that we always be relentless. The moment we give in to self-satisfaction for the status quo we have created is the moment we lose ground. After years of great self-satisfaction, we have lost a great deal of ground. Our aim must be to create a sustainable Liberal Party always on an upward climb towards improvement beyond where we find ourselves at any given time.

The Importance of Sustainable Infrastructure

The Liberal Party of Canada must have two goals in what should be a never-ending cycle of building. One should be what the Party wants to achieve for Canadians. The other must be how the Party can organizationally get to the point where it is in a position to deliver those things and to maintain that position of influence.  This seems like a no brainer and the obvious point to a political Party yet there are those whose focus instead rests on a specific election as an end in itself or the creation of specific political products like attack ads as being where our focus should be. It is time to end the tunnel vision and start seeing the broader picture.

What we must aim for is a robust national infrastructure that a strong national campaign can be launched from in order to compete for and win government. I personally don’t think that’s a system that can be built in four years. When? I’m not sure. That depends on what we continue to put in instead of putting off. And two things we have long put off are the periods before and after a writ period. We haven’t been interested in doing important leg work until just before a campaign and quickly lose interest right after one. Volunteers and voters recognize our attention deficit and resent us for only calling on them when it matters to us, during elections when it is most advantageous for us to connect with them. We have the same relationship with our work as a Party as we do the people we are trying to connect with: we only come out when the stakes are highest and ignore the fact that there is a long and visible tide behind the wave of activity during a writ period, and it is that tide that determines the force of the wave.

For a long time we have shrunk the amount of Canada we actually care about, instead saying as long as we have such and such we will win and be content so long as we win. When we lost the West we said to ourselves that we could win with Central and Eastern Canada. When we lost Quebec we shrugged and focused on Ontario with support from Eastern Canada. And when we lost Ontario we suddenly marvelled at how we found ourselves here after reducing the scope of our interest and outreach for decades to the point where we only listened and focused on ourselves.

The most important aspect of building a Party on the foundation of sustainable infrastructure is building it nationally, in 308 ridings. We must operate from a standpoint that no riding is too safe or too hopeless for Liberals. We must aim to build functioning executives and riding associations in all of our ridings because the best way to convince Canadians that our Party is not dead is to show off active, living and breathing Liberals in their communities. We need to feel shared responsibility for our efforts as a Party and help out EDAs around us, working together to strengthen our Party in our regions and communities. We need to stop thinking of levels or hierarchies in our Party but see our work locally as important as the work of the National Board and recognize that we can lead the transformational changes that will improve our Party from the ground up.

The Importance of Recognition

Sustainable infrastructure requires a cycle of outreach, recognition, consultation,  recognition, encouragement,  recognition, collaboration, and  recognition. You probably noticed that  recognition appeared four times in that eight point cycle and that is with good reason. There is no greater tool when engaging others than recognizing them for their participation, interest, and concern. When we reach out to Canadians who are living liberal lives but not Liberal lives, we must recognize them for allowing us the opportunity to engage with them. When they have come aboard and share their thoughts with us, we need to recognize that they are contributing in a valuable way to our common narrative. When we encourage them to get further involved we must recognize them for setting aside their time to participate in our Party. When they begin to make a tangible impact on our local efforts in our EDAs or even the Party at large we need to recognize their commitment to our common cause. While we are all involved because we believe collectively we might be able to construct the Canada we dream of, it is important every now and then to recognize those who are standing with us in good times and bad.

In more concrete terms this means creating a real plan for engaging Canadians in and beyond the membership of our Party. It means that while micro-targetting identified and likely Liberals is important in the numbers game of GOTV strategies, we have to remember that our pool of supporters does not increase when we limit those we engage with. The period between writs is exactly when we should be engaging the community at local events, in local media, and on the doorstep.

The old saying about strangers and friendship can easily be applied to our Party. If we treat unidentified voters as Liberals we just haven’t had the opportunity to engage  with yet we might actually expand our ranks. That work used to begin belatedly on day 1 of an election before we began to focus on just getting out our vote. Even then, I believe it should have begun on the day after an election so that by the time of the nextelection we would have more voters to get out to the polls. Something I’ve always heard at the door is many voters will vote for whoever had the decency to actual show up and engage with them. Liberals need to be the Party that gives a damn about voters as individuals and not just as voting blocks.

In my own job I have spent a great deal of time studying the concept and value of membership in an organizations here and around the world. The biggest theme regardless of the type of organization or where it is located is that once one becomes a member, the special attention received during the outreach period often diminishes or ends. As Liberals we have to recognize Canadians even once they become members (or supporters) of our Party. We cannot take their support for granted as we have for years. When someone comes to our Party, our first order of business should be to heartily thank them for doing so. Only after should we let them know how they can get involved. And asking for financial contributions should be taboo until we’ve proven what they mean to us, not vice-versa.

Avoiding a Liberal Languish

Ultimately our Party needs to remember the golden rule of successful social interaction: a sustainable relationship requires regular checking in. As members we need to check in with how we are doing with achieving our local goals. As a Party we need to check in on how our members are feeling about what we’re achieving together and how Canadians feel about what we have to offer. If we maintain our relationships, internal and external to the Party, we will have a much better idea of how we’re doing. If we have an accurate sense of where we are, not just in the checkbox lists of activities we’ve carried out, we will have a much better sense of where we are going and how to successfully navigate there.

On Fertile Ground, Growth

Extraordinary Convention – Signs of Life

A year ago from next Monday, the Liberal Party of Canada embarked on a period of renewal and grassroots engagement beginning with a well-attended telephone town hall called the ‘Extraordinary Convention’. This meeting of Liberals from across the country by telephone was the first major event the Party held after a crushing defeat in May 2011. The conversation focused on establishing a time period for calling the Party’s next leadership convention, thereby charting the path forward in the rebuilding process. It also led to determinations about how an interim leader would be selected and when the next Party Biennial Convention would be held.

On that call, Liberals from all over Canada voiced their opinions about how the Party would move forward and the best manner in which to do so. We heard the voices of such respected members as Stephane Dion and even our own friends from our own EDAs. The Party had an honest conversation about where we stood and came together to make an important decision about our collective future. At the time, it was probably the most ‘grassroots’ thing the Party had ever done. Coming so soon after the May election, it was a very positive sign of life from a political group the media and much of the public were already writing off.

Biennial Convention – Grassroots Take Hold

Just over six months after the Extraordinary Convention, Liberals from across the country convened in Ottawa at the brand new Ottawa Convention Centre to select a new National Board, including a new President for the Party. By the close of the race, it was largely thought, at least in the media, that it was a race between two candidates. One was Sheila Copps, former Deputy Prime Minister, who had decided to run even before the May defeat. The other was Mike Crawley, former President of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario), who entered the race the previous fall. The race was long seen as Copps’ to win but on January 15, 2012, the final tally came back with Mike Crawley 26 votes ahead. What began from a single editorial piece in a newspaper became a campaign that dominated online and eventually real world discussion. At a convention of 3,300 strong, Liberals held a competitive race filled with substantive discussion and ultimately selected a President from the ground up.

The National Board and Interim Leader Bob Rae

Today marked an announcement from the National Board that the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada will be elected in April 2013. However it is less likely that this day will be remembered for this as it will for being the day that Bob Rae announced clearly that he would not be a candidate for that leadership. Rae was long expected to run and was thought to be announcing his decision to run soon after the Board declared the parameters for the leadership race. Instead, Rae told Caucus and the public he would remain on as interim leader, as pledged a year ago upon taking up the role.

I believe Rae has done a tremendous job as interim leader and would at the same time make a strong leader and capable Prime Minister. However, politics is as much about talent, skill and suitability for a role as it is being in the right place at the right time. For Rae, that could have been 2006, but several obstacles prevented him from winning then and his chances have only slid since. As Jean Chretien outlined in his autobiography, Bob Rae had not officially joined the Liberal fold early enough to win in 2006, despite Chretien personally asking him to do so. Rae was also cursed with having governed as Premier of Ontario and doing so during difficult economic times. No Canadian has ever gone from the Premier’s chair to the Prime Minister’s and Rae is no different (Charles Tupper was Premier before becoming Prime Minister but governed provincially in pre-Confederation times). Even if Rae had governed during relatively good times, Canadians do not seem to care for politicians with long records to reflect on. And Party members hoping to see renewal and change are likely to feel much the same way.

None of those facts prevented Rae from briefly attempting to take the leadership after Stephane Dion stepped down in late 2008. Rae might have won then if not for Ignatieff strategists expertly navigating their man into the ‘interim’ leadership position (something Rae would later do as well), or if Rae had not taken the publicly popular position of talks of merging with the NDP that was less popular with Caucus.

Even despite these two false starts, Rae was expected to trot to victory this time around so long as Justin Trudeau stayed out of the race. But with increased pressure on Trudeau to enter, and personal polling numbers for Rae hovering around where they were in 2006, a clear shot at victory seemed less possible in recent weeks. But this was still not the clincher that caused Rae’s announcement this afternoon. That was caused by the most unlikely thing: social media and the public discussions of Party members.

As late as Sunday, Rae was thought to be running for sure. It was said that he had a team in place and was personally ready to go. But after a story broke on CBC News last Thursday confirming that the National Board would approve Rae’s candidacy (despite the fact that the Board did not meet until today), enormous backlash erupted across various social media platforms. A Rae candidacy had always sparked almost as much negative feedback as positive even as far back as 2006, but this was something different. This was Party members speaking up loudly about how they wanted to see the Party proceed with its leadership selection process. Sometime between Thursday and today, the membership came in loud and clear.

The continued stewardship of the Party on an interim basis by Bob Rae is very positive for the Party. Rae is an able parliamentarian and will provide a steady hand during what could be a very interesting leadership race. During his press conference today, Rae seemed more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him. Despite many beginning to ponder when he will retire from politics, I instead think this talented man has greatness left to give, especially as a transitional leader for the Party. Ted Kennedy’s best work came after the burden of running for the Presidency was lifted off his shoulders. I suspect Bob Rae will do the same, unburdened by the need to be too careful and able to unleash his full parliamentary genius on our opposition.

Leadership Convention – Fertile Ground

Though Trudeau may still enter, the Party currently faces a leadership situation with no clear frontrunner(s) for the first time in our history. King had fashioned himself as the right-hand man of a dying Laurier long before the 1919 leadership race. St. Laurent was the hand-picked choice of King on his own retirement, and Pearson the choice of St. Laurent. While the race was crowded in 1968 with a number of extremely talented individuals including several cabinet ministers, Pierre Trudeau entered the convention  hall in Ottawa as the clear favourite. 1984 was a clear battle between Turner and Chretien just as 1990 was between Chretien and Martin. 2003 was always Paul Martin’s to win and Ignatieff was touted as the next Prime Minister of Canada and Liberal leader long before he even returned to Canada to run for leader in 2006. Though Dion and to a lesser extent Pierre Trudeau may have been surprise choices at the time, those races were never thought to be anyone’s game where pundits and Party members alike watched the race unfold with no clue how it might turn out. I can’t think of anything more exciting for a political Party and if Bob Rae’s greatest gift is strong leadership through a difficult period of rebuilding, then perhaps an truly open contest for Party leader is his second greatest gift.

The membership, by being so vocal in the last week, demanded the kind of race they wish to have. Over the past year, the on-the-ground membership have decided a great deal. After this past week and the influence the membership has wielded, it seems to me that the Party has never prepared more fertile ground for the grassroots to flourish.

The Overlooked Liberal Voter

I have long believed, and perhaps naively, that the best way to grow a political party is to constantly go out and engage the electorate. I know the value in voter identification and pulling the vote, but at some point that strategy will only yield a smaller and smaller group to call upon. When voters are treated as mere numbers, they often remove themselves from the equation altogether. As political parties increasingly target and micro-target their vote, they will capture a greater number of their supporters and get them to the polls, but there will be less of those same supporters to draw from. As the margin of victory decreases, so too does the chance of a repeat.

There was a time in Canada when conservatives were the Party of big business and wall street and the Liberals captured the rural vote. There was also a time when Liberals could count on the support of those less financially well off. Yet business, the ‘rural vote’ and low-income Canadians have increasingly moved on to other political parties and Liberals have slumped to a record low level of support. Why? The Liberal Party of Canada, over the course of the last decade, abandoned the principle of equality of opportunity it spent decades securing to our national fabric, and did so in favour of insulating the few based on solely on feel-good reasoning.

The Family Pack aka Treating Voters Like Purchasers

I do not believe for one second that one policy, one person, or one decision led to the results of the 2011 election for the Liberal Party of Canada. I do believe that straight out of the gate the Liberal Party treated policy like a commodity and the electorate like purchasers. It could be argued that all election platforms come across this way but I believe that in order to inspire you need to provide inspiration. The 2011 Liberal platform was remarkably indistinguishable from the Conservative platform, right down to lacking any grand vision for this beautiful country we call Canada.

What it lacked in particular was any dedication to equality of opportunity, the heart of the Liberal tradition in Canada, and the legacy of Pearson in particular. Equality of opportunity means resetting the starting point but putting no limit, no ceiling on one’s potential once started. It is not equality of result but an equal shot at that result in a world otherwise determined by uncontrolled circumstance. It is the belief that the only barriers to the success of an individual is themselves.

It does not always work out that way and equality of opportunity is better viewed as a philosophy to strive for than a reality easily achieved. Still, the point remains that it must be strived for.

Rather than take up this challenge, the Liberal Party merely listed off the sins of their opposition and replied with the Family Pack.

The details of this plan can still be found here but the ultimate take away was truly beneficial programs for any family that wanted them (more or less). My issue was never with what was being offered, which were all worthwhile programs. My problem was the same as it always is with governance policies that treat everyone the same regardless of their circumstances: not everyone has the same needs, at the same level, or even in the same way. Just because you’re a family doesn’t mean you have the same needs as other families. Families are as unique as individuals. And spreading funding and/or programming equally across families or individuals regardless of their circumstances or needs is poor policy making. It results in an inefficient governance system that ultimately under serves those in the most need to satisfy specific groups of targeted voters.

The clear target of the Liberal Party was middle-income Canadians, specifically those in the sandwich generation, some of which who could really use support from their government. But simply falling into a policy demographic, caring for elderly parents and having children still in school, does not in itself mean someone requires support from the government. The individual circumstances of Canadians in this group and all others varies greatly from person to person. Policy that does not recognize that fact over serves some at the expense of others. Equal treatment of unequal people is not equality.

The Learning Passport was a great example of a decent idea that missed the point. Yes, education costs are rising and yes, bursaries rather than increased loan ceilings are definitely the way to go. Freezing tuition only means larger increases later as the cost of education, like everything else, will continue to rise. The Learning Passport checked all of these boxes. But what at first seems like a fair deal for all students (and their families), would have taken funding that could have been allocated to those students who needed greater financial support to attend post-secondary, and instead allocated it to other students regardless of their ability to pay. Michael Ignatieff repeatedly stated during the campaign that if ‘you get the grades, you get to go’ to a post-secondary institution. But this is a promise easier kept if funding is secured for those in actual need of the support, rather than anyone with an interest in attending. The opportunity of some would-be students should never come second to the privilege of others. Equality of opportunity demands that a truly Liberal post-secondary education policy close the gap in the opportunity of our nation’s students, not continue a disadvantage beyond their control.

Widening Our Scope

The so-called middle class does not have it easy and is increasingly less comfortable in Canada today. The sandwich generation, a subset of this group and a group which most political policy decisions appear to revolve around, have great challenges facing them in today’s society. But they are not the only people in Canada. In order to widen the scope of the Party again, I believe there are three broad voting blocks (if they can be generalized so grossly as to be called that) the Liberal Party needs to reach out and engage with in order to earn governance once more. I believe we have a natural affinity with each of these groups and should engage rather than continue to overlook this fact in favour of a narrow focus on a specific group of Canadians.

Business Canada – Our Competitive Advantage

It was not that long ago that Liberals dominated the economic debate in this country yet we have completely ceded ground to a governing party whose record on this file fails to inspire any kind of confidence unless compared to economies crashing around the world. And even then, it is the sound foundation that the Liberal Party built that has largely seen us through the same dark financial times. Strong economic policy and a healthy business environment can once again be the hallmark of the Liberal Party.

This may seem like an odd choice for spreading the philosophy of equality of opportunity across Canada but there is an argument to be made here. Business has long been attracted to Canada because of competitive tax rates and generous social services that put less onus on business to provide those things for their employees since the government already provides them to its citizens. But since the Conservative government took office we have seen corporate tax rates plummet to levels that aren’t required to keep Canada competitive to new business. Our corporate taxes are low simply for the sake of being low rather than having proven connection to increased business.

We have also seen a lack of vision in the future of our healthcare system which provides greater risk to businesses. They have previously been able to rely on doing business in a country with a strong social safety net. Corporate tax reductions added billions to Canada’s deficit and inhibits our ability to secure the fiscal future of our healthcare system. Deficits, unecessarily low taxes, and a declining social safety net are all negatives for business expansion in Canada.

There is probably no business out there that doesn’t want a competitive advantage but in Canada that advantage has always been our people and how we support them as a country. I can’t imagine a business wishing to be put at a disadvantage and the disastrous economic policies of Flaherty and Harper are increasingly doing just that.

Rural Canada

I recently attended a pub night featuring a discussion on democratic reform led by Stephane Dion. After the discussion, I spoke with Gerard Kennedy about the importance of rural ridings and how Liberal values are not diametrically opposed to those of Canadians living in rural communities across this country. I came away believing more and more that this was true, that rural Canadians (and all Canadians for that matter), just want a fair shot at a good life that they can be proud to live. A life where the disadvantages they might begin with have no bearing on where they might end up in life. I have come to increasingly believe that the same values of community togetherness and individual freedom so alive in the Liberal Party are on full display everyday in rural communities across Canada. Close-knit communities that understand the importance of looking out for one another while still having the freedom and responsibility to make of life what one can. I cannot think of values that are more Liberal and it is time the Party recognized this in rural Canadians rather than writing them off before the writ has even dropped.

Low-Income Canada

While much political discussion is focused on the increasingly squeezed middle class, low-income Canadians have been more or less forgotten by the current Conservative government. In 2008 the Liberal Party made a bold campaign promise about substantially reducing child poverty in Canada. This fell off the radar in 2011 when a simple affordable child care promise was recycled from Liberal platforms from the 1990s. I may be mistaken but I can’t recall much else in the platform geared to those struggling the most to make ends meet or for who programs like affordable child care would help most.  At the same time, I don’t recall this promise being geared to those most in need but merely those in need of spaces in general.

The town I grew up in has gone back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives over the last few decades but has been blue for the last two elections. The NDP, even with a slight surge in 2011, has never been in a factor in the riding and it has always been a two-horse race. However, there is one interesting poll in the entire riding that echoes a strange split that occurs across the country. That poll splits into thirds with more or less equal support between all three major parties. However, this is the only poll where Liberals come in third. This is also a poll in one of the lowest-income areas of the town and from my time at the door I have come to notice that voters in that poll support the Conservatives and the NDP for (confusingly) similar reasons. They support Conservatives because they believe that party will allow them to keep more of their hard earned money and not tax it away from them. Others support the NDP because they believe that through taxes that party will ensure a safety net and fill the holes their income just can’t.

It is in this divide that I believe the Liberal Party can step into and clearly be the best choice for those struggling the most in our society. Conservatives tend to believe in circumstance as fairness and the NDP believes in equality of result regardless of personal actions. The Liberal Party instead believes in the kind of equality of opportunity that offers a hand up when necessary and keeps hands off where involvement would create barriers to the greater well-being of Canadians.

I believe the Liberal Party can do more for low-income Canadians by removing circumstantial barriers to their financial success and providing them with the tools to succeed in ways they might have never imagined.

The Liberal Way: Equality of Opportunity

Canadians are already living the values we have traditionally shared as a Party: caring for one another while simultaneously endeavouring to live up to our own individual potential. We live in a country where we believe the circumstances of one’s birth should have no bearing on what that person will achieve in life. It is what Canadians – Indigenous peoples, landed-immigrants, and descendent of immigrants – have been doing on our soil for hundreds of years. Ours is the story of a collective belief in progress and working together to be the best version of ourselves as individuals and as a country. The Liberal Party did not bring this philosophy to Canada, Canadians brought it to the Liberal Party. And those same Canadians still espouse it today. If we as a Party return to those values, Canadians will return to us.

Champion of Democracy – Lawrence Martin

Lawrence Martin

Lawrence Martin is perhaps this country’s most important political writer in the last 25 years. Martin’s work in newspapers and books spans decades and shows no bias to any political stance beyond pursuit of the truth. Martin has written about presidents and the Prime Ministers of Canada, including a two-volume series on John Chretien and most recently, a detailed and damning book on Stephen Harper that remains altogether fair in its condemnation of his premiership.

That book, Harperland, won wide-spread acclaim and was listed as one of the best books on Canadian politics in the last 25 years in a recent poll.

I have yet to read a column by Martin in the Globe and Mail, where he has long worked, that I have not found fair and balanced. Many have been scathing but all have been accurate. Martin is a rare journalist who holds everyone to account for their conduct and is unrelenting in his criticism of those who abandon principle for their own gain.

‘Character is Fate’

For holding our politicians and ourselves as voters to account for the decisions we make, Lawrence Martin is a Champion of Democracy. His contributions to our national political discourse regularly improves the fabric of our collective narrative. With each new column or book comes a reminder that all hope is not lost in politics so long as there remain guardians of the truth – people like Lawrence Martin.

Before this prime minister, many leaders paid a steep price for exceeding their bounds of authority. They would have done well to recall the adage of the philosopher Heraclitus: ‘Character is fate.’”

-Lawrence Martin, Harperland

Champions of Democracy – Barrie Young Liberals

The Barrie Young Liberals

After a devastating loss at the federal level, local Liberal youth in Barrie, Ontario formed a brand new Young Liberal club in their city. I came to notice this group during the lead up to the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2012 Biennial Convention because of the stellar work this group did in vetting the candidates nominated for election to the National Executive Board. This newly formed youth group was able to get all candidates for National Policy Chair to visit their town and discuss their platforms with the local Young Liberal club.  BYL (Barrie Young Liberals) achieved this through the sheer force of their own hunger for information in order to ensure they’d be informed delegates at the Biennial convention. Essentially, they acted as I wish every voter in this country would – they got engaged, they got involved, and they got informed. They did not wait to be noticed or to be encouraged to participate. They acted and through their fearlessness they achieved a great deal.

But they did not just inform themselves. They went a step further and filmed these valuable meetings so that they could share their experience with other delegates. They did not stop at the bare minimum or even the exceptional. They continued their outreach until they had achieved something extraordinary. This is also how I wish every voter in Canada acted – not just as engaged citizens but as engaging citizens, reaching out to those around them and encouraging others to do the same.

BYL Gives Back

What BYL has done for the internal democracy of the Liberal Party of Canada is substantial but only the beginning of why the Barrie Young Liberals are what I would consider true Champions of Democracy. They have gone beyond participating in important events dedicated to the discussion of important issues in society or volunteering on campaigns beyond their riding borders, as they did recently in Toronto-Danforth. They have done those things too, but also so much more. In the short time the club has existed, they have also participated in countless community events and supported numerous charitable causes. They have volunteered together at the Salvation Army Bayside Mission in Barrie and will soon be participating in the MS Society’s MS Walk to end multiple sclerosis. Despite being a political club, their service is to their community and it is individuals like the members of this club that give me great hope for the future of politics in this country.

The True Expression of Our Aims

The club’s relentless focus on bettering their community and by extension our society is to be commended. But just as impressive as the work the club is doing is the fact that these are young adults dedicating their free time to the causes and beliefs that led them to get involved in politics to begin with. Too often those in politics begin with good intentions and get lost along the way, distracted by other, less meaningful concerns. It is my hope that the Barrie Young Liberals are celebrated by their peers at the upcoming Ontario Young Liberal Annual General Meeting in May for the exceptional work they have done and the inspiring blueprint they have laid out for other Young Liberal clubs. They have demonstrated clearly that politics can be a fruitful, rewarding, and meaningful pursuit when your purpose is genuine and your actions are the true expression of your aims.

The Conservative Party’s War on Canadian Rights

Freedom of Thought, Belief, Opinion, and Expression

Within the Canadian Constitution, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a list of fundamental rights guaranteed to be protected by the Canadian Government. That government receives its mandate from the people during general elections and through the Constitution of our country. The Canadian model of Responsible Government demands that a government may continue to govern only with the combined authority of the people who popularly elect it and in accordance to the nation’s Constitutional laws.

In the 2011 General Election, widespread abuse of our electoral system occurred. Countless allegations have been levied and excuses passed around. We may never know exactly what happened, where it happened, or who knowingly carried out the abuse of our electoral system and the rights of the people within it. It remains clear that abuses were carried out and illegally revoked the fundamental Canadian right of ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression’, guaranteed protected under our Constitution.

Electoral Fraud in Canada

This was not a scandal or the complaint of sore-losers. We must be clear in what we are discussing. Making ‘Robocalls’ (automated phone calls made en mass to voters) is obnoxious, but not illegal. Using those calls to misdirect voters and prevent them from casting their vote is not a ‘dirty trick’, it is blatantly illegal in this country. Whether successful or not in the attempt, it remains an illegal act. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of opinion as well as the expression of it, which includes and begins at the ballot box. Beyond legal ramifications, it is decidedly un-Canadian to disrespect another citizen so much that you not only believe their freedom of thought and opinion is not equal to yours, but you actively campaign to ensure the expression of it is not included in the final tally on Election Day.

Caught Red-Handed?

We still do not have proof of who the specific law-breakers are. Like with anything else, the prime suspects are those who had the most to gain by suppressing the vote of their opponents. It is only common sense to suspect the governing Conservatives after their final realization of a majority government. We cannot assume as of yet that it was for certain that party. Nor can we presume that if members of the Conservative party did in fact actively, willingly, and happily participate in electoral fraud, that they received orders to do so from the top.

There is no proof that I have seen so far to link Prime Minister Stephen Harper or his immediate advisors to this illegal activity. I have long argued, though unenthusiastically, that his is the rightful government of this country. In 2011, the Conservative Party received an electoral mandate which presented them with enough support in the House of Commons to govern. No other party can currently claim to command the support of the House. If the truth ever does come out about the 2011 election, that may no longer be the case. But in Canada you are in fact innocent until proven guilty. As murky as it may stand right now, the Conservative government has received a mandate from the people and commands the confidence of the House.

The Death of Responsible Government in Canada

That is, however, only half of the equation. What this government and its Prime Minister willfully forget is that with office comes responsibility to all Canadians and a mandate to uphold the backbone of Canada – our Constitution. Guaranteed to the Canadian people, amongst other things, is the right to the ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression’. A government that boasts of its mandate from the people but actively works against the protection of their guaranteed rights does not have the moral authority to govern. A government must uphold the will of the people in agreement with the Constitution, which protects Canadians and their rights. If an officer of the crown is seemingly ‘popularly’ elected but has achieved this feat by trampling the rights of the citizenry, then that person has received no mandate at all. And when any allegations are made by the population that suggest such behaviour has occurred, the elected government has an explicit duty to investigate, throw open its own doors, and take appropriate action against those who would subvert our democracy, no matter what political stripe they may bear.

The first and most important role of the Canadian government is to protect our democracy, its institutions, and the rights of its people within it. However, the current occupants of the government benches prefer to obfuscate, misdirect, and blatantly utter falsehoods in the House of Commons to muddy the waters. They do this in the hope that they will never be required to look inward and possibly find within their ranks those who have actively attempted to destroy the core principles of this country for their own brief and hollow political gain.

Stephen Harper and his government have called no public inquiry into illegal activities which his own former top advisors and many others find deeply troubling. Ian Brodie, Harper’s former Chief of Staff, has gone so far as to call it a possible “national effort at subterfuge”.

Harper’s ruling party has defamed their opposition who have responded with complete transparency. Yet the Conservatives still refuse to show any transparency themselves, despite being representatives of the Crown and the Canadian people.  Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada have refused to investigate the stripping of the right to expression from citizens of their own country, despite their explicit mandate as the government to do so.

Harper and the Conservatives may or may not have actively prevented citizens from voting in the last election. But they are completely guilty of abandoning their legal responsibility as members of the Government of Canada to investigate the trampling of the rights of Canadian citizens. They have put their own power above the power and rights of the people.

It is no wonder the words ‘Government of Canada’ have been removed from government letterhead in favour of the ‘Harper Government’. The government of Canada no longer exists, nor do the rights of citizens it once protected. In Harperland, the rights of citizens are diametrically opposed to the interests of their government. All that remains is Harper, his Conservative Party, and a now-malleable understanding of rights and freedoms within our borders.

The Battle for Toronto-Danforth

The Candidates

Last month the federal NDP nominated Craig Scott, a professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Scott’s areas of political interests include human rights issues, both around the world and here at home with our Aboriginal peoples, and ending discrimination in the housing sector.

This month, the federal Liberals nominated advertising executive and FLICK OFF founder Grant Gordon. Gordon’s firm, which he also founded, focuses on branding socially and environmentally responsible companies. His candidacy for the Liberal nomination made waves in the news because of the fresh, positive, and fun approach he brought to politics through an amusing call to action for voters. Gordon’s political interests include protecting the environment and the security of our pension system.

Both candidates reside in Riverdale and have had successful careers making a difference in Canada and beyond its borders.

Should Toronto-Danforth add up to 102 or 36?

Craig Scott, left, and Grant Gordon, right

If both candidates appear to be seemingly well-meaning people who have made a positive impact on society, what should voters in Toronto-Danforth base their choice of new representation on?

It’s no secret that in a parliament where a majority of seats belong to Conservatives, a single riding going Liberal or NDP will not tip the scales into some new political reality for Canadians. It’s also likely being argued by the NDP that returning that party to 102 seats will put a ‘progressive’ party one step closer to removing Conservatives from office in three years time.  The NDP, for those who don’t know, sat at 102 seats before a newly elected Quebec MP quickly tired of their party and its performance as the Official Opposition and turned to the third-place Liberals to make a more substantial impact on Canadian public life (which might tell you something about the effectiveness of the Opposition NDP). The NDP will also argue during this by-election that they have a proven track record of holding progressive positions and taking principled stands against federal Conservatives.

This, I must bluntly say, is utter garbage. In the last decade in federal politics the NDP has not only chosen political expediency over progressive policy time and time again but they have unforgivably done so hand-in-hand with their Conservative counterparts.

The Real NDP Record: May 2nd, 2011 – Present

The NDP candidate in Toronto-Danforth may have an academic record of studying about human rights issues and focusing on the shamefully appalling conditions many of our Aboriginal peoples face within our own borders. But his party has a very clear record of, at times where their party was most powerful (which despite their current seat total was in 2005, not now), chose to take the politically advantageous route over the one that would help those worst off. Toronto-Danforth remaining in NDP hands will only continue a pattern of valuing politics over progress at the expense of  the well-being of Canadians.

After the May 2nd election, NDP supporters everywhere congratulated themselves on their ‘historic’ victory (which I suppose to the NDP is what second place and having no power is called). They naturally ignored the fact that it was precisely their splitting of votes with Liberals in Ontario that handed Stephen Harper the first Conservative majority government since Mulroney won a second term in 1988.

And they may be right. Handing a majority to the most power-hungry and power-hoarding Prime Minister in Canadian history in order to get Official Opposition status in the House of Commons without being able to overturn any draconian legislation the new government might put into law is probably cause for celebration. I tend to disagree with them on this point.

They have since demonstrated that the pros outweigh the cons in the new power reality in the House by having their top members almost never present within its walls, despite their beloved former leader Jack Layton’s suggestion during the election that if you ‘don’t show up for work, you don’t get a promotion’. For those wondering, that promotion to Leader of the Official Opposition for whoever wins the NDP leadership comes with a $75, 516 bump in pay. In the NDP’s eyes, Official Opposition doesn’t mean you need to be officially present, it’s really more about getting to play shadow Cabinet and touring around the country to determine who will get to be leader of that shadow Cabinet.

I personally can’t recall a single issue the NDP have been front and centre on in defense of Canadians in the time they have held Official Opposition status. Yet Toronto-Danforth candidate Craig Scott has said, “What we have seen is that only the Official Opposition NDP can really stand up to Stephen Harper day after day.” I’m sorry, Mr. Scott, I simply cannot agree. And if the NDP aren’t going to do their job, perhaps they shouldn’t have it or ask for an increase in responsibilities.

The Real NDP Record: Minority Parliaments

None of this is new. If elected, Craig Scott will sit as a member of a Party that joined hands with Conservatives and voted down the Kelowna Accord and National Child Care. A party that helped install a minority and then majority Conservative government that cancelled Kyoto and thinks purchasing fighter jets ill-suited for our defense projects is more important than ensuring low-income seniors who have put a lifetime into this country are supported in what should be their golden years.

It is one thing to talk about being progressive, it is another entirely to actually be progressive and bring progressive change to this country. Tommy Douglas knew this and put country before party by working with Lester Pearson and his administration to help create, in relative terms, what was probably the most progressive period of policy reforms Canadians have ever seen at the federal level.

What does following in Layton’s footsteps mean?

Upon being nominated for the NDP in Toronto-Danforth, Craig Scott said, “Jack Layton left some big shoes to fill. I’m not planning to stand in his shoes, just follow in his footsteps.” But what does following in Jack Layton’s footsteps mean?

It means the Kelowna Accord, an agreement arranged by the federal government and Aboriginal leaders over 18 months with an historic price tag of financial support to Aboriginal communities to the tune of $5 billion, was worth less to the NDP and its leader than an increase of 10 members in their caucus on Parliament Hill. The loss of this deal to Aboriginal communities and the resulting Conservative government that was formed, were less important to the NDP than 10 new orange-sporting MPs. The NDP slogan of that campaign, ‘Getting Results for People’, was true, but mainly for ten specific people who became New Democrat MPs and not for those worst off in our country, specifically our Aboriginal peoples, as we have seen most recently in Attawapiskat.

It means a national childcare program that would assist Canadian families and single-parent households in particular with childcare options was less important than those same 10 New Democrat MPs joining their counterparts in the House of Commons. This despite the fact that increased childcare options at the provincial level have cut poverty levels in single-parent homes almost in half in the last decade. A decade that federal involvement has been absent in large part because the NDP chose 10 seats over a national childcare plan that would have helped pull millions of mostly single mothers out of poverty. But if pulling Aboriginals out of poverty is not more important than 10 seats, why should doing the same for women have been worth it?

This may seem hyperbolic, especially to NDP supporters, but there is one very important fact we must remember about the NDP teaming up with the Harper Conservatives to vote down Kelowna and National Childcare. The 2005 vote was the first time in Canadian Parliamentary history that a government was voted down on a motion of non-confidence that was not related to any legislation or policy put before the House. The 2005 Liberal government, on the verge of implementing the recently finalized Kelowna Accord, was voted down for the sake of it. And in the NDP’s case, for the sake of ten seats. There was no disagreement on a budget or a particularly contentious piece of legislation. The Conservatives and the NDP simply banded together to vote out a government that held seats they both wanted.

What Craig Scott Means to the NDP

To the NDP, electing Craig Scott, electing one more New Democrat to the House of Commons, is incredibly important  because of how strongly they feel another NDP voice in the House will impact its proceedings. Yet none of the party’s leadership candidates have been in the House regularly this past year to hold the government to account. The NDP want voters to believe that electing Craig Scott is of grave importance because of the value every single NDP voice brings to the House, despite the absence of some of their best known members.

In 2006, 10 more New Democrat MPs did not improve the lives of those worst off in Canada. In 2011, 66 more New Democrats getting elected to the House did not improve the lives of those worst off in Canada.

In 1958 the Liberal Party of Canada lost 54% of the seats it held in the previous election. It had already been reduced from its historic term in office to Official Opposition in the previous campaign. Yet by 1963, 29 new Liberal MPs helped remove a Tory government and replace it with Canada’s most progressive administration in history.

In 1984 Liberals faced a similar trouncing, losing 73% of the seats they had won only four years previous. But by 1993 they were back in government and took such progressive action as abiding by international diplomacy by staying out of Iraq, signing the Kyoto Accord and establishing Canada as a strong supporter of the environment, and legalizing gay marriage, a move since adopted by several states south of the border.

Election as an End versus Election as a Means to an End

What the NDP has never understood even after May 2nd, 2011, is that the election of an NDP MP is not a victory in and of itself. The victory comes after that MP contributes to legislation that improves the lives of Canadians. That is what Members of Parliament are elected to do, whether in opposition or government.

Liberals have always understood this. They have always understood that one member is one more member towards the threshold required to form government and truly impact the lives of Canadians, especially those worst off, for the better. The NDP believe in a politics that is self-satisfied with small gains for their party. Liberals believe in a politics that is transformative and progressive and are the only party with a true governing record to show for it.

In Toronto-Danforth you can vote for Craig Scott and be satisfied with another NDP member becoming a Member of Parliament, as the NDP themselves will be.

Or you can elect Grant Gordon and support a Liberal Party that is committed not to being satisfied with his or any member’s election unless it eventually contributes to the election of a progressive government in Canada once more. For Liberals, the end result is not election, it is progressive governance on behalf of the Canadian people. The NDP have failed to even provide progressive opposition or any real opposition at all since the 2011 election. Liberals have been rebuilding, adopting progressive new policies and holding Conservatives to account at every turn.

Who would you trust to stand up to Harper? A Liberal Party that has a record of instituting progressive policy? Or an NDP that proudly helped Harper kill progressive government in Canada and allowed it to be replaced it with slash and burn conservatism? To me the choice is clear. Records trump rhetoric every single time. Actions truly speak louder than words.

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