Thursday, October 18, 2012

If I Were Running for the Leadership of the Liberal Party ...

I’m not running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. But if I were to enter the leadership race, this is, perhaps, what I might say, not only to Liberals, but to Canadians.

My fellow Canadians,

There is before us today, not a monumental task, but a phenomenal opportunity of renewal for our party, for our country. It is a time when we must not only redefine what it means to be a Liberal, but it is a time to once again define what it means to be Canadian. It is a time for us to look back thoughtfully, and with pride, on our past; meaningfully and courageously understand our present; and go forward, with enthusiasm, towards our collective future. It is a time to boldly seize hold of the promise that lay before us.

In 1867, the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form what was then known as the Dominion of Canada. They believed that such a union would “conduce to the Welfare of the Provinces […]” I stand before you today, hoping to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, because I still believe in the Canada born out of that belief. A proud Canada, a united Canada that still conduces to the benefit of the provinces to the country we have built together. Let us continue this journey together, hand in hand, united in hearts and mind, to ensure the success of this country for all provinces and territories. Let us resolve to remain committed to our founding ordeals of “peace, order, and good government.”

Our forefathers would stand in awe if they could see the Canada of today, and how far, as a nation, we have come. A country that stretches from sea to sea to sea. A country of ten provinces and three territories. A country rich in language and diversity. But for the Canada that we know today to endure, there must be change. Real change, and not just change for the sake of change. Change that encourages us to dream, to believe in our institutions, in ourselves. Change that builds upon Canadian values and what this country stands for. Change that inspires hope for today and for a better tomorrow.

Change is all around us, and it is profound and powerful and constant. The winds of change led to the Arab Spring, a call to freedom and to an end of oppression, that saw governments fall in Tunisia, Libya and led to regime changes in other countries. And we must be vigilant, strong, and determined to make change our friend instead of our enemy.

Country envied by the world. While certain countries were hit hard by the recent global recession, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Canada and Canadians continue to compete in a competitive world. The Canadian dollar remains strong. Unemployment is relatively low. Canada remains a place where people long to come to start anew in the hope of bettering themselves and the lives of their loved ones.

But there are, still, many challenges that we face. So many of us are working harder for less, and working longer. Demands on our healthcare system make it so that many Canadians are without a family doctor. Families struggle to find good, quality childcare that they can afford. Too many Canadians are homeless. We must work together to provide practical solutions to these issues, and others, because, together, we can make our Canada an even better country, a country where there is justice, equality and opportunity for all.

Together, we must work to protect the environment. We can no longer shrink back from our responsibility. Today’s generation assumes the consequences of years of environmental damage and mismanagement. By choice and by force, they are now the custodians of the environment committed to environmental stability and sustainable development. To build a prosperous economy, in both the short and long-term, we must preserve the environment. So let us resolve to reinstate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Together, we must heal old wounds. We must bridge the divide of language, for each new generation inherits the lingering distrust of past generations clinging to old hatreds and misunderstanding, and the smoldering threat of disunity. The old wounds of a national energy program that pitted the West against the East still linger. The systemic abuse inflected upon Canada’s aboriginal peoples under the residential school system. Today’s generation assumes the responsibility of bridging the deep divisions among our people that have, in the past, almost destroyed our nation. We cannot, and we will not, let these dark forces triumph, take possession of our soul. We will fight them, beat them down forge a charitable spirit of a nation that belongs together, of a people who have created a home together.

My fellow Canadians, to seize hold of the promise that lay before us, to make an even better Canada where there is opportunity for all opportunity, and not a guarantee for Canadians to build a better life for themselves and their families, now is the time to be bold, to face some hard truths and to make hard decisions.

Aujourd’hui, c’est à nous de faire preuve d’audace, et de mettre nos affaires en ordre. Lorsque nous priorisons les initiatives qui mèneront à l’élimination de la dette nationale, nous ne pouvons pas ignorer que la plus grande ressource d’un pays est son peuple. Nous devons continuer à investir dans les Canadiens, dans leurs emplois et dans leur avenir. Nous devons investir dans les entreprises canadiennes ainsi que les artistes canadiens, mettant en lumière des forces et des capacités canadiennes. Nous sommes un peuple talentueux, et nous sommes fiers de notre culture. Nous devons prioriser les dépenses dans  les soins de santé, dans l'éducation, dans les nouvelles technologies, et dans la promotion du développement durable. Nous devons exiger de nos gouvernements – au niveau municipal, provincial / territorial et fédéral – de travailler ensemble pour notre bien collectif.

Now is the time to be bold, and to break from a tradition of entitlement. For too long we have been expecting so much for nothing, not only from our government but also from each other. If we are to realize the promise of this country, and the promise in ourselves, we must now be willing to take on more responsibility for ourselves and our families. We must be prepared to do more for our country instead of expecting our country to do more for us.

Now is the time to be bold, and to encourage our children, all across this great land, to learn and master our two official languages. Let language be a tool, and not a barrier, to our young people’s future, so that they may have the chance to live and work or travel anywhere in this country, from Deschaillons-sur-Saint-Laurent to Inuvik to Prince Rupert to Summerside. That no matter where they find themselves, they may feel at home. Let us give our children the gift of languages so that they may have another edge in this competitive world and go forward confidently in the direction of their dreams.

Lorsque nous souhaitons le bienvenue aux gens qui décident de venir au Canada et de devenir citoyen, nous devons faire en sorte que, peu importe où ils s’installent – à Kitimat ou à Yellowknife ou à Val-d'Or ou Lewisporte – qu’ils puissent communiquer couramment en anglais et / ou en français afin devenir des membres actifs de la société canadienne.

Now is the time to be bold, and demand that our federal government be the unified voice of all Canadians. A government that will not pit region against region, province against province. A government that carry’s the collective will of the people, and will put the collective good ahead of party ideology. A government that unites Canadians from all across this land, seeking to strengthen the ties that bind.

We are, after all, a resilient people, a proud people. Our challenges have been great, but holding steadfast to our faith, we have overcome. From our Confederation, to the Great Depression, to the October Crisis, to the 1995 Quebec referendum where the Canada we know today dangled on the edge of disunity, we held steadfast to our cause. From the ashes of these crises we have always managed to lift up our voice and sing. Like any family, we have not always agreed on the way forward. Sometimes we hurt each other. Sometimes we cannot easily grasp the other’s point of view. But from these misunderstandings, and from the crises sometimes touched off by them, we construct the foundation of our history.

If now is the time to be bold, it is also the time of renewal. Let us renew our democracy and our institutions. Let the bedrock of our democracy, the House of Commons, be truly representative of Canadians and their will. Let us resolve to adopt a system of proportional representation. Let us continue to hold our government in check by maintaining a chamber of “sober, second thought,” but let us give to the Senate a legitimate voice. Let us resolve to adopt an elected senate. Let us look inward, to ourselves for courage and leadership in times of peace and in times of crisis, as we prepare for tomorrow and give this country back to the Canadian people. Let us resolve to, while respecting the parliamentary democracy tradition, establish a Canadian Head of State.

Today, let us go forward together, as one, ready to face the challenges that lie before us, with the tools and courage to not buckle in the face of adversity. Let us, together, seize hold of the opportunities that arise, confident in our ability, and determined to succeed. Let us be proud, of our past and our present, for we have, together, come a mighty long way.

Let us be supportive of our allies, a voice for the oppressed without being engulfed by every conflict. Let us vigorously defend our interests, opting for diplomacy over military action. Let us be a voice for peace. Let us be peacemakers and not warmongers.

Let us, now, turn to the work, for we heed the call to service. In our myriad of diversity, let us forge the greatest measure of unity. When our neighbour is in difficulty, let us extend a helping hand. Let us encourage our children to learn, encourage their talents, support their choices. To the young entrepreneur just starting out, let us celebrate her ingenuity and courage. Let us reconnect with our struggling communities. Let us set aside personal and provincial advantage in order to see the promise of Canada.

Today, in this competitive world, we need each other, and we must also care for each other. Today, we do more than simply celebrate Canada. Today, we recommit and reengage to the very idea of Canada. Let us go forward with a hopeful heart as we enter into the most splendid chapter in our history. Let us meet the challenges we are sure to face with courage and a bountiful spirit of hope for, together, we will not falter. Come take my hand, and let us, together, continue our journey, clinging steadfast to hope, and the promise of a better tomorrow. Let Canada’s bright flame of unity, diversity and charity shine forever on the world.

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