Micah Goldberg (Delegate from Winnipeg, Manitoba.)
The Liberal Convention held in Ottawa was supposedly a three-day convention aimed at rebuilding the party brand and picking up the mess from May 2nd 2011. There are many highlights over the past three days: the newly minted “supporters” category and their right to vote in leadership races, the party’s endorsement of legalizing marijuana, the powerful, invigorating speeches made by two likely leadership hopefuls (Bob Rae & Dalton McGuinty), Mike Crawly’s victory, the defense of the monarchy. The list goes on.
There are two moments I will remember as being the most inspirational and important. The first was a speech given by Senator Terry Mercer. While most Young Liberals who woke up early on Friday morning are more likely to remember speeches given by John Turner or Justin Trudeau, I believe Senator Mercer gave a rousing speech to the younger delegates, explaining why he believes supporting Canada’s youth is critical for the health of our democracy, as well as our country’s welfare as a whole. What truly drew me to Mercer’s speech was his advocacy for a debate on merger with the Liberals’ perceived adversaries on the left. I happen to believe that so long as Canada is using a First-Past-the-Post system, a merger between the Liberals and New Democrats ought to be pursued. To hear a Senator advocating for a discussion, however unpopular the position, was encouraging and I can only hope there are more of us who feel the same way.
Secondly while I find blind partisanship frustrating and burdensome to the political process, seeing the unrelenting pride of delegates and their Liberal ideals is something that I found uplifting. On Saturday night in Canada Hall, some 1300 delegates were committed to voting all night on constitutional amendments. This was a demonstration of democracy at its pinnacle, the kind of beautiful experience Voltaire wrote verses on ferociously supporting. The commitment to the democratic process revealed by those delegates, that debates ought to yield the right answer, no matter the length of time required to find it, is what Canada can use much more of. To see it in action gives me hope and lifts my heart.
There were also some disappointments this weekend. Delegates allowed the Liberal leader to continue bucking members’ wishes through appointments, and upheld leadership veto power over policy. The primary proposal which will make races far more exciting and increases media coverage was shot down mainly due to confusion over what the process would look like. The number of youth delegates I met that didn’t seem to know why they were in the Liberal Party was far too high, along with the number that had personal ascension to power their number one priority.
That being said, Liberal delegates by and large left Ottawa with a renewed sense of purpose and in that sense, the convention can be seen as successful. Based solely on speeches I heard this weekend, the Liberal identity is grounded in hard work, progressive policies and unfettered inclusiveness. I was able to meet so many fascinating people, and I look forward to the next opportunity. Here’s to the 2013 leadership convention and all its memories, disappointments, lessons and encouragements.