Adam Exton does communications for the Barrie Young Liberals. If you don’t like Adam Exton I’d like you to leave this blog, turn off your computer, and find a quiet place to reevaluate your life. The Barrie Young Liberals should serve as a model to young liberals across the country. Their focus on community service and real community-based engagement and activism has been an inspiration to the Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals.
1. Why are you a Liberal?
The short answer is that the positions of LPC and OLP match closest with my own values. The longer answer deals with my belief that big Canadian brokerage parties are essential nation-builders that lead to a better democratic process. The Liberal Party of Canada is different than the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party. LPC is a party that traditionally brokers different interests by building a coalition of regions. It’s the big tent party. With a regional country like Canada, where Albertans may have very little in common with Quebecers, it’s essential to have a party that’s aim is to bring Canadians together.
2. What lessons have you learned from campaigning in a rural riding like Barrie?
Compared to Toronto-Danforth, Barrie is definitely more rural. However, it’s no Simcoe-Grey or Parry Sound-Muskoka. We’re lucky that the riding is just one city, rather than a collection of towns separated by kilometers of country road. So while canvassing can take longer than in the dense streets of Toronto, a poll usually takes just an hour with two or three energetic volunteers.
I also find that the policies at the door tend to be more local. During the Grant Gordon campaign, the ballot questions seemed to revolve around the environment and sending an effective MP to parliament to help hold the government to account. In Barrie, I’ll often hear people at the door express concern over the cleaning up of Lake Simcoe or over urban sprawl as Barrie continues to grow.
3. What method is most effective for turning online activism into real life
The Barrie Young Liberals have tried to be a community-based association with a significant online presence. Online activism isn’t necessarily easy. You need to have a clear message and present it in a clean and effective way. That being said, I think that the real challenge is in motivating your members to also make a difference in the real world.
Something that we’ve had success with in Barrie is taking lots of photos and sharing our experiences online. Photos help give credit to all the members that come out to events. They also provide an online movement with a sort of legitimacy insofar that they prove that the association is also making a difference beyond the online. Photos also make excellent content and great additions to press releases to help get media attention. I think that attention is so important with activism because it is a sort of currency that helps motivate people to stay engaged.
4. What policy issue are you passionate about?
I have two—one federal and one provincial—and they’re both connected. They are universal daycare and all day kindergarten. During the 2006 federal election, I really got excited about universal daycare. Daycare can be such a prohibitive expense for families raising young children that it seems counter intuitive. Having a single infant in daycare can cost over $900 a month. That seems crazy since for so many young families, one partner staying home just isn’t an option. In Quebec, there are spots available for $7 a day. Of course not all families are going to use daycare. Some families can afford having a stay-at-home parent. But for those that need to use daycare, surely the cost shouldn’t be so prohibitively high.
The results from students enrolled in all-day kindergarten speak for themselves.
Students develop more advanced reading, math and drawing skills at a younger age. Also, it’s financial relief for parents that don’t have to enroll their 4-6 year olds in private daycare.
5. What was the high light of the biennial convention for you?
This is a difficult question because there were so many highlights for me; however, two stand out in my mind. The first was the election results on Sunday morning. So many talented people were elected to LPC executive positions and I remember feeling elated for all of them. In Barrie, we had all the National Policy Chair candidates speak to our members and they were all excellent candidates. I ended up supporting Maryanne Kampouris, however, and was overly thrilled when she was elected to NPC. I was also a huge Mike Crawley supporter.
The second highlight was on Saturday night during the constitution plenary. I was really excited to be voting on how the LPC was going to change. It’s no small feat that we opened up our party to supporters. I think that that’s a huge advancement that really helps us become an even more inclusive and bold party. I was also proud to vote in favour of a number of motions from Central Region presented by Jason Cherniak. As an aside, I was also one of the many members that voted in favour of continuing the plenary into the late hours on Saturday. My only disappointment during the Biennial was that the motion failed and we had to call it a night.