Category Archives: Young Liberals

Toronto Pride with the Queer Liberals

“There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” – Pierre Trudeau

While at university I made a point of watching the Toronto Pride Parade a a member of the crowd. This year, thanks to my friends in the Queer Liberals, I was able to participate in the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo Pride Festival, the Durham Region Pride and I marched in the Toronto Pride Parade.

My experience at all 3 pride festivals was extremely positive. The Federal and Provincial Liberals have solid records on Queer issues. With Bill 13 in Ontario the fact that words matter and government policy can have a positive affect was on full display. At Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo Pride and Durham Pride (in Oshawa) it was really interesting as the complete lack of a conservative presence was really palpable.

My Pride Week started off at the Queer Liberal’s “Red Ball” fundraiser. There I got to meet Minister Kathleen Wynne:

Minister Glen Murray, and former Liberal MP Rob Oliphant were also in attendence. It was a great event. I had any excellent conversation on pro-Queer policies that the Liberal Party can and should pursue.

The Toronto Pride Parade was one of the most positive experiences of my life. It was great to see Dr. Eric Hoskins, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Deborah Coyne, and Ministers Murray and Wynne marching along side a huge group of Liberals.

I got lots of sun, had a great walk and you could really feel the positive vibes directed at the Liberal Party along the parade route. It was particularly awesome having Minister Laurel Broten as Co-Marshal.

I can’t wait for Capital Pride in August!


Follow the Queer Liberals on twitter: @QueerLiberals.

Read the “Queer Grits” newsletters: Click here.

Fill out the Queer Liberals’ Survey: Queer Liberal General Survey.

“In a nation of minorities, you don’t cherry pick human rights.” – Paul Martin

Zach Armstrong: Step Up, Step Aside

I recently attended the Ontario Liberal Party’s Provincial Council in Sudbury. It was great to see so many dedicated Liberals working together in Northern Ontario, but one moment was particularly inspiring. During a session about youth in politics, Kathleen Wynne (Minister of Municipal & Aboriginal Affairs) provided some insights from her seat in the audience.

After talking about the intelligent young people working with her in Toronto, she said that young people have a distinct responsibility to challenge their elected representatives. Don’t be afraid to start conversations about the future of your province, or your country, she said. Conversations should be polite, but they should not be easy.

It was some heartfelt advice from a great MPP but it’s not limited to our elected leaders. The same advice applies within our Party, but in order to join the conversation one must sit at the table.

A few weeks ago Ipsos Reid released a poll that suggested 56% of Canadians consider the Liberals a “party of the past”. This didn’t come as a shock to me given my experiences at Liberal gatherings. Go to a local fundraiser, a riding association board meeting, or a local event, and the average age is likely above 50. Only at national or provincial conventions does one get a sense of the youth in our party – over a third of attendees at the Biennial in January were under 35.

I can’t help but wonder how different our party would be if thousands of Young Liberals spent time working for a riding association instead of a youth club. How different it would be if they weren’t Young Liberals at all, just Liberals. What would the Council of Presidents accomplish if a quarter of its members were under 30? What would a defunct riding association accomplish if 10 Young Liberals took it over?

So today, I’m asking Young Liberals to step up. Help rebuild your riding associations and create a Liberal Party that represents the future. Never be afraid to challenge established practices; the bold solutions you propose will make our party relevant again.

I’m also asking Old Liberals to step aside. The time has come for a new generation to move our Party, and our country, forward. We still need your help, but after your many years of service you can rest, assured, that you have changed this country for the better.


Follow Zach on twitter: @zb_armstrong

Joseph Uranowski and Liam Nichols Endorse Parker Mackay for Riding Director of the Ontario Young Liberals

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Parker on the 2012 provincial election campaign. As founding members of the Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals, we have worked closely together over the last number of months to build a strong Young Liberal club in Whitby-Oshawa. Parker is a fantastic choice for Riding Director. He has experience as the president of the WOYL and the Glendon Young Liberals. Parker Mackay is intelligent and approachable. He is a great campaigner and organizer. Having knocked on a countless number of doors with him and stayed up into the wee hours of the night putting up signs together, I am proud and happy for the WOYL to share <a href=””>Parker Mackay</a> with the rest of Ontario’s Young Liberals.” – Joseph Uranowski

5 Questions: Shane Mackenzie

Shane Mackenzie is the OYL United candidate for Policy Director. His proficiency at online communications and social media brought him to my attention shortly after the last federal election. Shane is incredibly hard-working, funny and sincere. He was kind enough to answer my questions:

1. Why are you a Liberal?

I was attracted to the Liberal Party because from what I’ve seen, history ends up being primarily defined by liberal features through Liberal measures that other parties opposed adamantly and eventually accepted (and now funnily attempt to champion). The Liberal Party has always been ahead of future issues and has done many remarkable things because of it. For me, this helps me not to worship the past evangelically, but rather to have reassurance that this is the party with the capability to replicate such grand scale thinking and apply it. Further, the heroes of our Canadian history have been Liberals for me. I feel that Tory Prime Ministers took us in a direction that is not consistent with the grain of social progress for Canadians. I appreciate what the Liberal Party has built and will build.

2. What is the best lesson you have learned for working on Liberal campaigns that you hope to bring to the OYL?

I learned that you have to have fun with it. At every level–local, provincial, federal and student politics, campaigns that are having fun feel like winning campaigns. Even campaigns hopelessly down in the polls that are having fun get ideas in the back of your head that it could come to fruition on e-day. Elections should be fun. Politics should be fun. The reason that young people need to be involved is to do what Trudeau did back in the early days: invigorating politics with energy by jumping into pools fully clothed before speeches. Young people need to be involved in order to bring fun, energy and liveliness to the stiff-suited men who firmly discuss business in the backrooms whilst lacking the vision of what a passionate citizenry is fuelled on.

3. What method is most effective for turning online activism into real life engagement.

I have found that diehard friends will be kind to you and show up to every event you invite them to if you’ve put in the time with them in person. This is what politics lives off of: friendships, camaraderie and unity. With a good combination of event invites, working the event itself and networking in person, those online networks begin to mean more. I learned a lot working as the Social Media director for Sheila Copps’ campaign for 6 months leading up to the Biennial convention It was a place where we believed that if it didn’t translate to action, don’t do it. If social media is not used as a tool to engage face-to-face and is not capable of getting people engaged enough to vote in an election, support a cause actively or to truly feel the way you feel, then it remains a second-rate tool. It is part of a multilateral approach to engagement that requires you to put in the personal labour rather than just sitting behind a screen typing ideas up and posting them constantly.

4. What policy issue are you passionate about?

I am policy passionate as a whole. Personally, I am particularly passionate about solving poverty. The fact is, no one should be shy to categorically say, “poverty is unacceptable”. Poverty of any person on earth should concern us a whole and we should not, by omission of our actions, allow others to be harmed. I am one of those bleeding hearts who is not afraid to admit that walking by those who are impoverished breaks my heart and omitting to do anything, even within my minimal capabilities, pains me. I convince myself all the time that I’m working towards the goal of being able to help and for it to count on a mass scale. People should always get into this kind of activism for the simple reason of “helping people”. We should use our active engagement through volunteerism to tackle poverty.

I got involved with the policy process by attending numerous issue related events with Liberal critics speaking. For example: Mark Holland on prisons and recidivism, Irwin Cotler on C-10, Scott Brison on the recent budget, Gerard Kennedy on the environment, Justin Trudeau on youth, Stéphane Dion on the clarity act and electoral reform, policy roundtables in several ridings on various topics. These gave me a good introduction to policy, which prepared me to engage in the young Liberal process at last year’s Policy Parliament & Summer Fling. At the eastern region policy parliament, I was intrigued to hear about innovative policies on thorium, electoral reform and interprovincial trade that are important to discuss. The youth brought new debates to the table and clearly had the ability to choose new directions for the party–those innovative enough with which to lobby the provincial and federal party. I consider myself a bit knowledgeable in every area and I’m more interested in what others have to bring to the table in regards to policy. I’m looking for something novel coming from the youth in order for the party to really pay attention to what is brought forward.

5. What was the high light of the bilenial convention for you?

The highlight of convention for me was being placed front row centre by my team, while I thought I was just holding a seat for someone important. I sat in a row with Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Rt. Hon. John Turner, Hon. Bob Rae, Hon. Sheila Copps, Hon. Marlene Catterall and with many other of my heroes. I sat right in the center watching Premier Dalton McGuinty deliver his address, during Hon. Michael Ignatieff’s “Thank you” speech and I winked at all my friends on stage behind Ignatieff trying to make them blush (It worked). I was apparently on TV a lot, but I was so caught up in that moment that nothing else matter but the feeling of being a proud Liberal.

5 Questions: Adam Exton

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.

5 Questions: Paulina O’Neill

I met Paulina O’Neill while canvassing for Grant Gordon in Toronto-Danforth (though I have been receiving e-mails from her for the past year on the UofT Young Liberals listserv.) She was a delight to canvass with and I am proud to support her for the position of Communications Director for the Ontario Young Liberals. Her organizational experience and communication skills will be crucial to helping turn the OYL into a effective activist organization during and between elections. She was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions:

1. Why are you a Liberal?

I am a Liberal because I like the balance between innovative but fiscally responsible policies that the Liberal Party has developed. I also believe the Liberal Party has implemented core elements of our country: national universal health care, peacekeeping, bilingualism and multiculturalism, our national flag and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To me, being part of the Liberal Party is more than just a political affiliation, it is the party that has defined for me what it means to be a Canadian and I want to continue to expand on what we have built for our country.

2. What was the highlight of the convention for you?

The highlight of the Biennial convention was when Mike Crawley won as President of the Liberal Party of Canada. I volunteered for his campaign while I was at the convention, reaching out to as many delegates as possible for their support. It was a rewarding experience and I am glad the hard work paid off! I also loved Dalton McGuinty’s speech. I thought it was very inspiring and gave hope to all delegates that the Liberal Party of Canada can work together to rebuild our party and have a strong presence once again.

3. What is one policy issue that you are passionate about?

One policy issue that I am currently passionate about is the funding cuts to Katimavik by the Harper government. It is important to act to try and make a difference; I’m passionate about it. To help restore funding for Katimavik I have been assisting Bismah Haq with her initiative “Pennies 4 Katimavik” to try and raise awareness about the program and raise funds to help Katimavik continue as a program even if it is scaled-down. I believe Katimavik is a valuable program that not only helps youth become strong leaders but also benefits communities across Canada.

4. What is the most important lesson you have learned on the many election campaigns you have worked/volunteered on?

To reach out to everyone. It is important to reach out to volunteers and make them feel like their work and time given to a campaign is appreciated. This is especially true for new volunteers, it is important to make every person on a campaign feel comfortable and confident while canvassing or doing other tasks on a campaign. It is also important to talk to as many constituents as possible and reach out to them as well. By talking to as many people as possible in a community it helps to tie people to their elected representative. People generally appreciate the time you spend talking to them about their interests and concerns despite differing political stripes. The main reason I am involved in politics is to improve our communities and by reaching out to each individual it helps build a strong community that can work together outside of political affiliation.

5. How can the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party better engage young women like yourself to become involved in politics?

I think we should focus on mentorship (rather than quotas) to ensure that women who become involved in politics do not feel that their gender harms their ability to advance in politics. There should be more joint events with political staffers, past candidates and members of Parliament involved in the Liberal Party and female young liberals to help us understand the challenges they have faced in politics and how they overcame those challenges. I believe it would help engage more Canadian young women like myself.

“Pennies 4 Katimavik” Launches Today!

Pennies 4 Katimavik* (a campaign spearheaded by Bismah Haq) is officially launching today in Ottawa at 2:30pm (click here for the facebook event.)

When I heard about this campaign I was very excited. Axing the program was one of the Harper government’s most maliciously-arbitrary decisions in the 2012 budget. I talked to Bismah about what inspired her to start up this campaign and what she hopes to accomplish. Here is what she
told me:

“I originally came up with the idea while watching an analysis about the budget on CBC at Hedy Fry’s office (I volunteer there) the day the budget was released. I didn’t think much of it at first, but last week some friends urged me to act on the idea. So along with other members from the OYL United team who committed to launching this in their cities and towns, some Young Liberals in BC and some Katimavik alumni I know, we will be starting our penny drives and online launch this weekend.

Here is some additional information on “Pennies 4 Katimavik” that was provided to me from the campaign:

Project Idea: According to the 2012 Federal Budget, as of fall 2012, the Canadian penny will not be in circulation anymore, and the youth volunteerism program called Katimavik has lost its funding. Pennies for Katimavik, quite literally, is a penny drive/small change drive to fundraise to support Katimavik to continue to serve our nation through youth community service, as well
as to raise awareness about the positive impact Katimavik has had on our communities.

Background: The Canadian federal government has decided to phase the penny out of existence starting this fall, when the Royal Canadian Mint will stop distributing the one-cent coin to financial institutions. Pennies themselves will continue to hold their inherent cash value, so Canadians can always trade them in at financial institutions. Banks can then return those pennies to the mint for recycling into their base materials. Which means before too long, the penny will
be mostly removed from the Canadian economy — except for the jars i Canadians’ closets.

We will be collecting the change and money that we raise,rolling the coins and exchanging them at a bank for cash, and then sending the money to Katimavik’s National Office.

Our short term goal is $5000(500,000 pennies) but we hope to exceed that by approaching organizations, businesses and individuals( Liberal and non-Liberal) to match our fundraising or to make larger donations.

This is a Young Liberal initiative but we hope to make this as non-partisan as possible in order to engage with Katimavik alumni and the general public.


Please “like” the “Pennies 4 Katimavik” facebook page: here. This isn’t merely a fundraising operation. They provide a backgrounder of facts on the Katimavik program (here) and they have set up an excellent Katimavik Advocacy Kit (here.) If you are in Ottawa please attend the launch party. If you cannot attend (or are living outside Ottawa, like me) then check the facebook page regularly for details on upcoming events.

*Pennies 4 Katimavik is not officially affiliated with Katimavik.