Tag Archives: Guest Post

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

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 rode 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 me on twitter at @Uranowski and follow Theresa at @TheresaLubowitz. Visit her awesome website “What Have You Done For Democracy Lately?

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

Micah Goldberg: Trudeau Leadership Needs Big Ideas

Politics is more about timing than it is skill. Being the right person in the right place at the right time is more conducive to political success than being the wisest, best-educated or most prudent individual in the world.

With Bob Rae’s decision to respect his oath not to seek the permanent Liberal Leadership position, the window of opportunity for Justin Trudeau has become a titanic gaping hole in the side of the Liberal caucus. There’s little doubt that Trudeau can become Liberal Leader if he wants to, but the question “should Justin Trudeau run for Liberal Leader in 2013?” appears to have been largely ignored.


In January, during the Liberal biannual convention I heard Mr. Trudeau speak for the first time to the Young Liberal Caucus. I was unimpressed, finding myself craving to leave what seemed like a one-man production of Les Miserables produced by a high school drama teacher going through a mid-life crisis. If he was expected to be a statesman, then I his exaggerations and flourishing calls to end the impoverishment of Canadian youth to be, if nothing else, substantive.


Five months ago, I would not have wanted Justin Trudeau to be the Liberal Leader, the Prime Minister or my own member of parliament. Honesty, however scarce in politics, is a still a quality I value highly, and he seemed to be lacking it.


Last month I saw Mr. Trudeau speak for a second time in Calgary. No drama. No exaggerations. No pomp. He had a conversation with an adult audience about why there is not just a place, but a need for the Liberal Party and centrism in Canada. His thesis (if I can call it that) was that domestic nation-building is always superior to ideological demagoguery.  For forty-five minutes, with no typed speech or hand-written notes, Mr. Trudeau came across as a well-educated, sincere, concerned Canadian. Maybe Les Mis got a new producer.


Justin Trudeau has the enthusiasm, the appearance of sincerity and intelligence, and most importantly the name that can put his name in a serious conversation to lead the country. But he’ll need more than a collection of traits to become Prime Minister, and I, like most people, believe that is the point of becoming Liberal Leader.


The Liberal Party has become reactionary. What was the last big idea that came out of the Party? A small credit for University Students that would be the equivalent of subsidizing the cup-holders in a new car? If the Party wants to return to power, it must start behaving as an innovative government. Trans-Canada transportation innovation, a national progressive energy policy, a (serious) re-commitment to the Kyoto Accord, a method of dealing with high prices for groceries on reserves or correcting the correlation of youth unemployment and debt. Big ideas exist, but to bring them to fruition is a challenge the Liberals must take on.


My answer to the initially stated question is that Justin Trudeau, more than any other Liberal candidate should become Prime Minister if he wants to demonstrate that the Liberal Party is one of brokerage and prudence, but also one of progression and innovation. Only this way can he bring the derelict Liberal caucus from the periphery of Canadian Government and back into good, accountable governance, one where question period actually means something, where bills are given an opportunity to be scrutinized, and faith in the political system as a whole is restored.


Yes, Justin Trudeau can become leader. Yes, Justin Trudeau can become Prime Minister. He will need to decide for himself whether he is ready to take bold stands on issues, and support innovation at a time when Party and Country needs it most. Otherwise the fence he sits on will sink under the weight of an already disinterested and disheartened Canadian electorate.


Follow Micah on twitter: @micahgoldberg

Read Micah’s blog: CenterAndLeft

Why the Barrie Young Liberals Are Walking to Fight MS

Late last year, one of the parents of a Barrie Young Liberal developed multiple sclerosis. After suffering from two seizures, doctors performed extensive testing on her brain to discover the cause. She was diagnosed with MS.

Multiple sclerosis is a frightening and degenerating disease. It impairs the ability of the brain’s nerve cells to communicate with the spinal cord. Over time, this can lead to myriad complications including loss of mobility and reduced cogitative functioning.

The daughter had already decided that she wanted to walk to help raise money for MS research and for those living with the disease. When the other members heard about the situation, they immediately pledged their support and the Barrie Young Liberals became committed to helping fight multiple sclerosis.

Part of being Liberal is to give back to society through compassion and support. To this end, the Barrie Young Liberals are working hard to raise money for MS research and to support those living with the disease.

Please consider pledging us as we walk for a future without MS. Your contribution will make a significant difference, whether it goes towards researching a cure or directly to helping those living with the disease.

To visit our MS Walk team page, click here. Then, to sponsor us, click on “pledge my team online” underneath our photo. If you donate more than $20 then you will receive a charitable donation receipt, which could result in up to a 45% refund.

Thank you,
Adam Exton

Micah Goldberg: Pennywise Mr. Harper

The end of the penny has caused many important cuts in Steven Harper’s first majority budget to have been buried. CBC funding was cut to the amount of $115 million dollars, $56 million was cut from the Canadian Food Inspections Agency, the Katimavik program was scrapped altogether, the list goes on. In the midst of the Robocall scandal however, no cut strikes a more political cord than the $7.5 million being cut from Elections Canada.

Cutting millions while the electoral fraud investigation searches through thousands of complaints spanning 200 ridings in all ten provinces and one territory is absurd, apprehensible, and so very cute. Pierre Poutine’s actions seem to be the only thing that stands in the Conservative’s way of another majority. As I have been predicting since Mulcair’s victory in the NDP leadership contest last week, Steven Harper has essentially been gifted another Conservative majority in 2015; however, despite the stars aligning, the one thing standing in his way of another strong mandate is an electoral scandal that turns a “strong, stable” government into a crooked one in the eyes of centrist Canadians.

If I know this, you can be sure Prime Minister Harper knows this. Pierre Poutine and his calls trouble Mr. Harper, as they are the only issue your non-political Canadian cares about. By cutting funding to the only objective investigators in an ongoing electoral fraud case is the easiest way to prolong the process of finding the true source of the calls, and that is the key, to make Canadians forget about a serious issue or court them back into apathy and indifference. If the Robocall story does not surface before the next election, people will lose interest in an old story. Harper’s agenda is to retard the process, to bury the story underneath pennies and duties.

If our Prime Minister had any guts, however, he would not cut the powers of the chief electoral officer, but compliment them. It is time to find out who was behind the misleading robocalls, and while I believe the Conservatives are playing politics with the budget in order to delay the truth, it is imperative that the story remain fresh in our hearts and minds. This is assuming we want change of course, and with the penny being eliminated, we’ve been forced to look extra hard for some.

The NDP Leadership Foreign Policy Awards – 2012

The evening of the Academy Awards a good friend and I were reviewing the foreign policy platforms of three NDP leadership candidates, Tom Mulcair, Brian Topp and Peggy Nash. Here are some awards we created for each of the three candidates’ policies:

Most impressive foreign policy recommendation:

Peggy Nash – “Prioritizing efforts in those countries where consenting same-sex relations are criminalized or where there are moves to change existing legislation (in either direction), raising the issue and encouraging States to make human rights sensitive legislative changes.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Support and defend our veterans, as they have supported and defended the implementation of our foreign policy, by halting any reduction to pensions for retired and disabled veterans.”

 Least innovative foreign policy recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “Resurrect the Democracy Canada initiative abandoned by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.”

 Most credible premise for a foreign policy platform:

Peggy Nash – “Canada has fallen in terms of reputation and action promoting peace and prosperity on the global stage. We can do better.”

 Least credible premise for a foreign policy platform:

Brian Topp – “If one thing can be said with certainty about the world in 2012, it’s that the experiment with neo-Liberal globalization has failed in spectacular fashion.”

 Least connected foreign policy criticism and recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “The Conservatives politicized foreign aid…”

“… Offer preferential trade and assistance to countries based on their commitment to human rights, labour standards, and environmental protection.

Foreign policy recommendation that is most antagonistic to Canadian allies:

Thomas Mulclair – “Follow Jack Layton’s policy of working with partners for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine, within a framework of respect for international law and UN resolutions including recognition of the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace as independent states within negotiated and agreed-upon borders.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Reform the United Nations Security Council by including nations such as Indian and Brazil as permanent members.”

Foreign policy recommendation that is least likely to succeed:

Brian Topp – “And [the NDP] can restore Canada’s good name in the world.”

Most vague foreign policy recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “Reduce duplication within the United Nations to ensure programs are delivered cost-effectively.”

Foreign policy recommendation that will actual damage Canadian credibility

Thomas Mulclair – “Offer deeper, longer-term assistance to a more limited number of countries as an incentive to progress, while using the prospect of bilateral treaties on trade or immigration to reduce the problem of aid dependency.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Reform the United Nations Security Council by including nations such as India and Brazil as permanent members.”

Foreign policy recommendation that most panders to the NDP:

Brian Topp – “Canada should work with other nations to end the current economic and fiscal race to the bottom.”

Supporting evidence that most panders to the NDP:

Brian Topp – “I’m happy to say that even in the US, the homeland and birthplace of these destructive “reverse Robin Hood” policies, support for a new path is building.”

Brian Topp – “From the streets of Cairo to Wall Street, the times they are a changin’.”

Foreign policy recommendation that was stolen from the Liberals:

Peggy Nash – “Placing civilian protection as a lead priority in international strategy.”


Foreign policy recommendation that was stolen from the Conservatives:

Peggy Nash – “Advancing the promotion of LGBT rights on the agenda of international organizations and agencies to which we are party.”

(http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/23/john-baird-points-finger-at-gay-rights-abuses-in-african-caribbean-countries/ )


Micah Goldberg: How bad was this week for the Conservative Government?

It was bad. It was really bad. It was the worst week the Conservatives have had since they became a Majority Government. Bill C-30, the “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act” allows the Government and Canadian authorities to track the digital footprint of Canadian citizens without a warrant in situations deemed “exceptional”. Problem: the word “exceptional” is not defined in the bill. C-30 has been endorsed by many police chiefs around Canada, including the one here in Winnipeg, but severely lacks the endorsement of Canadians’ common sense faculties. If there is child pornography transpiring, it certainly ought to be stopped; however, the ends hardly justify the means, which is assuming the means are even being used to meet the ends.

Elizabeth May brought up a terrific point, criticizing Vic Toews for arguing the gun registry was too much of an invasion of privacy, and presently claiming that a privacy invasion which completely eclipses anything in recent Canadian history is somehow acceptable. This is Mr. Toews having it both ways. Ralph Goodale added that the Conservative Government used the same privacy invasion argument for the anonymous long form census. How an anonymous census which never suffered a security breach is a greater threat to the privacy of Canadians than the ability to trace every website, email and text message associated with a citizen is beyond all comprehensible reason.

The Conservatives, however, have been criticized by progressives before, proroguing government in 2008 for example, but they went ahead and did it anyways, so why are they amending the bill? The answer, it turns out, is that no one ever polled the Conservative members or their representatives in Ottawa. Apparently Conservative members and many MPs don’t see a difference between opposing the gun registry and opposing government spying. Good on them for being consistent, bad on Mr. Toews for embarrassing the Conservative Party.

If you thought privacy scares were a PR nightmare, what about wide-spread election fraud? RackNine, an Edmonton call centre that worked for only one federal party (the Conservatives) were linked to automated calls in contested ridings which led many Liberal voters to believe they were being contacted by Elections Canada, stating that their polling station had been changed.

Let me be clear, this story, and any election fraud does not only affect the Tories. It hurts all of us. It hurts anyone interested in politics, and all political parties. It hurts the credibility of the democratic institution and every single elected politician. It makes the system look dishonest and crooked, unworthy of the hard earned tax dollars they already see spent on helicopter joyrides and an absent upper chamber.

There is no proof that the senior members of the Conservative Party were involved in this, but there is proof that someone within the party spearheaded this project. It was not 23-year old Micheal Sona from Guelph. It was someone with Liberal lists and influence. I only hope they are publicly named and shamed, incarcerated and completely excommunicated from the Canadian political process.

This week was probably the worst five days to be inside the Tory caucus, mainly because they learned – in the hardest way possible mind you – that they are still accountable to at least two groups: their base and the police. Let’s just hope Bob Rae gets some help from his NDP counterparts this week during question period to keep the fire next to our Prime Minister’s feet burning.