From April 30 to May 3, over 3,000 Liberals, in fact 3,143 Liberals from across the country descended on Vancouver for a much anticipated convention. It especially renewed our hopes for the future at seeing 8 young Liberals from the enthusiastic U of L group attending in addition to the regular delegates from Lethbridge, and; of course there was also great representation of young people from across the country including Calgary. Everyone felt ecstatic, many described it as an "electric" few days. I didn't meet anyone whose expectations were not met. Some seasoned folks even thought it somewhat reminiscent of ’68 as was even suggested in some of the speeches.
Though the first and second day was a mixture of some mundane yet necessary issues interspersed with speeches the highlight came on Saturday afternoon.
Topics ranged from policy to discussion of renewal and revitalization through commission meetings, policy think tanks, and election readiness workshops on issues including youth, women, seniors and Aboriginals to help us shape party policy, to help us increase issue awareness and to reach out to Canadians. Everyone felt re-invigorated and reassured that our party is in good hands and Saturday afternoon capped the week-end with rousing speeches by Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc nominated Michael Ignatieff.
While most Lethbridge delegates started traveling a few days ahead of the convention to visit family and/or friends along the way in interests of time and conservation, to lessen impact on our environment, to take advantage of a professional doing the driving and use the time to get to know other Liberals some of us joined some Calgary Liberals on a chartered bus. Unfortunately, though the return trip went without a hitch we started late as a rsult of waiting for a couple of delegates that went to the East Safeway instead of the West location.
[As you might guess we chatted, some read and later dozed. Shortly after midnight, North of Chase we were brought to a halt by a convoy of vehicles ahead of us forced to stop as a result of an accident. Earlier a large truck and trailer had jack-knifed on a turn leaving it straddling the road and the trailer in the lake and the road was narrow. Every time our driver checked he was told it would be another couple of hours before the road would be cleared. However, as soon as daylight broke our bus driver decided to attempt to turn the bus around and after careful maneuvering succeeded so we started on an alternative route.
In the mid-morning and in order to ensure having enough gas to get to our destination the bus-driver decided it was best to obtain same at the bus-terminal in Kelowna as well as to allow us passengers to fresh-up and fuel-up. Here we encountered our next delay; two of the three staff hadn't shown-up for work leaving the cook to do everything for an extra busload of hungry passengers. Over an hour later we were on our way again. However, you guessed it; another delay was about to occur.
Approximately an hour North of Merritt we were suddenly alerted by a loud bang and the immediate abnormal noise from it indicating a tire had blown. Another 3 hours was added enjoying the sunshine on the roadside before we got under way again. Surprisingly everyone remained composed as we waited for help. Needless to say friendly joking ocurred suggesting that the driver must have been tipped-off by the gov. to delay us. We arrived at the hotel 9 to 10 hours later than expected. Staff quickened registration and we were underway registering for the convention.]
Saturday saw us wading through well-organized sessions on constitutional policies, most of which passed without much discussion; however, some were a little contentious. The “one man one vote” issue though it generated quite a lot of passionate discussion passed overwhelmingly. At 2 pm the speeches and the crescendo started to build and the dynamism was palpable. The hall was packed; even the back of the hall was standing room only. It was great to see all the young people being show-cased including Justin Trudeau who did a super job co-chairing the session.
Next, we were treated to testimonials from across Canada after which Michael was ushered into the hall followed by hundreds of chanting young people. He had to push his way through the aisle to the stage, everyone near the aisle wanting to shake his hand.
Earlier Mr. Ignatieff and former Prime Minister Paul Martin both addressed a packed room of youth delegates, where they encouraged them to keep bringing forward the fresh ideas that keep the Liberal Party progressive. “Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Martin reminded us how many of the ideas at our party’s core started as youth policies – and how they got their start in the party as Young Liberals,” said Cory Pike, President of the Young Liberals of Canada. Mr. Martin also led a panel discussion on Aboriginal affairs as part of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission meeting. Delegates “engaged in frank and honest discussions about the unique challenges facing Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people – and how we can fight for change from within the Liberal Party.” Policy from our changing economy to rural Canada, and from social justice to Canada’s place in the world. We also turned our minds to election readiness, sharing best practices on new techniques for successful campaigns to help ensure Canadian democracy continues.
Stephane Dion honored: On Friday evening, Liberals gathered to pay tribute to former Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion for his leadership and contribution to a more united, greener Canada. Mr. Dion spoke about his enduring love for Canada, and his vision for a richer, fairer, and greener Canada. Michael Ignatieff and former Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin recognized Mr. Dion for his leadership and vision, including his lasting contribution to national unity. A cogent defender of a strong Quebec within a strong Canada, Mr. Dion worked alongside Prime Minister Chretien to pass the Clarity Act and defend Canada following the 1995 Quebec referendum. Mr. Chretien said, “Stéphane Dion came into my cabinet at a time of great need for the country … he withstood the attacks levelled at him with an unwavering defence of federalism, upholding the nation-building efforts of those who came before him.” It was noted that during his tenure as Environment Minister in Prime Minister Martin’s government, Mr. Dion spearheaded the creation of the 180-country Montreal Action Plan on climate change in December 2005 and how this experience inspired him to seek new ways to build a more sustainable economy, society and environment as Liberal leader from 2006-2008. It was noted, “Stéphane has fought for a progressive Quebec, defended Canada, fought for a better world, and I know for certain that everywhere in the world, Stéphane Dion will keep on fighting for the environment,” said Mr. Martin. “Stéphane Dion is a man of integrity and principle, who makes us proud to be Liberals and proud to be Canadians,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “All of us here tonight – and all Canadians everywhere – owe a debt of thanks to Mr. Dion for his tireless dedication to public service, to national unity, and to a richer, fairer and greener Canada.” Other prominent Canadians sharing new ideas for the country were; Eric Hoskins, President of War Child Canada; Madame Justice Louise Arbour, former United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights; Olympic medallist Charmaine Crooks; and Blaine Favel, President and CEO of One Earth Resources.
As noted by Mr. Ignatieff, grassroots Liberals voted to make their party more open, inclusive and democratic by giving all members a vote for choosing future party leaders. “Now all Liberals can have a say in choosing who they want to be their Prime Minister, … they have voted to open their party to Canadians by offering them the chance to make their voice heard on the national stage.” The new one-member, one-vote (OMOV) leadership selection process is regionally-balanced by giving each riding in Canada equal influence. Future Liberal leaders must obtain the support of over half of all Liberal members through preferential ballot voting.
“This simple new process speaks to the progressive nature of the Liberal Party,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, co-chair of the Special Committee on Party Renewal. “For the $10 price of one red Liberal membership card, all Canadians - regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances - can play a meaningful role in our democracy.” Liberals also voted on policy resolutions developed by grassroots Liberals through commissions and local riding associations. The resolutions were debated online through the EnFamile.Liberal.ca community forum in the lead-up to the Vancouver convention. Policy resolutions passed at the convention provide the parliamentary caucus with a barometer of where grassroots Liberals are moving. Resolutions passed by Liberals at the convention include support for:
• An emergency convention resolution to express sympathy for the victims of H1N1 influenza and to show confidence in our public health system;
• A national water policy to conserve and protect Canada’s clean water supply;
• Boosting economic growth through investments in research and development;
• Implementing a national early learning child care plan;
• Improved education and economic development for Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples;
• Aging with dignity through housing, homecare and learning enhancements for seniors; and
• Regional economic and business development through essential infrastructure
Calling for a new politics, Michael Ignatieff reached out to Canadians with his vision for the future of the country as Liberal delegates voted 97 percent in favour of confirming him as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. “If you ask what I want for my Canada, it is this – that we surprise ourselves. Astonish ourselves. That we astonish the world,” Mr. Ignatieff said to a packed convention hall of over 3,000 delegates and observers. Mr. Ignatieff called for a new politics replacing spite and spin with civility and common purpose, laying out an inclusive vision of economic recovery that leaves no Canadian out in the cold by unlocking the creativity of every citizen. He spoke directly to Stephen Harper, condemning him for failing to unite Canadians by setting province against province, group against group, region against region, individual against individual. “All our efforts will be focused on one task – to unite our people again, to feel the strength that comes when Canadians know they are acting together,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “We will turn crisis into opportunity and become more competitive than ever, by becoming the most adventurous and entrepreneurial people on the planet.” Mr. Ignatieff called for measures to unite Canadians and treat everyone fairly, delivered by a government that is as competent, courageous, co-operative and creative as Canadians themselves:
• A common national standard of eligibility for Employment Insurance
• Investing in scientists, researchers and the green economy to create the jobs of tomorrow
• An equal start for every child with world class early learning
• A renewed commitment to women for equal pay for work of equal value
• A promise to every student that if they get the grades, they get to go to the best higher education in the world
• World class, not a second class education for every Aboriginal child
• Support for creators, artists and filmmakers to succeed on the world stage
• Hope and opportunity for farming communities, small towns, northern and remote regions.
“The Canadian way is a way for the whole world,” said Mr. Ignatieff, speaking of Canada’s longing to lead rather than follow on the world stage. “This is the moral purpose of our country – to teach tolerance diversity and citizenship to a troubled world.”
Following nominations by the Hon. Bob Rae and Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, Young Liberals Mona Kassis and Yasmine Abdelfadel added their names to those of over 3,000 people who nominated Michael Ignatieff online before he was declared leader by convention chairs Justin Trudeau, Bobbi Ethier and the Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh.
“Let us dare to dream but let us also dare to act,” Mr. Ignatieff concluded. “Let us get back to the Canadian way. We deserve a government that does not make us feel any less than a great people with a great future - and to a great people, given great leadership, nothing is impossible.”
Mr. Ignatieff’s summary:
I am deeply honoured to be your Leader. I laid out my vision for a stronger, more united Canada – a Canada where we surprise ourselves, where we astonish ourselves. A Canada that astonishes the world.
I said that though the road back to prosperity may take time, we know which way will get us there. It is the Canadian way. We must build a society around fairness and opportunity, a society where every Canadian is able to contribute fully to the success of our country. A country that dares to dream. That dares to act.
We’re leaving Vancouver as a strong, united Party, with a renewed sense of purpose. We’re ready for the challenge ahead, and we’re ready to win the next election.
With your help, we will do better. Yours, Michael
Another media summary by Mr. Ignatieff:
"Friends; I had the privilige to speak at our Biennial Convention in Vancouver. What an incredible feeling! We had a room packed to the rafters with passionate Liberals, every one of us energized by the work we’ve done and ready for what’s still ahead".
[To hear and see Michael’s speech and some of the Convention proceedings and his introduction on Liberal.ca]
Total number of participants at the Liberal convention: 3, 143 and hundreds of volunteers. Total number of former Prime Ministers in attendance at the Liberal convention: 3 – all Liberal and all policy sessions were open to members of the media. Total number of policy resolutions debated at the convention – 32. Total number of supporters who signed Michael Ignatieff’s nomination form - 3,516. Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, getting better with age, was the best ever with jokes and quips; even applauded by a Conservative observer. Also, the latest poll shows our standing increased a few points and contributions to the party for the first quarter over last year are up at $977,801.58. Keep it up folks.
Another highlight - Mr. Ignatieff unveiled a new logo for the Liberal Party of Canada today during the convention in Vancouver. The new Liberal logo, in maple leaf red, symbolizes a re-energized Liberal Party emerging from a process of renewal engaging all Liberal members.
Let's continue the momentum and readiness preparation so like the good scout "we're prepared" and ready for the challenge when the call comes.