Monday, September 17, 2007

Why I'm a Liberal

Becoming a Liberal was very natural for me. I was easily drawn to it from the young age of fourteen, where I was welcomed as a full and equal member. It’s the party where your voice has the opportunity to be heard, and also the party of consensus that does its best for all Ontarians, no matter your background. It’s a party which looks out for everyone’s best interests in an even manner.
It's the party of cooperation and inclusion - its the only party where members can agree to disagree when it comes to a variety of issues and still respect and work with each other and Canadians. Such issues as foreign ownership, the Ontario MMP referendum and and the status of Quebec are just some examples of issues where one's difference of opinions are tolerated and respected.
I know that under any other party, I would have never had the opportunity to be welcomed and involved in party politics as much as I have been under the Liberal government. From the inclusiveness of making policies, voting on potentail policy platforms, choosing candidates at various levels and stages, there are many opportunities for society to be involved in government as much as they would like.
Most importantly, the Liberals “get it”. They understand that politics isn’t just about satisfying the social-societal needs, and that its not just about the economy; rather, the two sides must come together in a cooperative, balanced manner which is the best alternative for all.

I had a natural drive to gain working experience in the political process. In 1997, the federal election and Liberal candidate Jane Stewart had peaked my interest. I contacted the Young Liberals president to find out how I could volunteer on the campaign in my riding, and I learned I was just old enough to join the Liberal Party as an active and equal member. The rest, as they say, is history. Since, then, I have been involved in many Liberal campaigns, events and cuases in various capacities.
I also think that the reason I was drawn to Jane was on a sort of a role-model basis. She was after all from my hometown and was strong, accomplished politician. I saw her around town and in the news all the time, speaking, meeting and listening to people, and being listened to. At the time, I did not fully realize it, but the fact that Jane was successful as a woman, was what really made it easy for me to identify with her. I think we definitely need more women in politics and this is why I support Dion’s and McGuinty’s targets to have more female candidates. (See my op-ed published here).

I have assisted on several campaigns in the federal and provincial level, from by-elections, nomination campaigns/meetings, and your regular elections, in addition to participating in AGMs, Provincial Councils and training sessions. I was the Woodsworth College Representative to the University of Toronto’s Young Liberals Executive. I currently sit on the Brant Federal Liberal Association Executive as the Youth Chair, and as a board member of the Brant Provincial Liberal Association. I re-established the Brant Young Liberals (BYL), and currently serve as it’s Vice-President.

I have also written policy (a BYL sponsored resolution) that has been adopted by the Ontario Young Liberals and I am currently lobbying the policy for it to be adopted by the Harper government and for the federal Liberal party to adopt it as official party policy (because we all know Harper rarely pursues a socially responsible foreign policy so it will likely have to wait until a Dion government comes to power). At a later date I will share this important policy with you.

In addition to my political science education, I have also been involved with the United Nations Association Canada, the Peace and Conflict Society as an elected executive member, Equal Voice, and many other causes and organizations as a member and organizer in several social justice and political awareness campaigns/events.


Women’s representation is very important to me – not just in politics, but in all walks of life and with all careers. The McGuinty Liberal government has put a lot of effort into bringing women’s issues to the forefront. His government’s policies such as the Ontario Child Benefit and his commitment to having more women candidates are all important steps to help advance women’s equal place in society. Women’s equality is still an issue in Canada, and what makes it so very important is that women help make up nearly half of every demographic in the country. Stephane Dion as well is succeeding in having 1/3 of his candidates being female, just as McGuinty did.
One other important issue to me is the environment. In Ontario, initiatives such as the bottle return program and Turn off the Lights campaign are programs which I find to be highly effective, easy to implement and make a positive difference. I truly appreciate the move to create an Ontario greenbelt for the benefit of Ontario’s ecosystem and for the enjoyment of future generations. Finally, I was pleased to see Mr. McGuinty make tough commitments on the reduction of greenhouse gases over the next decade.

As for the federal action on the environment, Dion of course had a plan to meet Kyoto when he was environment minister but we all know where that went. More recently though, Dion’s Carbon budget was very progressive and would serve to put us miles ahead of where the Harper government is taking us. It’s no wonder the Carbon budget was praised by environmentalists while Harper “green plan” (or sham) was scorned.

Dalton is your average guy, and a good guy. He has shown real leadership, making tough decisions about matters that he knew he would later be questioned on. However, I believe he makes decisions based on what he believes is the best option for Ontario. Those decisions have helped to completely turn this province around and I trust he knows where to take this province in the future. He is an individual I have no problems approaching, and as a youth, I am not intimidated by our age difference nor the spaces between him as Premier and myself as an average student. When speaking to Dalton, you really get the impression that what’s important to you is important to him.

As for Stephane, he is principled, experienced and his level of integrity is unmatched by other federal leaders. Like Dalton, he’s easy to approach and he cares what the youth have to say. He’s also been through some tough battles over the years (fighting off separatists in his academic days to the battles over the clarity act as unity minister) and never backed down and he stuck to what he believed in. I know the next Liberal red book will help take Canada to where it needs to be in the coming decade ahead. There’s lots of work to be done to bring the Liberals back to power of course, but I’m confident Stephane can get us there (I’ll have lots more to say about that AFTER the by-elections – unlike others I’ll wait for the results before providing my prognostications).

One of the benefits of being a youth in the Liberal party is being an automatic member of the Ontario Young Liberals. This has provided several diverse opportunities. One of these was naturally the 2006 National Leadership Convention which selected Stephane Dion as the party’s federal leader. The excitement and energy experienced that weekend is indescribable, and I feel very honoured to have been there to participate in that historic weekend and to have witnessed that type of event.
However, my personal favourite experience of mine was re-establishing the Brant Young Liberals club in my riding. For years, the riding had been without the very club that I valued and that ignited my initial involvement in the Liberal party. With the support of the senior members in my riding, I was able to successfully rebuild the Brant Young Liberals. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I witnessed almost twenty youth turn up with keen interest at our founding meeting. We are now an active and growing group with great plans for the future.

I believe that the Liberal Party and I have a strong and bright future together. I am continuing my education in the hopes that I can give back to my society in the best way I can. To be quite honest, I am content with paying my fair share of taxes which help to sustain and create the services I use for myself and for those less fortunate, especially since I believe the cost of services would be higher if they were to be provided by individual means. I joined this party to become politically active and contribute towards sound and progressive policies, and that is the exactly what the party has provided to me. I plan on continuing to contribute to the party, whether that be through regularly contributing to my local riding associations, volunteering on campaigns, proposing policy ideas or encouraging political discourse - they are all important. The Liberal party is very resilient and progressive, and it responds to the people and tries to reach out to everyone. I feel perfectly at home in this party.

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