Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Questions for the Liberal Leadership Candidates and Other Musings on the Race Ahead

Grassroots Outreach

- Each Liberal candidate has talked about a 308 riding strategy for the next election, but what specific steps would you take from an organizational, membership and fundraising perspective to actually turn this new catch phrase into reality?

Balance of Powers

- Do you believe this country should have a stronger central government (i.e., more national programs with uniform standards) or stronger provinces (i.e., federal government sticks to its own constitutional jurisdictions) than we have presently? If you had to choose between one or the other which would it be and why?

The Environment

- The Liberals have seen many bold plans proposed on the environment in recent years. I was very pleased to see Michael Ignatieff propose tax shifting (taxing pollution and cutting other taxes to compensate) in his last leadership platform and put that issue on the table and later see St├ęphane Dion adopt a similar Green Shift for the last campaign (with a promise to institute a cap-and-trade system at a later point). I, along with many other Liberals still support this approach, but what do you believe is the best approach for meaningfully reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and being a world leader on the environment: a cap-and-trade system, tax shifting, or a mixture of the two? When would you aim for such an approach to be put in place and how would you sell it?

Aboriginals

- What specific steps would you plan to take to improve the lives of Aboriginal Canadians beyond re-committing to the Kelowna Accords?

Women

- What specific steps would you take within your first year as leader to see the Liberal Party achieve gender parity in its election candidates, MPs, and internal party positions?

- Will you pledge to keep the commitment for Commissioner for Gender Equality in the next Liberal platform?

Poverty

- Will you commit to putting in place the 30/50 poverty plan (and finding the needed funding whether it comes from a carbon tax or not) contained in the last Liberal platform if elected Liberal leader and Prime Minister? If not, what you would change from the original plan and why?

Human Rights

- We all agree that Canada and its representatives should stand strongly for the protection and promotion of human rights abroad. Unfortunately, many Canadian mining companies operating abroad have been associated with human rights abuses in many countries in the developing world. I was heartened to see the Liberal platform contain a commitment on page 59 to “establish and promote a Canadian Corporate Social Responsibility Framework for all Canadian extractive-sector companies operating in developing countries.”

Will you pledge that such a commitment will remain in the next Liberal platform should you become leader? If not, why not?

Electing the Leader

As you know the way in which we currently elect our leader is through a delegated convention, in which approximately half the elected delegates are men and half are women, and one third are youth, and there are spots reserved for Aboriginals and seniors, in addition to ex-officio delegates. Do you support changing this system to that of one-member one vote? If so, how would you propose the system operate in a way that still protects the voices of youth, women, Aboriginals and seniors in the party?

Party Unity

- Should you be victorious in the Liberal leadership race, what specific steps would you take, upon assuming the leadership, to unite the party (and members of all camps) that were not undertaken by past leadership victors?
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With the Conservative Convention wrapped up and my official blogging duties from the ground coming to a wrap up, it's now time to go back to familiar territory - the Liberals. And all the Liberal news is about leadership lately. While its important, I hope it doesn't overshadow the issues at hand in the House of Commons. So in case you are wondering, the questions I've sent to friends of mine working on each campaign in hopes that each leadership candidate will answer them promptly, and with honesty.

Gold star to the candidate who answers them first, and all! I will post the responses the minute I get them. But I strongly request that the candidate at least reads them, and answers them, and that its not staffers/volunteers. I do in all reality know that a staffer will probably proof, or go over the questions with their leader, which I just accept.

As for my thoughts on the race so far, I have to say I'm surprised (and just a bit saddened) to see so many Liberals rush to support one candidate or another without those candidates actually spelling out many of the things they would actually do as leader to rebuild the party or what kind of government they would lead. I do fully respect all those who’ve already come to a decision and I know they’ve done so for their own honest reasons, but I also know I'm not alone in wanting to make as informed of a decision as possible before endorsing anyone. I also know I'm not alone in NOT wanting to decide based on who has the least baggage (nor will I be talking about such negatives on this blog) or base it on who is supporting who - friends or big Liberal names.

And I know I'm not alone in wanting this race to be about which candidate has the best ideas and abilities for the FUTURE of this party and this country. We tried to make an election in 2006 about Stephen Harper's past writings and actions and it didn't work, if Stephen Harper wants to try the same strategy against us in the next election it won't work either. So while inevitably others will be tempted to trash competing candidates, I'll do my small part to try to make this race about hope for the future rather than fear mongering based on the past. I hope others will too (I'd say Steve V sets a pretty good example here, apologies if I’ve missed others like this promoting all candidates, feel free to put a link to your own in the comments). For me getting the answers to the questions above is just the start.

And I hope we'll see the discussion in the months ahead revolve around reasons to vote FOR each candidate rather than reasons to vote against another one. But if someone wants to remain neutral in the end let that not be held against them either, as everyone will be needed to chip in to bring us back to power after this race is over no matter who they supported. And finally we can't forget that the process of rebuilding the party financially and organizationally needs to begin NOW, aside from this race, so let's not let that most crucial task fall by the wayside either.

This race and its immediate aftermath could leave us more united and stronger than ever before or the opposite, so let's get this right.


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