Thursday, July 27, 2006

Carolyn Bennett's response to my Leadership Questionnaire

Thanks to Carolyn Bennett for taking the time to provide an excellent response!


1. Why do you think the Liberal party is in the position it is now, having lost a majority, and then minority government?

I believe that we as Liberals were punished not for WHAT we did – a robust economy, the Clarity Act, early learning and child care, Project Green for Kyoto, Kelowna - but for HOW we did it. We were perceived as practicing ‘old style politics’, top down, not listening. Even life-long Liberals were upset with the way we were doing things.

2. How do you envision being able to bring Canadians back to the Liberal party, and in doing so creating a greater grassroots support base for the party?

Canadians will not give us back the keys to the car until we can show them that we have learned and have dramatically changed the way we do things.

I believe that my track record demonstrates a new style of politics from the bottom up - a politics that is about ideas, transparency and accountability, where citizens area treated with respect, and where leadership is being the centre of a circle and not the top of a pyramid.

In my riding, we have focused upon the idea of a ‘democracy between elections’ - town hall meetings, parliamentary clinics, neighbourhood checkups and MSN chats with young voters. It has paid off. St Paul’s was a bellwether riding, virtually always sending its MP to the government side. In the past election I won with a PLURALITY OF 14,000 VOTES. My riding is also the youngest riding in the country - the greatest per cent of voters under 35, and we were able to achieve a voter turnout of 75 per cent. I believe that my work between elections has attracted the youth, the more practical NDP supporters, who know I am a fighter for social justice issues, and the more progressive conservatives, who know I have fought to change the culture of boasting about how much we spend into a management based on accountability for real results.

We need to do this across the country. We will NOT beat Stephen Harper by being ‘blue light’. In Anne Mclellan’s riding, over 6,000 people voted NDP. We need them to feel comfortable voting for us. They now have a conservative Member and government. We need those who voted Green, and those who just stayed at home because they thought their vote didn’t matter.

Now that we are in opposition, we need the activists – the disability community, artists, seniors, children’s advocates, FN Inuit Métis, health, poverty and affordable housing activists, and researchers - to feel welcome in our party and help us shape the best possible platform. We need them to see their ideas there so they are able to endorse them.

We need to inspire Canadians to bring out the best in each of us - the exact opposite to Stephen Harper’s "What’s in this for me??"

3. What is your greatest strength as a leader? What would your leadership style be? (i.e., in dealing with the press)

I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it.

I believe I represent the end of old style politics and the opportunity for LPC to usher in a clear, clean, transparent and truly democratic style of politics - bottom up, listening, engaging Canadians in their democracy. I believe my leadership style allows people to know that they matter.

In opposition, as social development critic, I began the work of creating a ‘shadow caucus’ that would help ensure that we would be the best possible opposition and be able to hear from the un-held ridings, and especially the concerns that would shape our policies to better reflect the needs or rural Canada and Quebec.

In my campaign, my policy dialogues have become a real-time example of open source policy; listening, adapting, and listening again till we have real policies that are relevant and responsive. It can be done. We can have a modern party that doesn’t have to wait for permission for a policy convention in order to do policy.

My communication style is one of ‘straight talking’. I used to have to tell people that they had cancer or were on the wrong medication. I believe Canadians want that from a leader.

I can make tough decisions, but people will know that they have been heard and then why I chose a certain course.

4. What are your thoughts or ideas on how the federal government should address regionalism in Canada? (i.e., Western alienation, Quebec Separatism)

We have to begin by celebrating the regions of this country, their diversity, their strengths, their innovative approaches to their challenges.

From East to west, urban to rural English to French, we have to speak to the pride that Canadians have in their region and their heartfelt desire for real prosperity close to home.

We come from very different geography. From the Mountains in the West, to the big sky on the prairies, to the granite rocks and lakes and pine trees of central Canada, to the importance of the ocean in Atlantic Canada, to the majesty of their land in the North. We need every Canadian to better understand how their region shapes their identity as a Canadian.

We need to take a much more inclusive approach to the regions of Canada. Somehow every region has felt neglected, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, even Ontario, certainly the West, and up until recently The North. To be in Newfoundland last week and see their nationalist flags flying everywhere is sobering. They were the last into confederation and truly feel that they have much less now than they brought in.

The federal government has been perceived as far away, not listening and imposing ‘solutions’ that the regions know won’t work. In fact, the federal government is accused of not understanding the problems in the first place. It is next to impossible to find effective solutions if you don’t truly understand the problems.

We have to build a more respectful relationship with the regions and their citizens. But we also need to inspire Canadians to better understand that every region wants to be as good as it can be. We need to get away from the zero-sum game – when a region gets something it takes away from another region - to a real belief that the sum is indeed greater than the parts. We must evolve to a more mature approach in which we can all celebrate the history and the successes of every region.

Our schools, exchange programs, the CBC and all our cultural industries and institutions need to be supported to help us in this mission. I wish that every Canadian could be a leadership candidate for at least a day in some part of Canada far from their home.

In a ‘citizen-centred federalism’ Canadians from all regions would feel that they are part of a truly federal system that listens and acts.

The old fashioned top-down, ‘big brother’ approach of the federal government must go. We need real partnerships if we are going to achieve public policy that is relevant and responsive to the needs of Canadians. We need to articulate a strong common purpose and then demonstrate a respect for the local wisdom local knowledge to get the job done. That means that we must also build into our federation that is focussed upon transparency and results.

We all can learn from one another. In health and health care, the federal government has responsibility for aboriginal peoples, corrections, the military, veterans, the public service and the RCMP. We need to be accountable for these populations and should report in the same manner we are asking the provinces to do. We should be humbled that the population with the worst outcomes, our aboriginal peoples, are our responsibility. We do not have the moral authority to be telling provinces what to do. We need to engage them in this amazing project that is Canada.

They need to feel included. That means every Quebecker, every Albertan - not just First Minister to First Minister.

It is important that Albertans understand how much Newfoundlanders would rather have jobs at home than in Fort McMurray. That in Quebec City, the families would prefer that there were jobs there so that their children wouldn’t have to move to Montreal. Throughout Canada, the problems in the rural regions are more similar than different. We have to ensure that Canadians are able to face these common challenges together instead of apart.

Quebec, however, requires us as Liberals to truly apologize for having insulted them with the sponsorship program. Then we need to recognize that the new Quebec word ‘Bushization’ is a very important step in underlining for Quebeckers that George Bush’s buddy ‘Steve’ does not represent their values of social justice and rejects the leadership they have demonstrated on important issues such as child care, young offenders, pharmacare, and the environment.

5. What do you think Canada’s ideal role is in the international community?

I hope in my paper "Canada’s Role in a Healthy and Equitable World" I have answered your question

However, I would just like to add one anecdote. Apparently in 1990 there was an ILO conference in Turin. Canada sent 7 delegates. There were 23 working groups. Only 7 of the working groups came to consensus. They were the 7 with a Canadian in them. In each one, the group had asked the Canadian to facilitate, in each group, the Canadian had got to the board and listed the ‘common ground’ he/she had heard and then asked if the small differences outside that common ground really mattered. In the other groups, the leader had articulated the diverging opinions and then found it impossible to achieve consensus in the group. Bono was right - the world needs more Canada!!!

6. Anything you'd like to add?

I believe that we as Liberals have an urgent task to get our act together and build back the confidence of Canadians in a credible alternative to Stephen Harper and his republican agenda.

We MUST be able to do a better job explaining how his short-term tactics to win a majority are actually bad public policy – bad for the economy, anathema to true Canadian values of social justice and sustainability.

I believe that I can do that.

I ran provincially in 1995 and lost to Mike Harris, who also for a while was credited for doing what he’s said he’d do.

But the other things he had to do because of the lost revenue from irresponsible tax cuts meant the cancellation of art, music, sports, family counseling, and after-hours programs.

Ten years later we have a terrible problem in Ontario with guns and gangs. Without those programs we have youth who describe the first time that they ever felt they belonged was when they joined a gang. The first time they had ever been told that they were good at something was shoplifting.

Mike Harris initiated bad public policy that we are paying for 10 years later.

When I ran in ‘95 I had thought I was running to be a voice for the patients and the trenches to fix health care.

Yet, now I realize that as a physician a health system must do more than just patch people up and send them back into the same situation that made them sick in the first place.

We as liberals understand that the ultimate sustainability of our heath-care system isn’t adding more dollars in a private sickness care system. We must be committed to working together on keeping people well by ending poverty and violence, protecting the environment, providing shelter, equity, education and early learning, and the research that supports this agenda.

Now I am running to be leader of the Liberal Party because I want Canadians to be the healthiest people in the world. I know that the health of Canadians won’t be determined in the Ministry of Health.

In order to have healthy Canadians we need a healthy democracy, healthy environment, healthy communities that lead to a healthy economy and we must assure Canada’s important role in a healthy and equitable world.

I believe I represent the end of old style politics and the opportunity for LPC to usher in a clear, clean, transparent and truly democratic style of politics - bottom up, listening, engaging Canadians in their democracy – and focused on results.

I need your support. It is urgent. If we don’t demonstrate that we have truly learned our lesson and are determined to do things differently, it will be a long time before Canadians will allow us the chance to do all the important things that we know we need to bring this country together.

I know what needs to be done, I know how to do it. I need your help in getting our act together as Liberals so we can get on with the real job of earning back the respect of Canadians, so that together we can stop Steve from doing even more damage to our country, but mostly so we can put in place a Canada that celebrates and appreciates every region, every citizen… meegwitch.

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