a diary from the road Blog
A leadership campaign is multifaceted, and my ability to inspire is dependent on sharing an accurate portrayal of our efforts on the campaign trail. This is a medium to convey my thoughts, feelings and observations - unfiltered, emotive and true. I hope that you will check in frequently to share in my experiences, gain insight, and keep updated of our journey towards April 14, 2013.

Thank You

After considerable consultation with my campaign team, my supporters, and my family, I have decided to withdraw from the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

When I made the decision to seek the leadership I did so with a number of commitments in mind and a desire to achieve certain goals. I entered the race in part because I believed that we, as Liberals, needed real choice in this leadership contest. I also wanted to make sure that building the party, particularly in Western Canada, would be front and centre as a focus of the leadership race. I also committed to running a campaign in the same way I would seek to lead the country, in a careful and considered manner in which fiscal responsibility would be paramount.

At a more personal level, my desire to pursue and put into action the values with which I was raised – the dutyI believe we have to make our corner of the world a better place – motivated me to seek a leadership role in the Party.

I have been blessed in life, been given great opportunity, and have been successful in my profession. Those blessings, opportunities, and successes are something that must be understood in the context of the lives of all Canadians. With the benefits I have enjoyed comes responsibility, a duty to act in pursuit of a greater good. My decision to run for leader of the Liberal party was motivated by a desire to make sure everyone has the opportunity to share in our country’s prosperity.

In pursuit of the leadership I was given another great opportunity, to travel across the country to speak with and listen to Canadians from all walks of life. The trip across Canada can only be described as a great privilege and an incredible honour. To be able to meet with folks and talk with them about the concerns of their daily lives, about their hopes and dreams, and their aspirations for their country is something that will continue to have an impact on me as I continue to work to make Canada the place I believe it can and should be. To all the people I met across the country I want to say thank you. Your interest in our communities, the places where we work, the neighbourhoods we live in, and your deep desire to help build a better country was simply inspiring.

I will continue to work to build the Liberal Party and will do so, in part, because I believe we must continually strive to build a just and secure society. This goal is not something that is achieved in one leadership race, or one election. It is a commitment that all those who serve the public must continually pursue and it is a goal we must constantly revisit.

A just and secure society must not only include an embracing, inclusive, and tolerant Canada, but it must be a society where everyone has the opportunity to participate in our prosperity. We must build a Canada where we make a real commitment to ending child poverty, by integrating policies on pre-natal care, early childhood learning, affordable housing, education, and health services.

A just and secure society must work with and listen to First Nations. First Nations must be treated as partners and the relationship with the federal government must transition to a positive, constructive one where real solutions to the challenges faced by members of First Nations communities across Canada are sought and implemented together.

I will also continue to work on the issue of justice reform. It is not enough to be tough on crime, we must be smart on crime. Our justice system must be more efficient, more effective, and be given the tools it needs to do the work asked of it. We need more predictable outcomes where the principles of denunciation and deterrence are real disincentives to those who would consider criminal pursuits a reasonable choice. We must do more to prevent crime before it occurs, and ensure that the criminal justice system does not become a permanent stand in for a real mental health strategy.

The decision to enter the race for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada was a difficult one. There were considerations for my family, my career, and of course an understanding that significant financial contribution would be required. I cannot thank my family, my friends, my campaign team, and my supporters enough. Words cannot describe the debt I owe to all of you. We often hear words of thanks and appreciation from politicians’ lips, but I now know that such words have more weight, more meaning, and more gratitude than I could imagine. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who made my participation in this race possible.

As hard as it was to make the decision to enter the race, the decision to withdraw was even harder. All the same considerations were present, but there was also an opportunity to put into action my beliefs, my principles and my values. There was an opportunity to speak about real ideas and the need to do politics differently. Unfortunately, my desire to speak out and my belief that we must take real action will have to be pursued in a different forum; but it will be pursued.

I intend to run for office as a Member of Parliament in 2015, and will continue to advocate for the things I believe in and work to make my corner of the world a better place.

Thank you again to all of you who supported the campaign in big and small ways. I look forward to personally meeting with, talking to as many of you as possible in the days ahead and look forward to 2015 and making sure we are building the Canada of possibility and the Canada of our dreams that we so desire.

Thoughts on the Tour

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I have driven across the country, stopping in smaller towns and cities, to talk and listen to Canadians. The experience was exhilarating, enlightening, and frankly humbling.

It is a great privilege to drive across the country and get a real feel for what concerns Canadians in their daily lives. It teaches you the value of what Canada has to offer the world and what Canadians have to offer each other.

Canadians are more engaged and more thoughtful than we are given credit for. What I discovered is that when you stop and actually listen to people they are willing to share their ideas, their hopes and aspirations for themselves, their communities, and their country. The quality of the ideas they shared was impressive, and often left me scratching my head and asking, “why can`t the federal government do that” and “why aren’t we trying that approach.”

I also learned that what connects us, and what unites us is far greater than what divides us. We are concerned about each other, our economy, and whether the next generation will have the same opportunities we have enjoyed. We want a country where the federal government does not adopt short sighted policy for political gain, but acts in the best interests of the whole country with a long term vision of what Canada can and should be.

When I started this trip I was motivated by a desire to change the country, but I found that Canada changed me. There are real problems we must face, and challenges to overcome, but I am more optimistic than ever that the solutions we are looking for are here, if we listen to each other, respect each other, and work together to build the Canada of opportunity we dream of.

Southern and Western Ontario

I knew that southern Ontario had been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and consequences of the financial crisis. However, it is one thing to read about the impact, and it is another to sit and listen to people tell their stories.

As I travelled to Burlington, Brantford and London, and spoke to folks about the economy and jobs, it was made clear to me that it is not only high unemployment that has people here concerned, it’s a sense that there is nothing that can be done.

Even as I stopped in Chatham to talk to folks and listen to their concerns, I learned that the newspaper where I was going to do an interview had fired half of its staff that very morning.

We stopped in Windsor, once the great centre of auto manufacturing, and confirmed that too many people there were also out of work. Many folks talked about job training and how the government was trying to help, but seemed to be training people for jobs that did not exist.

Even in this environment, however, there were signs of hope. A couple of young entrepreneurs who opened a skater shop in downtown Windsor were working with others to try and building a community of small business that could attract customers back to the core. In Chatham, a local gallery had established a community on the beautiful old main street and as a result attracted a variety of local business to set up shop in the neighbourbood.

Perhaps one of the hardest hit towns we visited was Goderich, where the closing of a Volvo plant and the devastation of a tornado would lead you to think that the town was in real trouble. But that’s not what we found. We found a place where a spirit of optimism was profound, and the desire to rebuild and forge a future for the community was unbowed.

The desire to work, an interest in building community, and the vision to plan for the future were everywhere we went and I am confident southern Ontario can and will be an economic driver for Canada again.

sad to say, but I’m on my way.....

From Sydney and across Cape Breton to the Canso causeway, we drove back to the mainland. We made stops in Antigonish, New Glasgow, and Bedford on our way to Halifax. It was a blast to be back in my old stomping grounds, check out the old haunts and places I lived, and to see how much Halifax has changed.

After graduating from Dalhousie, I left Halifax at the height of the last major recession because the opportunities seemed limited. I often wonder what my life might have looked like had I stayed in the Maritimes and tried to make a life for myself here.

Fate had me move west as a young man, and here I was once again saying so long to Halifax, but not good bye, as our campaign bus rolled out across Nova Scotia back into New Brunswick and Quebec.

I love the bilingual feel and spirit of New Brunswick and it carried me into Quebec, eager to talk to folks about Quebec, Canada, and our common future.

The conversations I had in Quebec were informative and moving.  I met an older gentleman who was illiterate and who shared stories of his life growing up under a Duplessis government. Many people I spoke with expressed concern that Canada is spending too much on armaments, and not enough on education, job training and healthcare. Of course, given recent events in Quebec, people wanted to talk about corruption and the need for transparency in government, something that is close to my heart as Crown Prosecutor working to protect the public and the public interest.

The popularity of the campaign and the need to really do politics differently seems to be catching on. After spending a lot of time talking to folks who are not Liberals, something the Liberal Party needs to do more of, we are also meeting with Liberals on the ground who are looking for an alternative. A great gathering in Kingston and the Islands, Ontario, with very active Liberals is just one example of how Liberals of all views are engaged in the leadership contest and they want to know where the candidates stand on the issues.

I look forward to talking, and listening to more folks as we continue this amazing cross Canada road trip.

 

From Bonavista to Vancouver Island

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... this land was made for you and me.

We left Vancouver Island about one month ago and have travelled across the country to Newfoundland. We have stopped in small communities, towns, and cities across the country to talk to Canadians where they live, work, and play.

We drove across Newfoundland, from Port Aux Basques to St. John’s. There, we spent some time with the Townies (as the rest of Newfoundland call people who live in the cities) and visited the historic town of Brigus.

I spent an amazing week-end in the heart of the Liberal community with Liberals from all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Federal and Provincial Liberals from across the country gathered in Gander to celebrate renewal and to re-establish those personal connections which are so important, not just in politics but in life.

What a warm reception for a Liberal from so far away. The ties that bind this country were evident from the get go as we shared stories of government cut backs to search and rescue services that have affected both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The debate over the Muskrat falls hydro-electric project also dominated many conversations. Those discussions, and talk about tough economic times in much of Newfoundland and Labrador (despite recently becoming a “have” province because of a resource boom) reminded me of what real federal leadership could accomplish when a government understands that it can make a difference in people’s lives and be the helping hand to make sure everyone shares in the prosperity of the country.

After Gander, we drove back across the Island, stopping in places like Corner Brook and Stephenville. At the Tim Hortons in Corner Brook a long time mill worker simply asked that I work to get rid of a federal government that does not understand Newfoundland. A bicycle shop owner said that making paper would not support the town forever and that a plan was needed to diversify the economy and grow the tourism sector. In Stephenville, the owner of an electronic shop and the owner of the local taxi company both felt that their tax dollars were not being spent wisely. Everywhere we went there was an appetite for a strong Federal Liberal party to represent the interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who feel like their voice is not heard in our Confederation.

The people of Newfoundland, known for their hospitality, exceeded their reputation and we are sorry to be leaving such a warm and friendly place. We did not get to Bonavista this time, but I have a new appreciation for the similarities between Canada’s east and west coast. I sure hope we can return soon.

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