This past weekend, I had the privilege in taking part in the Liberal Party of Canada's Convention in Vancouver. It was a fantastic new experience for me, one which I will never forget, and it was my first foray into real politics. And I wasn’t disappointed.
There were the highs and lows expected from politics. Surprisingly, most of the lows I witnessed were within the Young Liberals of Canada. There’s nothing like extremely ambitious young Canadians vying for coveted positions to put politics in perspective. Everyone is striving to make themselves a name strong enough to grab the attention of party insiders and political superstars like Bob Rae, Alfred Apps, and Michael Ignatieff. Of the three contested races, I followed the race for VP Policy the closest. Timothy Smith and Pierre-Luc Lacoste both ran admirable campaigns, but Lacoste’s French connection won out in the end.
Besides some shameful and money wasting efforts on behalf of youth candidates to get elected, it was the lack of young women involved that caught my attention. Of the 10 positions filled, only two are held by women, and neither of them ran in contested races. The party is trying to focus on re-growth and renewal with an emphasis on gender parity and with youth often being the most progressive members of a party, parity should be high on the list of things to-do for the Young Liberals of Canada.
After this weekend thought, I’m feeling more positive about being a Liberal in Alberta. I’ve often felt ostracized and many have attempted to make me feel ashamed of my membership, but I’ve never backed down, and now, I have a reason not to. The Liberal Party is starting to focus on Alberta instead of ignoring it and chalking it up as a lost cause. The new election strategy is shaping up to be a “308 riding strategy” in which each riding, no matter how hopeless, should receive help from the central party to win an election. It will be an uphill battle in rural Alberta, regardless of how much money and how many "big name Liberals" the party throws at it. Even Alberta Liberals know this. I didn't meet one Albertan who felt that their rural riding could be won easily, let alone at all.
However, I've never felt more inspired to start a political movement in Alberta. If the convention did nothing else, it certainly inspired some questioning Liberals to believe in the party again. Ignatieff seems to be the inspiration and the kick-start the party needs regain power. Earlier today I heard that the Liberals are up in the polls, ahead of the Conservatives, but that does not mean we are ready for an election. Major fundraising needs to be done before the party is ready to run a successful campaign. For the “308 riding strategy” to be effective, the party needs some disposable income, which it does not have.
All in all, it was an exciting weekend, and regardless of your party, everyone should get involved. The convention inspired me to get actively involved, and hopefully others will follow suit.
Caitlin Schulz was the only youth delegate from the Wetaskiwin riding south of Edmonton for the 2009 Liberal Convention in Vancouver. She is in her fourth year of studies at the University of Alberta, majoring in Political Science.