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Thursday, May 07, 2009

guest post: 'i've never felt more inspired to start a political movement in alberta.'

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.


Anonymous said...

308 riding strategy sounds good but flies in the face of political reality. If Ignatief actually gives all ridings equal resources he will net a lower seat count than even Dion did.

But of course Iggy comes from the tradition of all great Liberal leaders. Like Martin and Chretian before him, Ignatief understands that what you say needs to have zero connection with what you actually do. So he'll tell all of Alberta's Liberals he has a 308 riding strategy right up until the election. However during the election itself expect to hear little and see even less of Iggy in our province. He'll make one or two token appearances here and that will be all.

But hey, who doesn't like being lied to? After all, the Liberals were going to cut the GST, get us out of NAFTA and implement a national child care system. Liberal lies always feel really good, right up until you notice you were lied to.

Chandler Kent said...

Ouch, man. So much for encouraging Caitlin's new-found positivity. Don't listen to cynical old Anonymous at 10:22, Caitlin. I disagree with pretty much everything your party and your leader believes in, but I hope you stay involved in politics. It can be, and should be, fun and sometimes you can make a difference. Good post!

SD said...

Caitlin, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the one member one vote debate from an Alberta perspective. Seems to me that would make the party's Toronto supporters in complete control? What's your take?

Ps. Dave, I think these occasional guest posts are really interesting.

Aden said...

Ditto Chandler on positivity and SD on the awesomeness of guest posts.

I'd welcome the increased political debate in Alberta and am not yet disillusioned with Ignatieff. However, Caitlin, you unconsciously brought up my greatest problem with the Liberal Party of Canada: "...the kickstart the party needs to regain power." The philosophy of power-over-principle seems to dominate the Liberal Party, and while it has historically served them well, it also means that a Liberal government would not stand up for good public policy if it meant losing an election. If the Liberals had been in power in the 80s, they wouldn't have risked the political crucifixion of joining NAFTA and moving from the manufacurers' sales tax to the GST. These were good, but unpopular public policies which I doubt the Liberals would have risked.
Likewise, Chretien has as terrible a track record as Harper for climate change policy. We'll miss Kyoto because Chretien decided it'd be better to sit on his hands than make an unpopular decision.
I understand that the cynics and realpolitik types will sneer at the naïvety of this, but I can't trust a party whose only overriding concern is its own well-being.
But then again, I'm a Green, so winning is obviously not my primary concern.

Nastyboy said...

Who are you kidding?

The LPC always gives lip service to Alberta. Until the writ gets dropped and they return to their "screw the west, get the rest" ways.

The LPC hates Alberta and views us with contempt. Always have, always will.

Anonymous said...

Aden, do you honestly believe the Conservatives to be less interested in retaining power? Look at the last budget for a prime example of complete abandonment of principle.

Aden said...

Heh heh, yeah. I'm still laughing at the irony of Harper fighting his entire life to beat the Liberals, only to find out that he has to become one to stay in power.

Corina5070 said...

To Nastyboy, if you saw some of the grassroots organizing that is going on these days for the Liberal party in Alberta you might disagree. I think Liberals in Alberta need to stop looking to the LPC to solve all the problems that the Liberals have as a party in this province. The Liberals in Alberta first need to show that we are willing to put in the work on the ground before we can expect the LPC to put in effort.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting article that might cause you to think twice about a lot of things. Give it a read. Is what he says true?