With the results of the Liberal leadership to be announced Sunday, candidate Martha Hall Findlay e-mailed Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse Friday to express her concerns over the future of the party. Here is her full e-mail.
This leadership campaign has certainly been interesting.
I went in with eyes wide open, certainly recognizing the circumstances and not-insignificant challenges. So why? One of the main reasons I ran is my strong view that the Party and its leadership need to be much clearer on economics and the "hows" of achieving economic prosperity for Canadians: trade, markets and ensuring competitive business environments, as well as on the economics of things like child care and early learning. Compassion and equal opportunity are critical to me, but I'm also happy to make the economic arguments for universal child care anytime.
As I write this, the results of the leadership have not been announced, but win or lose it was and is important to me that that voice be heard. I am of what I call the "Martin, Manley, McKenna, MacLaren" persuasion. While I am very progressive on most social issues, I am a business-oriented free-trader, support development of our energy and other natural resources.
(Although as an environmentalist as well, do not see a conflict but rather opportunities for development and best-in-the-world environmental efforts going hand in hand. Indeed, your paper published a piece of mine a while back advocating a national energy-infrastructure strategy, including the possible benefits to other regions of a west-to-east pipeline option.)
There are, however, many Liberals who are economically protectionist, anti-"big corporations," and anti-development environmentalists.
We are all entitled to our views, something I greatly respect, and the Liberal Party has benefited in the past from being a "big tent." But the Liberal Party needs to clarify which of those rather fundamentally different directions it will take. Unfortunately, with a lack of real substantive debate, this leadership campaign has done little to get us there.
Whichever direction that is, clarity is needed. In considering whether to support us in 2015, Canadians will want to know just what our vision for this country is, and how we propose to achieve it – with more than vague generalities.
The next two years will be fascinating. There are some who suggest a two-election strategy – that the Liberal Party should "go left" to take on Thomas Mulcair for 2015, and then focus on the next one.
There are many others (me included) who believe that, with Canadians' increasing disenchantment with the current Harper regime, the Liberal Party could win in 2015 – but with an economically oriented platform that would attract a large number of disenfranchised progressive conservatives, business-oriented liberals, "red Tories," call them what you will. They, and so many other Canadians, will be looking for an economically capable yet more progressive alternative to Stephen Harper. The other day, Frank McKenna was quoted as having said that Canada needs parties that are "of moderate inclinations, fiscally conservative, socially progressive and managerially competent". I agree with him – as usual – although I'd prefer a little "bold" sometimes instead of always "moderate."
In my view, three of the biggest issues that the Liberal Party will need to address prior to the next election, firmly and clearly, will be free trade, health care and what we do about retirement and old-age security.
On trade, Liberals are quite deeply divided. Some are free-traders like me, strongly believing that our future prosperity will depend on embracing global opportunities. Some are much more protectionist. Some will say that they support free trade, but, for example, continue to support supply management, which just doesn't fit with a pro-trade agenda. It will deny us the Trans-Pacific partnership opportunity, is reducing our leverage (as always) now with CETA [the European free-trade agreement] and who knows how much insisting on maintaining it will limit our access to other markets, particularly the large and fast-growing Asian-Pacific ones. But there is currently very little political will in senior Liberal ranks to take on that challenge.
On health care: Many, many Liberals balk at ideas such as greater private delivery within the single-tier publicly funded system (notwithstanding the successes of places like The Shouldice Clinic), or that greater competition in delivery could lead to greater innovation and efficiency (even within the single tier, universal access publicly funded system that I strongly want to maintain). There are some who would prefer the approach suggested by Roy Romanow in his report; others who point instead to ideas from the work by Senators Kirby and Keon. One thing is clear: we can't just keep spending more and more money. So far, however, we have refused to take our heads out of the sand and have a frank discussion about this. The Liberal Party needs to decide which direction we're going to take, and make some clear proposals to Canadians.
On retirement and old age security: This is, as some have called it, our "demographic ticking time bomb." Over the last while I have offered some thoughts, and even some pretty "out there" ideas such as a CPP account for every Canadian and a portion of each person's taxes being allocated to that account. I don't know if that's the right thing to do – it would take more study – but we need at least to be tossing ideas around. The problem, as we know too well, is that people aren't saving enough for themselves (even though they should); incentives like RRSPs only work for the minority that will probably be fine anyway; and as a society we're going to have a big burden, very soon. The Liberal Party's reaction to Stephen Harper moving the OAS age to 67 was to simply say "we'll move it back to 65." Neither approach comes close to addressing the complex challenge. Canadians are living much longer, with all sorts of consequences, and we need to get serious about this.
Needless to say, there are many other challenges facing the country, and many challenges facing the Liberal Party as we work to be the clear choice for Canadians in 2015 – but at least it's some food for thought for you.
Thanks for reading,