I thought it might be useful to explain a little about how I came to support Nathan for the leadership of the NDP. In the past, my support for NDP candidates has always been based on friendship and acquaintanceship.
I supported Jack Layton when he decided to run for the NDP leadership and Paul Dewar when he decided he would like to take a crack at Ottawa Centre. Both of these decisions were very easy to make. Jack and I worked together on many city issues when he was a Toronto City Councillor and President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and I have been a long admirer of the Dewar family. It was very easy to support Paul in his desire to become the new MP for Ottawa Centre.
My support for Nathan doesn’t come from a long acquaintanceship or any acquaintanceship at all. He is a member of Parliament from north- west British Columbia and I’ve always been an Ottawa boy. Tonight is the first chance I’ve had to meet him in person.
So how is it I’ve come to support someone I’ve never met before? The answer lies in our times. We are living in unique political conditions. There never has been anything like it before in Canada. Remember most of the really important achievements of Canadian governments have been collaborative ones.
Medicare was the result of the NDP, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives supporting a national health program. Canada’s stature as U.N. peace keeper was created by all parties. We were famous for keeping the peace, not joining in wars. It was John Diefenbaker, a progressive conservative who said ‘no to American missiles’ on Canadian soil.
At home, our governments had the idea that we should protect our small farmers with supply based management, protect our citizens with pensions in their elder years, that the environment mattered, that carrying a gun was a privilege, not a right, that prison should focus on rehabilitation not punishment. I could spend a long time tonight listing the absolutely relentless attack on all of these achievements because the changes have been so numerous and profound.
Canada has never had religious based decision making. Our politicians have been able to separate church and state. It was Pierre Trudeau, a Roman Catholic Prime Minister who created the freedom to choose legislation for women. With this government, all this has changed. It is a government founded on blame, punishment and militarism, not generosity, optimism and conciliation. This bullying is literally tearing apart the country. Justin Trudeau’s outburst was a cri de Coeur that many of us were relieved to hear. Finally a politician speaking with his heart not a political calculator.
When I decided to support Mr. Cullen, it was based on one very simple commitment he made early on in his campaign. He recognized how grave this threat was to our nation and was prepared to work with other parties to put Canada first to relieve the nation of this belief based government.
This is what Canadians are asking for and it’s not a lot. For just one election, they want federal candidates to park their partisan ambitions for their own party and put Canada first. It’s not much. One election. One government to bring in election reform that will make a multi-party system an advantage not a liability. Excepting the United States and Britain, this reform will put us in the same ballpark as every other modern democracy. We are desperate for it.
Since 1988 when two out of three Canadians voted against free trade but Mr. Mulroney was elected with 40 per cent of the vote and brought in Free Trade, there has been a steady decline in participation in all federal elections.
Remember Mr. Mulroney had exactly the same reaction to his 40 per cent victory as Mr. Harper does today with his. It was his way or the highway. Nothing has changed except it has become worse. It is clear now Mr. Harper has neither a popular majority, nor a Parliamentary majority. The most recent scandal, the Robo calls masquerading as legitimate information from election Canada on poll locations have invalidated every election that they were used in. It is inconsequential who was responsible for them. It could have been Santa Claus. What matters is that they were done because they compromised the ability of many Canadians to vote. They were the electronic equivalent of sending thugs out to stop people from getting to the polls.
As the extent and the consequences of these automated calls begins to be understood I am confident that Parliament will have no choice but to demand by-elections. The only other choice will be to withdraw from participating in a government that no longer has the authority to govern. The seriousness of this situation cannot be overstated. At the moment, we could have an illegally elected government commit the nation to another war.
The word unique is often misused in ordinary conversation. It does not mean special. It it means a singular event, an event like no other. The Harper false minority-majority is a unique event. Canadians have never seen anything like it before.
Nathan Cullen is the only candidate for the NDP leadership who seems to understand the gravity of the crisis Canada is presently facing and has been prepared to say at this moment in our history, ‘Canada must come first.’
Canadians deserve this kind of leader. People are busy paying their mortgages, their taxes, raising their children, they elect and pay politicians to govern well and protect them from malfeasance. We’re letting them down. It is now more than 20 years, a clear majority of Canadians have been voting against their own government, not for it. We have to change the electoral system so we can stop this and create true majorities and honest debate.
Harper is banking on the NDP and the Liberals never having the imagination to do anything but fight each other. Each one hoping they will be more successful in the next election. Nor does he worry about election fraud. Remember the last time Elections Canada had an election fraud scandal to deal with – the ‘in and out’ financial manipulation that allowed the Conservatives to spend more than the allowed limit on advertising? They charged the Conservative Party $25,000.
I stand before you not as a former Ottawa City Councillor, not as a francophone or an anglophone but as a Canadian and I want to see that commitment to my country, its heritage and values reflected in our political leaders. I believe that I can see it best in Nathan Cullen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Nathan Cullen.