We Need a New Generation of Canadian Leadership
To mark the official start of the federal Liberal leadership race, The Huffington Post Canada asked all the declared candidates to tell us, in their words, why they decided to run. Justin Trudeau, the Member of Parliament for the Montreal riding of Papineau, announced his bid for the Liberal leadership on October 2, 2012.
Our Canadian promise has never been too complicated. Work hard, we tell our kids, and you will have a better future than we did.
Today, for too many, that promise rings hollow. Youth unemployment last month stood at nearly 15 per cent, a higher rate than this spring, and double the national average. Fewer young Canadians are employed now than were a year ago.
Most post-secondary students expect to leave school with more than $20,000 in debt, and more of them worry about paying for their classes than passing them. After graduation, unemployment and underemployment await, as housing prices rise and household debt levels continue to hit record highs.
Our challenge, simply put, is to restore the simple promise of Canadian society: to reward hard work, to restore the strength of our middle class, and to remove the barriers to success that too often stand between our people and our potential.
Because when students from low-income backgrounds are three times more likely to drop out of school, when more than 60 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds on our First Nations reserves have no high-school diploma, and when one-in-five Canadian teenagers, ages 15 to 19, never went back to school this fall, then our work as a country is far from finished — and the future that our children deserve is far from secure.
I want to lead the Liberal Party of Canada because I want to bring a new generation of Canadian leadership to bear on the challenges that we face. By empowering new Canadian voices, by inspiring public service and awakening public purpose, we can move our country forward together.
Our future demands leadership that answers to the middle class, not the political class, and that puts the public interest ahead of self-interest.
We need leaders who understand that our prosperity is only sustainable when it is shared. The taxes we pay must neither be an impediment to growth, nor a penalty for success; they are a commitment to one another, and the price we pay for a free society — free from the fear of destitution, secure in times of sickness and economic strain, with a government that fills the breach when markets fail.
That kind of leadership demands a new commitment to rise above the petty rivalries of our politics, and the short-term cynicism of divide-and-conquer tactics.
The success of our major industries — productive and extractive — is in our common interest, but so is their sustainability. To choose among them, as some would, is to choose an economy that is less robust and less fair for all of us.
Economic growth in different regions and population growth in our cities and suburbs will make our whole country stronger, but not if our small and remote communities struggle to survive.
We can attract investment from abroad, open new markets for our exports, and create jobs across Canada, but not without a coherent strategy; the current government’s scattershot approach and last-minute improvisations have made Canada a less attractive place for the world to do business. If we look past partisanship and ideology, and bet on evidence and sound public policy, only then can we protect our national interests without compromising our competitiveness.
We are a global society. Our diversity is our strength. The families, cultures, and languages that enrich our own communities also connect us to the world’s most exciting emerging markets. Celebrating difference has never been a sign of weakness; it is a sign of success in a shrinking world.
Canadians, and especially young Canadians, understand these opportunities instinctively. More than anyone, young people are invested in our country’s success; more than anyone, they bear the risk of failure.
Our task now is to give voice to their aspirations, to summon a new generation of leaders to give life to the Canadian promise, and to make the Liberal Party of Canada the vehicle for fresh new ideas and bold new dreams. That is the party that I want to lead.
To lead Canada is to make the kinds of hard choices that other countries can only imagine. My commitment is to decide based on evidence, not prejudice, to discard out-dated dogma and comfortable old assumptions, and to confront new challenges with new leadership.
It will not be easy. Real change never is. But together, we can begin — and we must begin today.