Last night Justin Trudeau made it official: he is running for the leadership of the Liberal Party. And he launched his run with a doozy of a speech.
I would be lying if I didn't say it gave me goosebumps and that I am officially glad he's in the running. So much about this speech seems right to me. The acknowledgement of national accomplishments in terms of the social safety net, the economy, and multiculturalism. The acknowledgement of shortcomings, especially in regards to First Nations Canadians. The invocation of trust and community as basic Canadian values. The determination to restore faith in government as an agent of positive change.
I'd also be lying if I wasn't made profoundly uncomfortable by aspects of this speech. The invocation of the Canadian middle class seemed heavy-handed to me; I understand the Liberal Party's traditional appeal to wide swaths of the middle class, but shutting out working class voters doesn't seem like a win. The attacks on the NDP seemed awkward and nonsensical ("stoking resentment" and "blaming the successful"? Uh, no, Justin, I don't think that's a fair critique of the NDP's positions. Fail.)
Much better, I thought, was the repudiation of Liberal arrogance as the party that "built" Canada. Emphasizing the accomplishments of all Canadians strikes me as a much better way of attracting those same Canadians into the Liberal Party, rather than, explicitly or implicitly, defining the Liberal Party's constituency by class.
Still, it was an absolutely well-done, and genuinely moving speech from someone who, I am prepared to believe, is absolutely genuine in his desire to serve his country. Most of the values he invoked are also me at the heart of what I also love about Canada, and I suspect I am not alone in his audience. It has been a very long time since the Liberals had a leader who could wield genuine empathy and charisma alongside intellect and political skill. It's been a long time since I saw a Liberal who could outline a dream and make me want to come along with him on the journey of achieving it. Put simply, the speech moved and inspired me. I wish Mr. Trudeau luck in re-invigorating the Liberal leadership race.
(Again, full text is available at Justin.ca, Trudeau's website.)
Favourite quotes below:
My friends : I love Montréal. I love Québec. And I am in love with Canada.
... So I’m here to ask for your help, because this road will be one long, Canadian highway. We will have ups and downs. Breathtaking vistas and a few boring stretches. And with winter coming, icy patches.
... This new idea that diversity is strength. Not a challenge to be overcome or a difficulty to be tolerated. That is the heart and soul of the Canadian success story.
... I’ve too often heard it said in Liberal circles that the Liberal Party created Canada. This, my friends, is wrong.
The Liberal Party did not create Canada. Canada created the Liberal Party.
Canadians created the Liberal Party.
The great, growing and optimistic middle class of the last century created a big-hearted, broad-minded consensus. And built a better country. For themselves, yes. But more important, for each other, and for their children.
Canadians built medicare.
Canadians built an open and dynamic economy.
Canadians welcomed newcomers from around the world into their communities and businesses.
Canadians developed an independent foreign policy, and when necessary, bled for our values in faraway lands.
Canadians brought their constitution home.
Canadians demanded that their inalienable rights and freedoms be placed above the reach of politics.
And Canadians balanced the budget.
The Liberal Party was their vehicle of choice. It was the platform for their aspirations, not their source.
... We know what Canadian families want. Good jobs. A dynamic and growing economy that allows us to educate our kids as they mature, and to care for our parents as they age.
We want a compassionate society that pulls together to help the vulnerable, and gives the less fortunate a chance at success.
We know that Canada is the freest society on Earth because we trust each other. So we want a government that looks at Canadians with respect, not suspicion. That celebrates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That believes in your choices, your values and your liberty.
... And directly, to our First Nations, the Canadian reality has not been – and continues to not be – easy for you. We need to become a country that has the courage to own up to its mistakes and fix them together, people to people. Your place is not on the margins. It is at the very heart of who we are and what we are yet to become.
... I do not present myself as a man with all the answers. In fact, I think we’ve had quite enough of that kind of politics.
But I do know I have a strong sense of this country. Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go. And I believe I can bring new forces to bear on old problems. I can convince a new generation of Canadians that their country needs them. That it values their energy, ingenuity and vision. Together, we can convince young Canadians that serving this great country is its own reward.
... Think about it for a moment: when was the last time you had a leader you actually trusted? And not just the nebulous “trust to govern competently”, but actually trusted, the way you trust a friend to pick up your kids from school, or a neighbor to keep your extra front door key? Real trust? That’s a respect that has to be earned, step by step.
... And We Canadians live in a blessed country. We are the most diverse people on Earth, yet we are peaceful. We are tough but we are compassionate. We are confident, but we work hard and we earn it. We have resources that are the envy of the world.
Let us pledge to one another to match those resources with resourcefulness. Let us rededicate ourselves to the glorious, improbable, work-in-progress that is Canada. And to serve its people through the only party willing to speak to and for all Canadians: the Liberal Party of Canada.
So tonight, Sophie and I draw on our love for our family and offer up all we have in service to Canada, and to each and every one of you.