Tuesday, August 09, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: AN OPEN LETTER TO STEPHEN HARPER
Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C.
Leader, Official Opposition
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Harper:
RE: The Future of Canada
As a member in good standing of the Conservative Party of Canada, I thought I would express my concerns with the subject above. First, let me tell you a little about myself, as we have only met once (I was the handsome bald man at the Toronto dinner). I was born in Calgary but moved to Ontario when I started public school. Like many Canadians, I was raised in a household that discussed current events and encouraged free expression of ideas. My family is also proudly Canadian. For as long as I can remember, my parents spoke of a strong country that could always be counted on to do what needed to be done both at home and abroad. Its values were rooted in common sense and community and Canada warmly welcomed success and new ideas.
Canadians were never afraid to do the right thing, for themselves or for the country.
In October, my wife and I will welcome our first child into the world. Along with experiencing all the joys an expectant father, my thoughts have increasingly returned to what kind of a country we are bringing our child to. I can say without hesitation that I am worried. This is why I write to you today.
In many respects, this great country has lost its confidence. Once influential on the world stage, Canada has now been relegated to an afterthought in both diplomatic and military circles. Our once proud military relies on other countries to fill in the operational gaps and our top generals are ridiculed by sitting MPs as being "truly barbaric" for talking openly and frankly about the jobs of soldiers in battle. Our Prime Minister seeks the company of rock stars, and even they are disappointed in his efforts in other countries. We watch passively as nations in Europe and Asia match then exceed Canada in productivity and economic growth, wondering why that doesn't happen here.
On the home front, Canadians are afraid. Many of our citizens hold on desperately to iconic symbols such as universal healthcare, scared that any change will mean the end of Canada as they know it. Intuitively, Canadians know something is wrong. Younger people hear grand stories about this country's past, but those tales don't seem to match up with the Canada they know. Innovators are looked upon with indifference and receive a "good luck" and a wave goodbye when they pack up for greener pastures to the south or to the east. Businesses both big and small face a regulatory steeplechase while being burdened with more and more taxes. Canadians fret the fact that Canada has lost its luster, but shy away from new ideas.
Real dialogue in this country has devolved into the equivalent of a late night infomercial. Its now about who has the easiest, most convenient answers for today instead of what is the best plan for tomorrow. Political discourse focuses on the art of "gotcha" politics, where its more about destroying your opponents than debating them. We have fallen into an "us vs. them" mentality where those who disagree with you are evil and hateful, or just plain enemies of Canada looking to dismantle our collective way of life.
This is the country my child will inherit. This is what worries me.
This is where you come in.
In these lazy days of summer, there has been a lot of discussion with what is wrong with you and the Conservative Party. Pundits talk endlessly about your personality, your leadership style, your suits, your bar-b-quing skills, etc. There is also much discussion about why the Conservatives have not been able to overtake the tired Martin Liberals, even while they are currently awash in scandal. Party members wring their hands over bias in the media and the erosion of Canadian values. Allow me, if I may, to impart some advice as one Party member to another.
Lead, Mr. Harper.
Canadians across the political spectrum are looking for real leadership in this country. They aren't worried about who kisses the most babies; they want to know who they can trust their baby's future to. Citizens of this country long for a bold vision of Canada that improves on what makes this country great, but also prescribes specific remedies for what ails it. This goes beyond lines in an election platform. This is about how you would mold this country, if given a chance. Don't just tell us what's wrong with Canada, tell us how you would make it better than it ever has been.
Dream, Mr. Harper.
Tell us about how your experiences, education and other factors have brought you to your way of thinking. Get Canadians excited about what the future could hold if they think outside the box. And don't be afraid to think big. Ask Canadians to think big as well. They have shown time and time again that they have the smarts and the courage to take big steps forward. Tell them that this is once again that time in our nation's history. Ask them to join you in that journey to make this country great again.
Be confident, Mr. Harper.
Don't spend time worrying about how the media will "spin" your ideas, or that they are out to get you. Use them for what they are: disseminators of information. Talk to Canadians. Repeatedly. Let them be the ultimate judge on your vision of Canada. Lay it out in clear detail so Caandians can become comfortable on where the country is headed under your leadership. And if needed, tell them again. And again.
Do not waiver. If you are not willing to bet on your vision of the future, no one else will either. Show voters that you believe so strongly in your ideas, you are willing to stake your political future on it. Canadians will see that if you are ready to risk something so important to you for your plan, it must be worth a long look at.
I believe that if you proudly and boldly present you vision of Canada, Canadians will repond in kind. They want a better country too. They want to be global leaders. They want to be the envy of other countries. They want to be proud again. And they can be.
If you lead, I believe Canadians will follow.
I know I will.
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