The shore of a lake, deep in the woods of Quebec, was my birthplace and my first classroom. Growing up in the bush, what I knew about life I learned from my parents and thirteen siblings; from the Elders and our small community; from the moose and beaver; the fish and birds; the trees and plants; and the very rock and soil that supported us all.
What I learned above all else was that each of us is connected. I learned that, by virtue of our connection we are interdependent, supporting and supported by each other. And I learned that our mutual reliance – our community – demands that we make the effort to understand and respect each other and the role each of us plays.
Reflecting on these fundamental truths, I find myself deeply concerned about our country, about the direction in which we are headed, and about our leadership.
I am troubled by the divisions that are being sewn between us as people, and between all of us who form part of the environment. These are the divisions of fear and mistrust and are familiar tactics to me. As a child, I was one of those taken from home to a residential school where the purpose was to divide us from our roots, our families and nature. We were taught fear and mistrust. I have seen the damage this does to people and to communities at home and in my work around the world. This is how you set people against each other and weaken a country.
I am dismayed at how easily we dismiss the needs of Canadians, the arrogance we show in acting as though any success is solely our own creation, the ignorance of believing that our future as a country can be separated from the success of its citizens. There are some among the privileged few who deliberately undervalue the contributions of the rest of Canadians, who believe that they are entitled to use what has been created by and belongs to us all in order to profit themselves alone. The growing gap between the rich and the rest of us is the result of this belief and it is in the process of sinking economies around the world.
I am appalled at how Stephen Harper and his “government” are eroding respect for Canada’s own laws and the very idea of governance itself. They ignore our international commitments, they undermine respect for our courts here at home, and they refuse to enforce or even accept their own legal obligations to Canadians. Then they call this strong leadership. This is how we lost our bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. This is why Canadians are disaffected, distanced from their own government and from their own role in civil society.
These actions are the manifestation of an ideology that is at fundamental odds with what we know to be our best interest as a country. These are the actions of a government that ignores the social, environmental and economic bottom lines. These are the actions of a government of and for the few, paid for by the many.
But you and I know there is a better way. We have a vision to share.Canada prospers when we forge the links that make us stronger.
Canada prospers when we invest in young people, providing the best education in the world without the crushing burden of enormous student debt.
Canada prospers when we are healthy: seniors, those living with disabilities, all of us regardless of income, receiving the best care in the world.
Canada prospers when community infrastructure anywhere in rural or urban Canada, on or off reserve, is as strong as everywhere else.
Canada prospers when immigrants and new Canadians receive the help they need to integrate, language training and credentials recognition, so that they can contribute to their fullest ability.
Canada prospers when all of us live in dignity, when everyone understands and shares in equal and equitable treatment under the law.
Canada prospers when we treat each other with fairness, when what we provide to our country reflects what we take in benefits, when we share in supporting others as our society supports each of us.
Canada prospers when we understand and respect all of our relations – each element of our environment, human and otherwise – in the certainty that we must act to sustain what sustains us.
Canada prospers when governments keep their promises, to everyone. When every commitment, contract or treaty signed is honoured, to the letter and in spirit, and when that is demonstrated, transparently and accountably.
Canada prospers when we share this vision for a strong, healthy, fair country. It prospers when we share in the effort of making that vision a reality and it prospers when we share in the benefits of our accomplishment.
I am running to lead the New Democratic Party of Canada, to become Leader of the Official Opposition and to become Prime Minister after the next election because I believe that, together, we can make this vision a reality.
I am asking you to share in this vision with me, to share it within the party, to share it with people from across Canada who will join our party to pursue it, and to share in the hope that it brings for all Canadians.
Share the vision.