The wisdom of youth

"Outside of the Yukon, it's getting really embarrassing to be a Liberal; much as I want, it's getting really hard to support the party as a whole." That's what the territory's Young Liberal president wrote on Tuesday, in an email that was obtained by Public Eye after being distributed to select party members and elected officials. Conal Slobodin sent that message following the absence of seven Grit senators allowed the Harper administration's budget bill to pass the Red Chamber with a number of controversial provisions intact. "Today I don't think I've been more angered or embarrassed to be a Liberal. I can't even go and say the Liberals voted against such a bill..."

"We are becoming a shadow of our former self," Mr. Slobodin continued, having praised the party's past policies. "It seems to me that we've been cowed, and are praying that Harper's shadow passes over us, but we're not trying to do anything about it ourselves. We're listless, undisciplined, and we're no longer fighting the good fight."

That being said, Mr. Slobodin stated, "The Liberal Party will always be my party, we have amazing MPs, hardworking volunteers, and a great legacy. I have always felt it to be a strong and loyal family representative of its members, but perhaps that is the problem. We need to start representing Canadians instead."

"Unlike our polls, I sincerely do not believe that (party leader) Michael Ignatieff is out of touch with Canadians. I just think the Liberal Party is; from top to bottom. I'm sick and tired of waiting for better days. Today has left me wondering what the Liberal Party now stands for."

The following is a complete copy of that email.

***

From: Conal Slobodin
Date: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:15 PM
Subject: Letter from the Yukon Young Liberal President to the Liberal Party on the Senate Budget Vote

Dear All,

I'm writing to you today because after the past couple of months I've been having a mounting feeling of frustration, and this past vote in the Senate really pushed me to express my opinion. I have been a Liberal a quarter of my life, and I now write as a Canadian, a Liberal, and the Yukon Young Liberal President.

Outside of the Yukon, it's getting really embarrassing to be a Liberal; much as I want, it's getting really hard to support the party as a whole. A lot of this frustration honestly began back in January when the Youth Commission had its annual in-face meeting in Quebec City. I must say that afterwards, I felt extremely disenchanted in the party's future path, and I know I'm not the only one.

My issues with the party have never been policy related. That was a significant reason why I joined back in 2005. This is after all the party that led us into Kandahar, the Party that kept us out of Iraq, the party of the Green Shift, the party that let the Yukon pass an Arctic Sovereignty policy in Vancouver last year, and the party that recently released a fantastic foreign policy that seriously restored much of my lost faith that Canada's days as a foreign policy player were over. When this party puts its minds together, it can really shine- and make a difference.

Everyday I read the Globe and Mail and the National Post, I read Maclean's when it comes reguarly in the mail, and I even read Le Devoir when I have time, and they're all saying the same thing, from Coyne to Bell to Martin- the Liberals aren't what they used to be. For me, this Senate Budget Bill really did it. We let it pass in House, but we rightly made such a commotion in the media over this bill when it came to the Senate. We even had a non-Liberal senator back the amendments of the bill that prevented changes to the AECL and Canada Post. Then SEVEN Senators didn't show up- and the bill failed by only four. Part of me wants to imagine that they're really sick in bed, but that's not the case, because four of our Senators who could have stayed home for health reasons did the right thing and showed up to vote.

This is the attitude that has encouraged Harper to create omnibus bills, bury aspects of legislation in paper and in the wrong committees, and away from public eye. This week I had hope- we had caught the Conservatives, had a real chance to drag them out onto the national stage, then Senator Finley threatens an election over something, in my mind, that is so principally Liberal and Canadian, and we head for the hills. This could have been a political issue, and moral one that could've been a hill worth dying on, especially if our new Foreign Policy had come out to play after the results of the G-8 and G-20 summits. This also was one of the best examples in years of why we have a Senate, a Chamber of sober second thought.

Every time this happens we look weak and divided, and the Globe and Mail, Maclean's, and the National Post all wrote columns saying it would happen. Paul Wells called us the Junior partner in Harper's coalition, calling us, as a partner, more stable than Angela Merkel's partner in Germany. I think he's right.

Today I don't think I've been more angered or embarrassed to be a Liberal. I can't even go and say the Liberals voted against such a bill, because it's a sadder statement that we really could have prevented it.

We are becoming a shadow of our former self. If it wasn't for the individualized battles for constituencies, we'd be in serious trouble. More and more it seems that the Liberal Party is applying bandages, trying to keep members from leaving. Our MPs are silent, either that or they're causing disastrous problems for us in the press. We are no longer a Loyal Opposition. It seems to me that we've been cowed, and are praying that Harper's shadow passes over us, but we're not trying to do anything about it ourselves. We're listless, undisciplined, and we're no longer fighting the good fight. The one lesson I walked away with from playing sports in high school is that if you stoop to your opponent's level, you're bound to lose, and this seems to be the case.

This January, before the National YLC meeting, I organized the 63rd Queen's Model Parliament in the House of Commons. Not only was I impressed in the level of support and turnout of the Liberal Party, but I also saw 350 students, both passionate and engaged in politics, wanting to make a difference and learn how to do it. I have to say that at Queen's Model Parliament, after the national reaction to the prorogation, I heard the fire in MPs like Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Larry Bagnell, and Justin Trudeau, and it has never made me feel prouder to be a Canadian or a Liberal. However six months later, I can't help but think they're in for an apathetic future.

This week we polled below 24%. That didn't bother me. What bothered me is from Facebook to Fredericton we're more concerned with the Liberal Express Tour than we are with what transpired in the Senate. What happened? Is it that we're all so preoccupied in making Michael Ignatieff Prime Minister that we failed to look at what brought us here as Liberals? It's a dark day when the National Editor of Maclean's writes an article with the title, "Is the Liberal Party in danger of becoming irrelevant". Imagine- the party of Laurier, King, Pearson, and Trudeau being called irrelevant. We took the right stances on the Boer War and the Second World War, in the fight against conscription, in the fight for medicare and welfare, for natural resource expansion, international functionalism, and human rights. Our party brought in immigrants in the 1900s and 1950s that defined the shape and future of Canada- my family was among them.

One hundred years ago we went down to defeat fighting tooth and nail for a Canadian Navy.

I'd rather fight an election over something of principle, something so intrinsically Canadian, something that defines us. That's a fight we'd win; that's a fight we'd be proud of.

The Liberal Party will always be my party, we have amazing MPs, hardworking volunteers, and a great legacy. I have always felt it to be a strong and loyal family representative of its members, but perhaps that is the problem. We need to start representing Canadians instead. Unlike our polls, I sincerely do not believe that Michael Ignatieff is out of touch with Canadians. I just think the Liberal Party is; from top to bottom. I'm sick and tired of waiting for better days. Today has left me wondering what the Liberal Party now stands for.

Conal Slobodin

Yukon Young Liberal President

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