The 2018 National Liberal Convention will welcome thousands of supporters from across Canada for innovative campaign training, policy discussions, special keynote speakers, and the election of the party's next National Board.
October 30, 2013
Thank you for inviting me.
It’s great to be back in Alberta.
I spent some great family time here this summer. Sophie, the kids and I took in a weekend in Banff, and then headed south on an RV trip through the Crowsnest Pass and onto B.C.
But the best time I spent here all summer, was the day spent digging out Jen Lannan’s basement in High River. It felt good to contribute, in a small way, to the incredible Albertan recovery effort.
Plus, little did I know, spending a day covered head to toe in mud prepared me well for what was waiting back in Parliament.
I want to talk this morning about the economy, and the big problem I think we need to solve, together.
But first, I want to be clear about why I keep coming back to Western Canada. I made Calgary the first stop on my leadership campaign last fall.
There were many, some within my camp, and many pundits on the outside, who questioned that decision. They said things like:
“It’s a waste of time; Liberals have no chance in Alberta.”
Others thought it was part of a grand strategy. They said:
“He either wants to show people he’s not his father, or that he’s as brave as his father.”
The truth is, I did that because I wanted to deliver a clear message.
This place is important: Calgary, Alberta, and all of Western Canada. It’s important now, and it will be even more important in the future – our shared future.
Those of us who aspire to positions of national leadership need to get that, or we will never truly be national leaders.
I sought the leadership of my party because I believe Canadians want a different kind of leader for their country. Someone who will talk straight to them, listen to them, and then act in their best interests.
They want someone who looks for ways to build on the many things we hold in common. They are tired of leaders who sow discord and seek political advancement by exploiting the divisions between us.
The malice, the negativity, the divisiveness: it might work politically in the short-term. But it’s corrosive over time.
It builds mistrust and suspicion. It fosters fear, and pits Canadians against one another.
And once we’re divided into camps – East against West, rich against poor, urban against rural – it’s very, very hard to come back together to solve problems.
This is not just a question of leadership style. It has very real, substantive consequences.
Many of you will know that last week in Washington, I told an audience of American liberals that I support the Keystone XL pipeline.
You might also have seen that I refused to criticize Mr. Harper or his government. Despite my many disagreements with the Prime Minister, I don’t think foreign soil is the place to air domestic disputes.
Well, now that I am comfortably back in Canada: let me unburden myself.
Actually, you could argue that Alberta’s interests have been compromised more than just about anyone else’s by Mr. Harper’s divisiveness.
It has made enemies of people who ought to be your friends, and turned what should have been a reasonable debate into an over-the-top rhetorical war. Most importantly, it has impeded progress.
Let me be clear: I support Keystone XL because, having examined the facts, and accepting the judgment of the National Energy Board, I believe it is in the national interest.
It will not eliminate all of our economic problems, as its most ardent supporters suggest, nor will it precipitate the end of the world as we know it, as its most vocal opponents contend.
On balance, it would create jobs and growth, strengthen our ties with the world’s most important market, and generate wealth. It would offer much needed flexibility to a constrained continental energy delivery system.
Most of all, it is in keeping with what I believe is a fundamental role of the Government of Canada: to open up markets abroad for Canadian resources, and to help create responsible and sustainable ways to get those resources to those markets.
In this, I agree with every Prime Minister this country has ever had, all the way back to John A. Macdonald.
So, as a measure of success, how is Mr. Harper doing?
Whether it is the bullying around Keystone and Northern Gateway, their one-sided approach to regulation with C-38, or the demonization of people who care about the environment, the message from Mr. Harper and his government has been clear: this is a black and white, us vs. them world, and you are either with us or against us.
They do what they do, the only way they know how to do it. As the old saying goes, when the only tool in your tool belt is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
In their defence, it has served them well up to now. It even led them to a majority government.
But it isn’t working for you.
The hard truth?
After eight years, here is what the so-called friendliest government that the Canadian energy industry has ever had has accomplished:
We are further than ever from sensible policy to reduce carbon pollution, and the oilsands have become the international poster child for climate change;
The government has failed to move the yardsticks on one of the most important infrastructure projects of our generation, the Keystone XL pipeline;
They have needlessly antagonized our closest friend and most important market; and
They have failed to gain access to the growing markets of the Asia-Pacific region.
In my view, this is a failure of leadership, of doing what Canadian Prime Ministers are supposed to do.
What should the government have done? Well, I’ll tell you what I would do:
First, I’d be transparent about what I believe to be the national interest. As I said, that means we need to open markets to our resources, and facilitate the creation of pathways to those markets in responsible, sustainable ways.
I would have joined and contributed to the provincial government, industry, and civil society efforts to build a national energy strategy. Part and parcel of that strategy ought to be a national approach to pipelines and development, within an overall framework that includes a policy that puts a price on carbon pollution.
All of this should be based on science and evidence, not hyperbole and bluster.
Now, believe me, the irony of this is not lost on me. I really wish it didn’t have to fall on some guy named Trudeau to propose a national energy anything.
But there’s a serious point here. To the average Canadian, the government seems to be chasing a different project every time they turn around. One week it’s Northern Gateway, the next it’s Keystone XL, the one after that it’s West-East.
None of this inspires confidence in Canadians that the government has thought this through, has a clear strategy, and a clear plan to execute that strategy.
We need national leadership that will make a clear, positive case about what is in our national interest.
Second, I would create a regulatory regime that is balanced: one that creates growth and protects the environment.
You need a government, not a cheerleader.
This is a critical point. I don’t think many would argue that our regulatory process was perfect in the past. I’m a liberal. I believe in continuous reform. I believe we can always do better.
The mistake this government made was in putting their thumb on the scale. The N.E.B. is now, effectively, an advisory board to Cabinet. It is no longer a quasi-judicial body. So how can it grant the social license you need to proceed with big, complex, multi-year projects that require billions in capital expenditure?
It is the federal government’s role to set policy. Then its role is to create fair and transparent processes so that industry and civil society can create economic growth and protect the environment.
Here’s the rub: I do not think the Harper Conservatives believe that both those things are possible. I think they believe in the old way. They think the economy and the environment are always opposed, and that growing the economy means compromising the environment.
Not only is that wrong, it’s profoundly counter-productive. Let me be clear on this. If we had stronger environmental policy in this country: stronger oversight, tougher penalties, and yes, some sort of means to price carbon pollution, then I believe the Keystone XL pipeline would have been approved already.
It is the absence of strong policy that makes us an easy target.
Now, I don’t underestimate the effort required here. But think about this: we have known about the potential value of the oilsands for decades. But 50 years ago, we didn’t have the scientific knowledge or the technology required to extract that value.
We developed that science. We created that technology. Quite literally, we invented solutions to this problem.
This is where I am tough on people who make an easy division between the “knowledge economy” and the “natural resource economy”. Here in Canada, the natural resource economy is a big part of our knowledge economy.
We need to devote our brainpower and ingenuity to making resource extraction more sustainable. The same way we made it commercially viable. We have come a long way, but we still have a way to go.
This is no longer simply an environmental issue, my friends. This is quickly becoming an issue of market access. If we don’t convince the world that we have our act together, as a country, on the environment, we will find it harder and harder to get our resources to world markets.
Which brings me to my third point: diplomacy.
Perhaps the greatest indictment of the government is this: it has had the better part of a decade to remove the barriers preventing the US from approving this project.
Eight years to build a big, mutually beneficial project with our best friend and closest ally.
I believe diplomacy means making it easier for our partners to act in our best interest.
Instead of working together to solve mutual problems, the Prime Minister, Minister Oliver, Minister Baird and others have taken every opportunity to make it harder for the Americans to approve Keystone.
They have poked and prodded, annoyed and irritated the Obama administration at every turn. Largely, I suspect, because they don’t know how to work with people who don’t share their ideology.
Think about this for a moment. You’re the President of the United States, facing a tough re-election. You have a controversial project on your desk that many of your supporters don’t want you to approve. It is much, much more important to the project’s proponent than it is to you.
So, the proponent shows up. Instead of offering to work together to solve each other’s problems, the proponent brashly and publicly calls it a “no brainer”. When you tell him it’s not so straightforward and that there are real obstacles, he puts his tail between his legs and threatens to build the project to benefit China, despite having no realistic plan to get that done either.
You don’t have to be Lester Pearson to know bad diplomacy when you see it.
At every turn, whether we’re talking about the “no brainer” summit in 2011, or the “we won’t take no for an answer” bluster in New York last month, the Prime Minister has been far, far more concerned about making headlines than making progress.
I also know, as I said last week in Washington, that there are a few very big things the Prime Minister of Canada needs to get right. One of those things is building a constructive working relationship with the President of the United States.
The only possible explanation for Mr. Harper’s behaviour – and this is definitely one of those cases where it’s an explanation, not an excuse – is that he thought Governor Romney was going to win the election.
Nor has their failure of diplomacy been exclusively international. The government has needlessly antagonized civil society within Canada. Instead of labeling them “foreign radicals” and “terrorists”, the government should have helped industry build partnerships with First Nations and environmental organizations, as has been done with great success in the forestry industry.
Times have changed, my friends. Social license is more important than ever. Governments may be able to issue permits, but only communities can grant permission.
This way of doing business is catching up with Mr. Harper and his party.
This is not who Canadians are, and it’s definitely not who we want to be.
We are a people of positive values. Optimism. Openness. Generosity of spirit. Compassion. Community service.
Canadians are willing to work harder than ever to build a country that reflects those values.
Canada is a country defined by hope and hard work.
Hope, that a better community, a better future, a better country, is always possible.
But we Canadians are no fools. Nor do we suffer them gladly. We know that hope is a fine thing, but without a tireless work ethic, it can be fleeting.
Perhaps it’s our history. After all, hope alone won’t erect a shelter before the first prairie snowfall. Hope on its own didn’t build the CPR, or develop the oilsands. It didn’t build the Rideau Canal, or the TransCanada highway.
The world has changed, my friends. It remains a fundamental role of the Government of Canada to get Canadian resources to new markets, at home and abroad.
But for most of our history, that has been more straightforward. It meant building grain elevators and deep-water ports, railways and highways, airports and customs offices.
This is a much more complex effort now, and will get even more so in the future. Market access, more and more, will depend on how well we manage our domestic policy, especially when it comes to the environment.
I believe we can solve these problems a lot faster, a lot better, and a lot more cheaply if we see each other as partners in that national effort.
We won’t solve them at all if we allow our so-called friends to divide us in mutual antagonism from our fellow Canadians.
As someone once said, “God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies.”
My message to you today is a simple one: you, like other Canadians need an honest and open government that works with you to solve big problems in the national interest.
I hope in the coming years to earn the privilege of leading that government.
Keep an open mind: you can find friends in the most unexpected places.
Check against delivery
Share this story on
Like this? Get More! Sign up below ▾
The Liberal Party of Canada is 100% funded by grassroots donors like you.
Give Monthly Transform our movement locally and nationally with an easy, hassle-free, monthly donation to the Victory Fund.
Laurier Club Join the Laurier Club with an extraordinary donation of $1,500 or $125/month (youth rates also available).
Join Laurier Club
One-time Donation Stop the Conservative Party from rolling back our progress for a stronger middle class - and ensure we're ready for 2019.