Everywhere I go, all over the country, Canadians tell me they want change – real change.
That means doing different things, but it also means doing things differently.
After a decade of Stephen Harper, Canadians’ faith in government has never been lower. The reason is simple: Canadians do not trust their government, because it does not trust them.
Under Stephen Harper, the government has grown secretive and closed-off from Canadians. Unprecedented power has been concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister and his office. Science and evidence have never mattered less; politics and partisanship have never mattered more. Millions of Canadians who elected good people to be their communities’ voice in Ottawa have watched those same people become Stephen Harper’s voice in their communities.
After promising reform, the Conservatives have delivered the most centralized, partisan, self-serving government in Canadian history. Stephen Harper was elected on a solemn commitment to never appoint a single Senator. Once in office, he appointed 57 of them. And the people he appointed – including Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau – were there to serve the Conservative Party above all else.
This plan includes real change for the Senate. It eliminates partisanship and political patronage, without bogging down the country in years of divisive constitutional negotiations with the provinces. I will not make a cynical promise to enact reforms that everyone knows are impossible. That is what Stephen Harper did 10 years ago. That is the root cause of the mess he created in the Senate.
Real Senate reform is just the start. After all, Stephen Harper has broken a lot more than the Senate during his decade in office. The Conservatives have lost the ability to distinguish between their narrow political interests and the public interest. From their inexcusable waste of public money on partisan government advertising – $750 million and counting – to their use of public servants as props, to their muzzling of scientists whose research contradicts Conservative policies, they seem to think they own the place.
No wonder Canadians are cynical.
Canadians are justifiably skeptical about whether it will ever change. Let’s face it: Harper’s Conservatives have brought things to a new low, but Canadians know that this is not a problem with just one political party. We have seen too many members of all political parties – including my own – behave deplorably over the years, and now wonder if their vote can possibly make a difference.
I have had too many conversations with Canadians who are beyond hope that things can ever change. They think elected representatives are “all the same,” and whoever is in power will act similarly or worse.
Well, it can change, and it must. If we are to tackle the very real challenges we face as a country – from the decline of the middle class to the threat of climate change – Canadians need to have more faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. We need to believe that the government of Canada is genuinely interested in working with us to solve real problems.
Canadians are beyond taking their elected representatives at their word when it comes to integrity. We’ve heard enough talk. We want to see leaders walk the walk. That is why, in the years since I was elected Liberal Leader, I have brought forward real changes to be implemented, not just promised in order to gain votes. Liberals led the way by disclosing our expenses online, and all other parties followed our lead. As a tangible step to end partisanship in the Senate, I removed Senators from the Liberal Caucus. I hope that Canadians take these actions as a down payment on the values I will bring to the office of Prime Minister.
Our plan for a fair and open government not only builds on those measures, but it also moves far beyond them. It is a sweeping agenda for change. It is an agenda that will allow us to modernize how the Canadian government works, so that it better reflects the values and expectations of Canadians. At its heart is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. For me, open government is effective government.
Liberals believe in the ability of government to be a force for good in society. That is why it is especially important to us that government work well, and be seen to work well. Our plan will deliver better public services and more effective public servants for Canadians. It is the result of years of hard work and thousands of conversations with experts, members of other governments who have led the way, and most importantly, everyday Canadians. People know that Ottawa is broken. We have a comprehensive plan to fix it. That’s real change.
As the saying goes, sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant. Liberals will shed new light on the government and ensure that it is focused on the people it is meant to serve: Canadians.