I'm supporting Martha Hall Findlay in the Liberal leadership race because she is the best candidate to put liberty back at the centre of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I'm a Liberal because I believe in liberalism and our party's principles of "individual freedom, responsibility and human dignity within the framework of a just society." Regardless of how many Members of Parliament we are able to elect in a given election, I give my money and my time to Liberal campaigns in the hopes that our parliamentary caucus will be able to advance a reform agenda rooted in these liberal values.
The Liberal Party is unlikely to win if it remains a party of the status quo. We must embrace reform, even though some of the things we now may wish to reform were embraced and often introduced by Liberals who came before us.
As Pierre Elliott Trudeau said, "Liberal philosophy places the highest value on freedom of the individual. The first consequence of freedom is change. A Liberal can seldom be a partisan of the status quo. He tends to be a reformer -- attempting to move society, to modify its institutions, to liberate its citizens."
We must be true to our own political philosophy of liberalism if we hope to win the trust and confidence of Canadians and contrast ourselves effectively with the Conservatives and the NDP.
Unfortunately, the framework of left / centre / right has muddied the waters of Canadian politics. What some pundits have described as a crowding of the "centre" is really a convergence of the major parties on the status quo, with mere tinkering at the edges. The Conservatives have set aside many of the more controversial aims of their social conservative supporters, and the members of the NDP have gone so far as to debate whether to retain socialism in the party's constitution.
After firmly entrenching liberalism in our country's constitution, the Liberal Party has been worn down by the inexorable pressures of governing to the point that we no longer seem to be proud to lead with our fundamental political values. Chretien and Martin's fiscal reforms, while important and necessary, left us as a party of technocrats.
As Martha has said, "The Liberal Party must have the courage to no longer try to be everything to everyone -- we must stand for what we believe is right. Not everyone will agree all the time, but only by doing so will we gain people's trust and confidence."
I'm supporting Martha because she is committed to reforms that emanate from liberal values.
She wants to transition away from supply management because it is an unnecessary form of regulation that restricts the freedom of farmers and raises prices for consumers.
She supports a tax on carbon because it is the most efficient, least distorting way to abate carbon emissions and preserve the freedom of future generations.
She advocates for a trade liberalization and greater competition between businesses because she believes both elements of free enterprise are crucial to maximizing our resources for the benefit of society.
She favours a less intrusive criminal justice system -- one that is not based on revenge and punishment -- because increasing incarceration is antithetical to liberal values and costs our society much more than other ways of minimizing crime.
She has called for the international community to intervene in Syria as it did in Libya because she believes in the responsibility to protect doctrine and the fundamental equality of people.
It takes courage, in today's political climate, to talk about some of these policies. I am proud to support someone who stands up for what she believes is right, and not only when it's popular or convenient.
As a practical matter, the path back to political power takes us straight through the relatively new Conservative coalition. Ask yourself: Who are the 1.8 million additional people who voted for the Conservatives in 2011 compared to 2004?
For the most part, Conservatives have steadily attracted the support of many Canadians who previously voted for the Liberal Party. Since we operate in a first past the post system, winning these voters back is essential to making our party competitive again with the Conservatives. The reason is simple: In ridings where Conservatives are dominant, each voter who switches from the Conservatives to the Liberals counts twice as much as a voter gained from another party. It's a two-vote swing.
We can fracture this coalition of Conservative supporters and draw many of them to the Liberal Party if we put liberty back at the centre of our agenda for reform. But it will take guts and perseverance to do so. I believe that we can do it with Martha Hall Findlay as our leader.