11/25/2011 09:42 EST | Updated 01/25/2012 05:12 EST

How to Defeat Stephen Harper


After the success of the May 2 election, New Democrats were elated. Short months later, with the loss Jack Layton, we were devastated. Now, with a leadership election going on, people have begun to turn their minds to the future, to where we are going as a party and how we can defeat Stephen Harper.

Obviously, we must re-elect the people we have in Parliament now. We cannot step backward. That means maintaining our social democratic values, acting as a responsible and responsive opposition and solidifying our new base in Quebec.

I come from a 10,000-year tradition of communal living where we understood that the strength of all of us depended on the strength of each of us. Regardless of your role in the community, everyone ate, everyone had a home, everyone had clean water and everyone participated fully in decisions. I am a social democrat.

In my work before becoming an MP, I was part of a David and Goliath opposition to the Government of Quebec and we were successful. I know how to oppose, how to propose something better and how to bring people together for the benefit of all. The evidence is on the ground today in my riding.

With our main competition in Quebec not Stephen Harper but the Bloc, the task of solidifying our base there requires someone who not only speaks the language but who appreciates and understands the culture in all its unique colour and nuance so that we can build lasting support on the ground. After 20 years of living in and working in and loving Quebec City, I can do that.

I know that we can and will maintain our base, but we need to go further. We need to win the next 60 seats.

First, we must get our own house in order. I have met with some of our smaller riding associations; I've heard what they need and what they have not been getting. Supporting them in attracting others is how we will grow. I have met some of the fantastic candidates who had strong second place finishes last time out and I know that we can help them over the final hurdle in the next election. Supporting them is how we will win. We will do these things for ourselves and for those who join us.

Second, we will take away Stephen Harper's undeserved support.

We will start by returning to our roots in rural Canada. Rural communities are hollowing out and people are angry about it. The Conservatives sold people a phony bill of goods, playing on anger over hot button social issues while undermining their economic future. The Wheat Board decision is just the beginning. They are coming after the dairy and egg boards. They won't be satisfied until Viterra and Cargill and Monsanto control every bit of farmland in this country. Whether trees or minerals or energy, they will take the resources out of the land with vague promises of temporary work and leave nothing lasting in its place but a scar on the environment. It doesn't need to be this way. When we were the CCF, rural Canadians knew we were on their side. We need to reach out to them again with respect, to listen to their concerns and to act on their behalf. When we do, they will come back to us and we will grow together.

And we must understand suburban Canada. Whether we are talking about new Canadians who moved from the cities or the proverbial soccer moms and hockey dads who grew up in those same towns, fundamentally, people want the same things. They want the freedom to live their lives as they see fit and they want security for their children and the future. The NDP can offer that. We can refrain from paternalism, respecting people's ability to make their own decisions. We can commit to balanced budgets and sound financial management for fiscal security, unlike the Conservative record. We can foster a sense of co-operation and social cohesion in our society rather than pitting people against each other, constantly fanning the flames of fear as Stephen Harper has done. We can insist on a cleaner environment, safer communities, better health care, the best education and new jobs and we can work with people to make that happen. When we do that, they will come to us and we will grow together.

Third, we must stop Stephen Harper's attack on Canadians. We must reach and represent the disaffected. I was one of those people. If you know my past, you know I had good reason to be. I understand the situation, I know that it can change, I know how to turn it around and I know that people will come to us when it does. I've been out in the communities, listening to the people and building the party. I've heard from First Nations and youth and the poor. I have been with the 99 per cent from Edmonton to Halifax. There are untapped skills and unmet aspirations across our country. We can channel that energy into something constructive. We can be on their side. When we do that, they will fight for us and we will grow together.

Canada can have the strongest economy, the healthiest environment and the fairest society in the world. To achieve this we just need to defeat Stephen Harper.