The Canadian government is shrinking from the mantle of leadership and systematically undermining the nation and it’s time to stop standing on the sidelines.
That’s the message Liberal Party leadership candidate Deborah Coyne delivered in Kamloops Thursday as she addressed the Kamloops-West Rotary Club at Chapters Viewpoint Restaurant.
It’s a theme Coyne said she will repeat across Canada in the six months leading up to party members’ decision.
And her reaction to campaigning in the formidable shadow of Justin Trudeau, who announced his intention to lead the party earlier this month? Let the people decide, she said.
“I guess it’s the demographic in me . . . it’s all about people,” she said. “I trust the Liberals, whoever is going to be voting in this and it’s a wide open net, to make the right choice.”
Coyne spent half an hour speaking to the crowd over lunch, breaking into a heavily accented French to make her point that Canada must unite.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership is creating a nation of fragmented provinces, a polarization of left and right with a winner-take-all attitude, said Coyne.
“We’re becoming a nation in name only,” she said. “We need the national government to sit in the same room with all the other levels of government and take a lead and get us working for what’s best for Canada.”
She believes the country should work out nationwide health-care standards, eliminate infrastructure deficits, adopt work skills certification that’s acknowledged across all provinces and implement science-based policies for sustainable natural resource development.
“I see us reaching a tipping point where we’re reaching an unprecedented national disengagement,” she said. “And I’ve seen how quickly our international reputation can be damaged by a government that takes it for granted.”
She referred several times to her early foray into politics as part of an organized force opposed to the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were a series of amendments to the Canadian Constitution.
Like her opponent in the race, she is also linked to Pierre Trudeau — her romance with the former prime minister produced a daughter.
The sole mention of Pierre Trudeau during the Rotary Club meeting was a joking reminder that many people in the region remember his “one-finger salute” out of a train window to protestors carrying anti-French slogans in Salmon Arm.
Rotary members were more interested in her take on provinces sharing natural resources. She said she supports a price on carbon through subsidies, a carbon tax or an emissions trading system.
A Rotary member also wanted to know if she believed there was any hope for the Liberal Party.
“Yes,” said Coyne. “There’s a huge level of cynicism. People will say ‘That sounds great but how do you do it?’ That’s why I’m running.”
Coyne’s bio took nearly as long to deliver as her speech.
She was the federal Liberal candidate in the riding of Toronto-Danforth in the 2006 general election, and is now a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
She’s been a lawyer, university professor, constitutional activist, public servant, writer and mother of two children. She’s currently an independent public policy consultant.
She served in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Business Council on National Issues, the Ontario Secretariat for Disabled Persons, and the 1986 Ontario Insurance Taskforce.
She was a co-founder of the Canada for All Canadians Committee and the Canadian Coalition on the Constitution.
She worked at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Charitable Foundation, Informetrica Ltd. and the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. Most recently, she was a member of the Ontario Health Professions and Health Insurance Appeal and Review Boards.