Meeting the challenges of the years ahead will be a national undertaking requiring every good idea we have.
We talk a lot about voter apathy, especially among young people. In every successive election, we’re confronted by the spectacle of slumping turnout.
In the last federal election, in October 2008, less than 60 per cent of eligible Canadians voted. Among first-time eligible voters, it was one-in-five.
Those figures don’t bode well for our democracy. How to explain them? We’re told that it’s a problem of indifference – that Canadians have simply stopped caring about our politics.
But the problem isn’t apathy—it’s the character of our politics. It’s the short-term tactics that sacrifice leadership for one-upmanship, and that put partisan interest ahead of the national interest.
Cheap politics have alienated the public from public policy.
Last month, I visited eleven university and college campuses across Canada. I spoke with thousands of students who are anything but apathetic – they had serious questions about our environment and youth unemployment, prorogation and post-secondary education, the Afghanistan mission and the Afghan detainee debacle.
Our young people are ready to step up and lead, ready to shatter the myth of apathy. They have the energy and the passion – what they need is something to get excited about.
That’s why we must choose to fight cynicism with ideas, disengagement with dialogue – and there’s no time like the present.
We’re coming up on the 150th birthday of our confederation. What kind of Canada do we want to celebrate in 2017? And what must we do today and tomorrow to get there?
We’re in a new world, and we’re in for the fight of our lives. Energy will be more expensive. Pollution will have a price. Brainpower will be our most vital resource. And the world’s most dynamic markets will be in India and China – countries that produce more engineers in a single year than Canada has in total.
We’re a confident nation, with the capacity to impress the world. Still, rising to the challenge of the years ahead will be a national undertaking, one that should begin with an open, transparent, inclusive, and truly national conversation.
We hope the Liberal Party’s upcoming conference, [Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge](http://www.can150.ca/), will be that conversation – a discussion about Canadian public policy on a national scale, and one that starts from a realistic assessment of the challenges and opportunities we face in the years ahead.
In town halls and union halls, on Parliament Hill and on the web, we want to get the whole country talking about the issues that will define our future:
How will we prepare our workforce for the most competitive world we’ve ever faced and reconcile today’s unemployment against a growing labour shortage?
How will we strengthen Canadian culture and identity, in a world reduced to ones and zeros?
How can we help Canadian parents provide for our kids’ education, our parents’ retirement, and our own?
How do we build a more energy-efficient economy, make our fossil fuels more sustainable, and lead the fight to protect our environment?
How will we reclaim Canadian global leadership, as a partner and a positive force, while defending our interests in a shrinking world?
These questions will form the basis of our agenda in Montreal in March, when we’ll bring together Canada’s top public policy leaders, and broadcast the proceedings live on the web.
The whole undertaking will be non-partisan, because the best ideas are those that are unfettered by ideology or partisanship.
By putting our future front-and-centre, we can begin to undo the damage done by the small politics of cynicism. We need every good idea. We need to involve more Canadians than ever in the work of shaping Canada’s future. And we can’t wait to begin.