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Bridge Forum Speaker Series, 2013

Part 4: Gerald Butts, November 2013

Gerald Butts is the former president and CEO of WWF-Canada and is currently the chief advisor to Justin Trudeau.

Gerald Butts is the former president and CEO of WWF-Canada and is currently the chief advisor to Justin Trudeau. Photos courtesy of Brenda Nielsen.

Even as 7pm ticked by on the clock, people were still lined up at the door at Caper’s Restaurant in order to hear the much-anticipated Gerald Butts speak in Belleville. It turned into one of our best-attended Bridge Forum events ever. We even had to get more chairs out! Standing room only in the end!

Gerald spoke about his background as the son of a coal miner in Cape Breton, which has helped him become the person he is today. The importance of family was a strong current throughout his talk. He also gave us insight into Justin and the Liberal Party’s mission to rebuild the middle class in Canada and set us on the right course to prosper.

The evening then opened up to questions from anyone on the floor, and Gerald took the time to answer them. There were lots!

We were happy to have special guests in attendance, including Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis (pictured below with Gerald), as well as Marlene Brant Castellano (professor emerita at Trent University in the Native Studies department, and Order of Canada recipient), and Scott Reid, former advisor to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Thanks go to the whole team who made this happen. Thank you to Brenda Nielsen, who generously took pictures for us, and to our Liberal Party helper extraordinaire, Elliott, who we can always count on!

Although the Bridge Forum is our main fundraising activity, in equal measure it has been an immensely rewarding way of providing insight into what is going on in our party, and in politics in general, for our members and the general public (since this is a public event, in true Liberal fashion). In fact, it is so public that someone even came in and filmed the whole thing claiming that he was there doing research for Sun Media! We have contacted Sun Media, and they say that they had no one there. Cogeco Belleville, however, was there to film the event (officially), and it will be on their station in due course. Sun Media would be happy to look at any pictures of the man who falsely claimed he was working for them.

It seems a certainty that the Bridge Forum will be returning next year, after redistribution happens. Stay tuned!

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Part 3: Richard Gwyn, September 2013

Richard Gwyn

Gwyn spoke to a full and at times boisterous crowd at our well-attended third Bridge Forum in Belleville. Photo courtesy of Brenda Nielsen.

Who would have guessed that venerable journalist Richard Gwyn would present one of the spiciest and most animated Forums in our season this year, when he visited our riding on September 18th?

Emphasizing that Justin Trudeau does not bring the habitual qualifications that Canadian political leaders have been expected to offer, Gwyn seemed particularly intrigued by Susan Delacourt’s observation that Justin Trudeau’s “no-policy policy” had won the day at the Liberal leadership convention. Noting that Trudeau had yet to put forth any substantive ideas on the tough issues of the day left members of the audience bristling.

Gwyn went on to explain that there was a reason for this ‘no-policy’ policy approach.  Releasing substantial policy ideas at this early date is very risky since these ideas would be quickly attacked if flawed, or copied if they were any good. Hence he suggested that this approach was in effect a coherent and creative one.

Justin Trudeau had a very strong ability to “sail into the prevailing wind” according to Gwyn, evidenced by his success in catching the imagination of Canadians since becoming leader of the Liberal party, and leading them to first place in a number of national polls. He noted that Trudeau has substantial qualities to bring to the political equation, including his remarkable ability as a “retail politician” who genuinely likes people, and who people like in return. He is “fearless” and “extremely fit and determined,” which enables him to work long hours.

Gwyn also considers that Trudeau’s selection of a very capable senior advisor in Gerald Butts is proving to be a major asset. Butts (who has close links to Matthew Taylor, a senior aide to Tony Blair during his more successful years), will be our next speaker in the forum series.

In Gwyn’s view, Trudeau excels at using ‘emotional intelligence’, understanding that people today are not principally moved by analysis and reasoned argument; instead, they are looking for ‘connection’ and a sense that their opinions matter.  He recognizes that Canadians are very cynical about government, and that the new political trend may prove to be one where empathy and emotion trump reason, and that these can be used to disarm cynicism and disengagement.  As a result, his efforts are focused on gaining the personal trust of stakeholders/voters before bombarding them with bright ideas.

Gwyn suggested that we were in new age of ‘individualism’, and were faced with a better educated electorate because of the extensive reach of social media.  Justin Trudeau clearly understands these trends, and his adeptness at ‘street politics’ makes him very difficult to dislike and dismiss.

So are we entering a new era in Canadian politics?  If so, Gwyn believes that Trudeau could prove to be very successful because he seems to possess personal attributes that fit the times.

The Bridge Forum was then opened up for questions, and a rather spirited exchange followed on topics ranging from youth to democracy.  Many participants took exception to Mr. Gwyn’s suggestion that the Harper government was running a good economic ship, and provided examples where Canada’s economic performance was less than stellar.

One member of the audience flagged the genuine “kindness” that she had experienced when she met Justin Trudeau. Gwyn thought that this personal attribute could have an important impact at election time since Canadians tend to like kind and decent people.

Gwyn concluded his remarks by suggesting that the Liberals should focus on selling themselves on character, trust, and emotional intelligence; we need to make a concerted effort to show the electorate that we understand Canada better than the Conservative Party and the NDP.

By: Pierre Soucy

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Part 2: Hon. Peter Milliken, May 2013

The second leg of our four-part Bridge Forum Speaker Series concluded successfully in May. The Hon. Peter Milliken, former MP for Kingston and the Islands, spoke to us on his time as Canada’s longest-serving speaker of the House of Commons.

Gen. Secretary Bev Boyd presents Peter Milliken with a token of our appreciation.

General Secretary Bev Boyd presents Peter Milliken with a token of our appreciation. Photo courtesy of Brenda Nielsen.

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Part 1: Hon. Art Eggleton, April 2013

Senator Eggleton with Events and Volunteers Director Lynn Hipwell

Senator Eggleton with Events and Volunteers Director Lynn Hipwell. Photo courtesy of Brenda Nielsen.

Originally from the Belleville Intelligencer: http://www.intelligencer.ca/2013/04/10/eliminating-poverty-essential-senator

By Jerome Lessard, The Intelligencer

BELLEVILLE – In Senator Art Eggleton’s opinion, Canadians deserve a chance to work hard and to get ahead instead of “just” working hard and standing still.

The former mayor of Toronto — the longest serving mayor in the city’s history with 11 years — and co-chair of the senate’s All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, shared his thoughts, concerns and ideas on how to help Canada getting on the road to greater income equality as first speaker in the Prince Edward Hastings Liberal Association’s Bridge Forum series at Capers’ Ritchie Room in downtown Belleville Wednesday evening.

From hoping to see a living wage system implemented nationally, better investments in post-secondary education, better pensions, a potential guaranteed annual income, more infrastructure investments, closing tax loopholes to reviewing the country’s income tax system, Eggleton shared his vision on how Canada could overcome poverty issues.

“More and more families in Canada are struggling to reach or stay in the middle class, pensions are evaporating and good jobs are disappearing,” he said during a 30-minute speech before approximately 40 supporters.

From 1980 to 2005, reports Statistics Canada, the income of the richest one-fifth of Canadians grew 16 per cent, while the poorest fifth declined 20.6 per cent. The agency states one in 10 Canadians lives in poverty.

“At the end of 2009, just 3.8 per cent of Canadians households controlled 67 per cent of total wealth in the country,” noted the senator.

Eggleton was appointed to the Senate in March 2005. He currently serves as deputy chair of the standing committee on social affairs, science and technology and is a member of the standing committee on transport and communications.

In addition to suggesting solutions on how break the cycle of poverty in Canada, the senator spoke mostly about economic inequality.

“But why does it matter? What are the implications of an increasingly unequal society?” he asked.

“The work of British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett shows that less equal societies almost always have more violence, more disease, more mental health problems, higher infant mortality rates, reduced life expectancies, as well as less social cohesion. That means more spending on health care, policing and incarceration.”

Eradicating poverty and homelessness, continued Eggleton, is not only the humane and decent priority of a civilized democracy, but “absolutely” essential to a productive and expanding economy benefiting from the strengths and abilities of all its people.

“So, let’s not degrade the people that have decided to take to the streets, to their tents, to make their voices heard,” he said.

“Let’s listen and understand and deal seriously with economic inequality.”

He noted business leaders around the world have also taken note.

“This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos named rising income inequality as the greatest single economic threat of our time. The biggest challenge now facing the world economy,” he added.

In Eggleton’s opinion – and the senate subcommittee on cities’, which he chairs and study the current state of poverty, housing and homelessness in Canadian cities – poverty expands healthcare costs, policing burdens and diminished educational outcomes.

“This in turn depresses productivity, labour force flexibility, life spans and economic expansion and social progress, all of which takes place at huge cost to taxpayers, federal and provincial treasuries and the robust potential of the Canadian consumer economy,” he noted.

Eggleton and the committee believe the federal government should develop and implement a basic income guarantee at or above the poverty line for people with severe disabilities.

“This income guarantee would mean, as one of the witnesses before our committee stated, ‘full citizenship for Canadians who face tremendous barriers and obstacles’,” he said.

“We recommend a new program to insure against income losses due to long-term employment interruption, covering those that are not presently covered under the Employment Insurance Act, including self-employed, part-time workers, those who have been unemployed for an extended period, recent immigrants and the underemployed.”

While the PEH Liberal Association’s Bridge Forum is designed to inform local Liberals and help raise funds, the public can still attend the speeches and ask questions at no charge.

Coming up as second speaker in the association’s Bridge Forum series will be former Speaker of the House Hon. Peter Milliken on Wednesday, May 15, also at Capers’ Ritchie Room, at 7 p.m.