Friday, August 22, 2014

Danielle Takacs is the Liberal candidate for Brantford-Brant

It was great to join over 100 Liberals on Thursday evening as my friend Danielle Takacs was nominated as the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in her hometown of Brantford. There was a palpable energy in the room, and a sense that with hope and hard work anything is possible in 2015.

The number of friends and dignitaries on hand was a testament of the commitment and hard work that Danielle has put in with the Liberal Party and in her community over the years. A number of nominated candidates and nomination contestants were on hand, such as Anne Tennier and George Takach. Provincial minister Ted McMeekin spoke on her behalf, as did Cambridge MPP Kathryn McGarry.

McGarry shared an anecdote that really encapsulates Danielle. They were both at a Liberal convention some years back, and McGarry brought along her 14 year old son, a new Liberal at his first event. He was understandably nervous but Danielle immediately took him under his wing. McGarry didn’t see him again until the end of the weekend, in the cheering section with a rambunctious group of Young Liberals. Danielle had introduced him to everyone and made him feel part of the group, and he ended up making life-long friends.

That’s the kind of person Danielle is. Too often we forget how intimidating this all can be for newcomers; how it can seem daunting to get involved. Danielle makes sure no one is excluded; that everyone is welcome. I think that speaks volumes to the kind of representative Danielle will be – she brings people together.

I’ve known Danielle for years but, as I listened to her speech and read her materials, I realized I had no idea just how much she has accomplished already in her life.

One item that immediately jumped out with me was that she graduated from the Brantford Citizen Police Academy – I always knew though she was not to be messed with.

She’s involved in so many groups in Brantford, from the Downtown Brantford Business Performance Grant Committee and the Board of the Sanderson Centre to the Paris-Brant Kiwanis and other charitable groups. She also volunteered with the Brantford International Villages and Cultural Festival and the Brantford Symphony Orchestra.

She has been a journalist and pundit on television and in print, and worked on Parliament Hill for former local Liberal MP Lloyd St. Amand. She’s been a consultant, and currently helps the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association shape its legislative course.

A Liberal in Brant for 17 years, she’s been a volunteer on countless campaigns, helped establish many Liberal youth and women’s clubs, and is currently vice-president federal for the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission.

And she’s committed. In the dead of winter, in the blowing snow, she canvassed with Nancy Leblanc in Parkdale-High Park to help her sign up Liberal members. That’s the dedication Danielle has for her friends and the Liberal cause, and that’s the dedication Danielle will bring to serving the people of Brantford-Brant.

It’s a challenging riding for the Liberals, but with hard work, anything is possible. And they’ve definitely got the right candidate in Danielle. Watch this riding closely!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Preparing Liberal activists to communicate to win in 2015

This blog is cross-posted from my LPC(O) vice-president, communications web site. Please visit there to learn more about my campaign.

I first considered seeking the position of vice-president, communications of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) in February during the national biennial in Montreal. I boarded the train home considering the challenges we face as a party, and by the time we pulled into Scarborough it was clear to me what I wanted to accomplish: give our Liberal members, supporters and volunteers across Ontario the training and resources we need to communicate and win in 2015.

There are many responsibilities this role has, and each person that holds the position tends to make it their own. We absolutely need to communicate more intelligently with our members about what the LPC(O) and the party are up to. We need to be more responsive to member queries. We need to coordinate communications across the riding, LPC(O) and LPC levels – there’s only one member/supporter, and we can’t inundate them. And we need to get more tactical about our fundraising asks. I'll have ideas to share around each.

But first and foremost, I want to focus on training and skills enablement. The next election is going to be won on the ground, door by door, conversation by conversation. We need every Liberal ready, willing and able to take our message to voters across the province. We can’t control the air war – Ottawa will design the advertising, and the spokespeople and pundits will take our message to the national media. That’s not what this position is about – the LPC(O) is about the ground game. That’s where I believe we can make a difference.

Particularly in a world where the media market is fragmented, and people are so busy with daily life to pay attention to the national news. It’s harder to get our message out, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful of traditional sources of information anyway. They do, however, trust you, and every Liberal has access to their own very powerful networks. Whether it’s your social network like Facebook or Twitter, or the friends you meet for donuts on weekends or at shinny on Thursday nights.

We need to tap those networks. Not with canned talking points or suggested tweets; they know you better than that. We need to help you craft your own message, about why you’re supporting Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team, about how a Liberal government can make a meaningful difference in their lives. We need to make sure you have a) the policy background and party positions you need on the issues you care about, and b) the training and tools to craft your own message and bring it to your own networks.

How do we get there? I have five points I’d like to start with.

  1. A communications training track at every LPC(O) biennial, executive board and regional day. We Liberals get together a lot, and any time we’re not taking advantage of these opportunities for hands-on training is a missed opportunity. I want to ensure each of these meetings has a communications breakout track. I’ll develop a curriculum with beginner and advanced sessions so attendees can develop their skills, and leverage the great communications talent in our party by bringing in experts to teach them.
  2. Regular training sessions for Liberals via Google Hangouts on key communications issues, from social media tips and digital campaigning to media training and best practices for communicating to members. Attending all those Liberal meetings can be expensive and involve a lot of travel, and that should never be a barrier to participation. I will ensure these communications courses are available online, utilizing technology such as Google Hangouts, and will also bring in regular guest speakers on communications best practices so Liberals across Ontario can participate.
  3. More templates for riding newsletters, press releases and event invites drawing on what other ridings have done successfully. We have so many ridings that are doing so many things right. Some have amazing e-newsletters. Some do a great job with their community papers, or getting people out to events. They’ve honed and perfected their techniques, and discovered what works really well. And others are just getting started, and need some help. We need to share more of that across ridings. I want to create a central repository where we can not only access templates, but ridings can share what has worked for them. Let’s take what works and replicate it across the province.
  4. A communications track in the LPC(O) mentorship program to connect seasoned communications veterans with newcomers taking on the communications role in their communities. There is so much institutional knowledge in this party – we need to leverage it. I want to build on our LPC(O) mentorship program with a communications track. Under Justin Trudeau, so many new members and supporters have come into the party eager to help, and they don’t know where to start. Let’s connect them with mentors and build our communications capacity.
  5. Increase the frequency of the LPC(O) newsletter to monthly, and exploring a redesign of the web site. We need to get better as an organization at communicating with our members. Making the LPC(O) newsletter monthly would be a start, with reports from all our board members on their activities. I’ll look at how we can make our web site more responsive and useful to our membership. And, while some things will always need to be confidential, I will commit to providing as much information as possible on the discussions and activities of the executive board.
I know I’m proposing a busy agenda, but I’ve never been one to collect titles. I want results. We have lots of hope; now is the time for hard work. If we want to see a new government in 2015, one that believes in bringing Canadians together, one that believes government can be a force for good, then we each need to make that goal our personal responsibility.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

I'm running for LPC(O) vice-president communications

I am excited to announce I have decided to seek the position of vice-president, communications of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario).

There is tremendous opportunity for our party to move forward and accomplish great things for Canadians under our new leader, Justin Trudeau, but he can’t do it alone. He’s the hope — we’re the hard work.

Like many of you, I have watched with concern and frustration at the growing disengagement of Canadians with federal politics — a trend encouraged and exploited by the Harper government. I believe we can and must reverse this trend, and it begins with giving Liberal activists across Ontario — you and me — the tools we need to bring our fellow citizens back into the political process. That’s why I’m running.

On my new campaign web site you can learn more about myself, my qualifications, and some of my ideas for bringing a new style of communications to Liberals in Ontario — including a five point plan. I welcome your ideas as well.

Success for the Liberal Party of Canada in 2015 will require each of us to become communications strategists. We need to run our own war rooms, crafting the right messages that help our friends and neighbours see why we’re Liberals, and how a Liberal government will make a positive and meaningful difference in their lives.

If you’re going to carry the message to your networks, we need to help you. Not with talking points – your friends know you better than that, although we need to make sure you have all the information you need on the issues that matter to you.

No, we need to arm our Liberal communications army with the training and tools you need to so you can bring the right message to your community. That’s why I’m running for LPC(O) VP Communications – to make sure you have the training and tools you need.

The LPC(O) biennial is being held Sept. 12th-14th in Markham, and I will need the support of delegates at this convention to be elected.

You can now declare your intent to stand as a delegate online.

I'm I am humbled and honoured to have the support of so many great Liberals for my campaign, from Ontario and from across Canada. You can see who is supporting me here. To add your support, or share your ideas for better communications, please click here.

I look forward to beginning a dialogue, and I hope I can earn your support.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Proud to be part of a Liberal Party that stands for choice

The drama around the revelation that only those with pro-choice views (incumbents exempted) will be allowed to run for Liberal Party of Canada nominations has been interesting to watch, with so many commentators turning to democracy arguments to seek to overturn something Liberal members have democratically decided many times: we are a pro-choice party.

It goes beyond the last leadership campaign. Liberals at policy conventions have routinely made our position on this issue abundantly and emphatically clear. And now, finally, we have a leader who is willing to have our backs on this and put the marker down.

For me, being a Liberal has always been about choice, and about personal freedom. Choice in who you marry. Choice in what you do with your body. I respect your right to make your own choices, and to have your own beliefs when it comes to matters of conscience. But I absolutely do not though respect your right to impose your own choice on others.

We are a big tent party. Some things, though, go to the central tenets of what the Liberal Party is about. And when those things have been clearly and firmly expressed in a democratic fashion by the party membership, they should be respected.

We believe in choice, and that also means making the choice to run for another party that does share your views more closely. No one’s rights are being trampled here. You have the right to run for Parliament, but you don’t have the right to be a Liberal candidate. Membership has its privileges – running under a party banner confers the resources, name recognition and brand benefits of the party. But it also has responsibilities – you need to share our core values, because that’s what brings those brand benefits – recognition you share those core beliefs. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong party.

Will some people be upset at this move by Trudeau? Probably. Some of them will even be Liberals. We may  lose a few members. That's fine. This is about principle, and fundamental beliefs. We faced the same reaction when championing same sex marriage rights – in the end, that core Liberal commitment to personal choice won out.

So I’m proud to be a Liberal today, and proud of Mr. Trudeau. Proud to say this is who we are, and this is what we believe in.

If you do too, you’re welcome to join us. 

And if you don’t, that’s fine, and we wish you well elsewhere. 

But we’re the party of choice.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kyle Harrietha nominated as Liberal byelection candidate for Fort McMurray-Athabasca

Big news out of Northern Alberta, where on Saturday evening in a contested nomination, my friend Kyle Harrietha was nominated as the Liberal Party of Canada's candidate for the upcoming by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

The vacancy was created when Conservative MP Brian Jean decided to call it quits early after a period of thoroughly uninspiring representation in Ottawa (remember the crosswords?). For all the talk of supporting the oil sands we get out of the Conservatives, there are huge pressing infrastructure issues in the region that the feds have ignored, and the concerns of local indigenous populations have also been paid little attention.

The byelection, whenever it is called, will bring these issues into national focus, and I can think of no one better to carry the Liberal banner than Harrietha. To support his campaign, make a donation to the Fort McMurray-Athabasca Federal Liberal Riding Association today.

Below is the speech Kyle made to the nominating meeting last night. Good luck Kyle! Looking forward to paying a visit during the campaign.


Hello Everybody

It’s great to be here today and see so many new Liberal Members from across Wood Buffalo.

My name is Kyle Harrietha and I’m here to ask for your support and your vote as I seek the Liberal nomination for Fort McMurray—Athabasca in the upcoming by-election.

I’d like to begin by thanking Bill Loutitt for nominating me today.  I’m humbled by your support and I appreciate your friendship.  I’d also like to thank Chris Flett for putting his name forward for the Liberal nomination. It’s no small thing to allow your name to be on a ballot and I commend Chris for his commitment to this community and the Liberal Party.  Regardless of the result, this is a contest among friends, and I’ll certainly be there to support Chris in the upcoming by-election if the outcome today is in his favour.

As an active resident in this community which I love and call home, I believe we need a strong presence in our nation’s capital dedicated to ensuring our government makes a difference across our region. I’ve spent 16 years working for responsible and sustainable development — a just society that respects Aboriginal and minority rights, and accountable, fiscally responsible, transparent government.

I spent 7 years on Parliament Hill as a legislative and executive assistant for several Liberal Members of Parliament. I’ve also worked extensively on parliamentary committees including the Environment and Sustainable Development committee and Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics committee. I have a proven track record working for local non-profit organizations including the Cumulative Environmental Management Association where I spent 5 years as an Administrator for the Reclamation Working Group which develops guidelines for mine site reclamation. And I’m currently the McMurray Métis General Manager where I oversee an organization of seven staff and more than 300 members dedicated to pursuing the advancement of the Métis people of Northeastern Alberta.

A Member of Parliament is expected to advocate for local interests, address the concerns of residents, help in the creation of laws, and examine the work of our government and how it spends our money. Our previous Conservative Member of Parliament, who walked out of the job before his contract with voters was done, reduced his duties to taxpayer-funded mail outs with crossword puzzles and attack ads.  His only commentary involved finger-pointing at the failings of other levels of government while remaining silent on the Conservatives’ lack of action addressing federal issues affecting the future of Northeastern Alberta.  He even claimed the most pressing issues facing this community are largely out of federal hands.  Once you start working through the list of federal issues not being addressed, it’s obvious that’s false.

Our oil sands are the heart of Canada’s resource development industry and underpin hundreds of thousands of jobs, and yet, as Justin Trudeau has stated, the Conservatives have failed to move the yardsticks on one of the most important infrastructure projects in North America — the Keystone XL pipeline; which would ensure our oil sands get to market. They’ve also neglected to make the meaningful infrastructure investments required to ensure we maintain quality of life for residents in the face of the growth that comes with rapid industrial development.

According to an investigation published by the CBC there were over 2,600 Federal funding announcements across Canada in 2013 totalling almost $8.5 Billion. Does anybody here know how much of that was announced in Wood Buffalo or for Wood Buffalo? The answer is $0.  Not one Federal dollar was announced in or for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in 2013. Think about that.  $0 despite all the infrastructure issues and various other issues we’re facing.

When Wood Buffalo gets less money out of the Prime Minister’s Office then Senator Mike Duffy you know there’s a very big problem. And it’s not just with the old Duff.

Across the entire riding there were 3 announcements for Portage College in Lac la Biche, Wild Rose Senior’s Villa in Boyle, and a safe school’s grant in Wabasca.  Total: $11.2 million. And now the Conservative Government has the gall to demand $24-$60 million as the cost to Alberta taxpayers of purchasing or leasing the Willow Square land for our seniors. A rip-off if there ever was one.  It should be clear from those numbers alone that the Conservative Government takes this Region for granted.

The Conservatives have rolled back regulatory and environmental oversight to the point where First Nations and Métis communities have little confidence that their rights and traditional lands are being protected. This includes changes to the Navigable Waters Act taking most of the waterways in Northeastern Alberta off the list of water bodies under Federal environmental protection. And undermining Canada’s oldest Environmental legislation; the Federal Fisheries Act.  Enacted for the first time in 1868. It always used to be used to protect fish habitat.  Not anymore. And it doesn’t end there.

Trade unions have been undermined in the collective bargaining process they engage in to protect the rights and wages of thousands of workers across our region. There’s little support for the many new Canadians in Fort McMurray-Athabasca struggling with credentials recognition, a lack of support for skills training, and the ability to reunite in Canada with family stuck overseas due to our inefficient immigration system. It’s time for a change.

To bring about that change requires positive and collaborative action and a lot of hard work. It requires a Member of Parliament with a track record of working with stakeholders in our region including industry, other levels of government, Aboriginal groups, and NGOs. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work across Canada including Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. If there’s one thing you learn when living in Wood Buffalo it’s that Canada and the world lives here. And that we’re not just building a community in this region, we’re helping to build a country.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that leadership does not begin with a select few – it must be embodied by all of us. It’s about individual responsibility, mutual trust, and accountability. We’re the party that promotes the empowerment of the many. We’re not governed by one decision maker at the top.  We’re governed by the voters who put us there. If we want real change we will need to develop policies that inspire citizens to build a better community. And we must be there to support them.

Change will require all of us talk to our neighbours as we convince them to express confidence over doubt, to pick optimism over frustration, and to choose success over stagnation. We must always stand for a fair, open, and honest approach that generates change from the bottom up – and captures the hopes and aspirations of every community. And make no mistake – accountability is a conversation not a monologue.

I’m asking you choose conversation. To chose dialogue. And to help support a campaign like we’ve never seen in our community.

Thank-you for being here today and thank-you for voting.

I hope I can count on your support.

All the best.

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