Search This Blog

Thursday 23 February 2012

From the Dustbin of Recent History.

I'm not a secretive guy. Never have been. Family and personal issues aside I am willing to discuss and share most anything, including my mistakes and failed attempts. It is in that vein that I bring up something I just discovered while organizing some of my MacBook files. You may remember that I actually took a shot at the Leadership of the Liberal Party of NL a while back, before the election. Well I had an opportunity to speak to the Board before they made their decision and I prepared a speech that I will print here today for you. It serves no point other then to reflect how I felt at the time and how I still feel that the Liberal Party will lead the next Government.

At any rate here is my presentation to the Liberal Party of NL Executive Board on August 14, 2011. Brace yourself it's a little long and keep in mind these were my speaking notes.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Executive Board. I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and for allowing me to elaborate on why I should be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a short 58 days from today the people of this province will head to the polls to select the next Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the short time between now and then we must convince them that it is the Liberal Party that can embrace change and adapt to the evolving state of our province. We must tap into their pride as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we must recognize the frustrations that they have felt with past governments.

The Liberal Party needs a leader who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, and who can shape a new party and a new government, which will respond to the needs of its citizenry and inspire a new generation of liberal thinkers. That leader is me. 

My Experience
Lets talk about my experience and my credentials. I have degrees in NL History and education, but they merely provide the foundation for the real work experience that has prepared me for this position. It is my experience across various sectors that gives me the advantage to be able to speak intelligently about many areas of concern for residents of NL.

My upbringing has provided me with an appreciation of hands on work. Because I grew up in a resourceful home with little money to spare I learned to be a carpenter, plumber or a mechanic depending on what any given situation required. I have worked minimum wage jobs cutting grass and pumping gas, and I am often humbled by the people who provide those necessary services with the utmost dignity and respect.

After spending 4 years as a teacher at the front of a classroom, I moved into the environmental not for profit sector. There I served on Provincial advisory councils and submitted environmental commentary on protected lands and on the environmental impacts of large projects such as the nickel processing facility at Long Harbour.

For a while I was responsible for policy development and communications for the provincial tourism association Hospitality NL. This position provided incredible insight into a growing industry that has become a significant part of our provincial economy. But it is my work in the last 5 years that has been the ultimate proving ground for the position of Liberal Party Leader.

As a community cooperation professional with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador I came to know the community leaders from around the province. I heard their issues, and helped to develop policy, and on the ground solutions to their growing list of concerns. I was eventually recruited by the Department of Municipal Affairs where I developed, and delivered the provincial standard for community sustainability planning. And finally I left my government position to start my own business, working with communities and economic development agencies to forward the goals of regional development around the province.  

One of the criticisms levied against me is that I am new to the political arena, that I don’t have the experience to lead a political party. The truth of the matter is that my lack of political experience is not a challenge to overcome, but a characteristic to be embraced. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are crying out for a new brand of politician, one that finds new solutions and is open to new ideas. They have been very adamant that the old school ways of politics in this province will not be supported. And the results have been evident in poor voter turnouts over the past number of elections. 

And while I am new to the Liberal Party, in the past 2 months while working toward earning a seat in the district of Bonavista South I have been engaged in policy development with opposition office staff, and I’ve been publicly promoting the Liberal ideals on twitter, my blog, my website and the call-in radio programs. 

With regard to my leadership abilities you need only look at the examples that I have set in my life. I challenge people to ensure that only the best possible ideas move forward. I am outspoken both in favor of good ideas, and against poor ones but always understanding that everyone has a right to take part in the conversation.

I am a good communicator and I have been engaged in public speaking and debate for more then 15 years. I am passionate, organized, and a decisive decision maker. I plan my actions carefully, take responsibility for my mistakes and most importantly I am a good listener.

The Need for change
Listening to the people of NL one thing is blatantly clear, they are ready for real political change. They want a leader and a party that is willing to make difficult decisions. They want a transparent and accountable government, and they want to be engaged in the process of setting policy and making decisions. These kinds of change can only be accomplished with a fresh start from a new kind of leader.

We need a young leader who can engage the youth of this province and lead by example. The Liberal Party must focus on valuable consultation processes that utilize every possible method to engage the public. The current administration has been so secretive and selective in it’s consultations that we now have the opportunity to highlight our plan for community and individual engagement. 

As a party we cannot just speak of this change we wish to see, we must embody it. As Leader of the Liberal Party I would represent the kind of change that this party embraces and celebrates. The kind of change that people demand, and the kind of change that will draw voters to the polls in October.

Setting a new course
If we are to differentiate ourselves from the other parties we have to begin with a vision that outlines where a Liberal government would take the province. This vision must include the issues that have meaning in the lives of regular NLians. We must look to develop healthy sustainable communities, safe drinking water, the best possible healthcare, a strong and diversified economic base and a transparent and fiscally responsible government.

Of course to accomplish a vision we must develop tangible mid range goals to ensure that we are constantly moving toward that vision. The goals of the Liberal Party have to include building capacity in small communities, developing a modern energy plan, rebuilding a sustainable fishery, and creating a responsible government that engages its citizens in meaningful consultation. 

There are also short-term actions that will establish our commitment to our goals and our vision. We can reduce the number of provincial electoral districts, and therefore the required number of MHA salaries. We can also reduce the size of cabinet and eliminate unnecessary departments, branches and divisions. We can develop legislation to require a minimum number of days that the HOA will sit, in an effort to better serve the people of NL. We can immediately implement a province wide 911 service, and create a single information contact number for government, similar to the 311 service of the City of St. John’s. We can improve the legislation to allow local governments to manage their affairs and provide them with the appropriate resources to do so through a program such as a percentage of the provincial income tax, or a local version of equalization payments.

In the end, the Liberal Party has to develop a plan that has input from all who wish to contribute, a plan that identifies where we need to go, and just as importantly, how we’re going to get there.

Securing Victory
In two months the people of NL will take to the electoral battlefield and only one party will emerge victorious. If that party is to be the Liberal party then we need to reach out and engage new voters as well as hold on to the party faithful. But make no mistake that the tried and true Liberals will vote liberal, the hard core tories will vote PC, and those looking to cast a protest vote will select the NDP. Our most important task is to convince the swing voters, those who vote based on candidate, policy, and party leader that the Liberal Party has heard their cry for change and is looking to build a party and a government that can inspire them all the way to the polling booth.

One group of potential voters that could easily swing the election are those 35 and under. The common theory is that young people don’t vote because they don’t care. I challenge that idea. Being one of those young people, I can say that younger voters sometimes don’t vote because they don’t see the difference between the major parties. They don’t see a party that understands their needs, only parties who have written them off as a lost cause come election day. The Liberal Party has a very unique opportunity to engage the younger voters, an opportunity that has not existed in this manner before.

As the Party Leader, I would engage younger voters with a voice that they can relate to, and through the mediums that they understand and use everyday. I understand all too well their challenges of finding sustainable employment, struggling with student loans, and feeling disenfranchised from government and the political system. They need someone to inspire them. We saw just how important the youth vote was during the Obama campaign in the US, and in the success of the NDP during our last Federal election a few short months ago.

And it is not just the younger voters who see the need for a younger face at the helm. Over the past two days I have received a great deal of very positive feedback from senior citizens who have said how happy they are to see a younger person become involved. And they all have wished me the best of luck. We must listen to the people of NL and put in place a new, young and dynamic leader who can help to engage and inspire young and old alike.

Why me
To the Liberal Party of NL, I bring the promise of change. The promise of new ideas, and new approaches to old problems. I will lead a party that is not only not afraid to ask people to become involved in decision making, but a party that prides itself on engaging average people to solve everyday problems.

I bring a young ideal that will appeal to both young and old, and voice that is already tempered through the use of traditional mediums such as call in radio shows, and through emerging mediums, such as Facebook, twitter, blogging and youtube. It is this combination that will allow us as a party to reach new members and new voters. It is this approach that will see us victorious when the dust settles on October 12.  

To the Liberal Party I bring experience across a broad spectrum of topics and many years of professional public speaking to the table. I have worked with various Ministers and bureaucrats, and my experience working inside the system has taught me how government really works. I have seen the flaws in the system and the many loopholes that allow good policy to become poor actions. And I have seen the rank and file of a public sector that will not speak out for fear of serious and swift reprisals.

We need to plan for, and build a transparent and accountable government where the objective is not secrecy and protection, but communication and cooperation. I will lead a Liberal Party into a government that understands how to reform the system to make it function properly and effectively, through appropriate planning and an open and accountable environment.

I have little doubt that some of you look at the list of contenders for this position and you see some safe bets and you see some unknown faces. I challenge you today to make the first, difficult, but correct decision, that will lead this party to becoming the voice of NLians. I challenge you to put aside the traditional political choice, and instead show leadership that demonstrates that this is the party of the future, and not of the past. And finally, I challenge you to make the decision that so many hard core Liberals and undecided voters would like you make.

I ask that you take this opportunity to show NL that the Liberal Party embraces change, and is now ready to move forward and build a party with a new, vibrant, passionate and young voice at the helm. I ask that you select me, Ryan Lane, as the next leader of the Liberal Party of NL. Thank you very much.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Burton Winters. R.I.P.

A tragedy. There's little else you can call it when a young man is taken from his family and his community to never return. Unfortunately throughout the history of NL stories of this nature are far too common. Sometimes older or younger, winter or summer, fishing, sealing, hunting or just on their way from one place to another. The details change but the basic story is similar. A person traveling or working in the wilderness or on the sea when a dangerous situation arises that causes them to be lost to us forever. And it's always sad. The story of Burton Winters has been discussed at great length, largely due the the inadequacy of the Search and Rescue capabilities on the Labrador. And while that is a necessary conversation there is another aspect of this event that bothers me a great deal.

There are those who have said he should never have been riding a snowmachine alone at such a young age, and that there should have been more responsibility shown by parents and others. I say that is complete bull shit!

We have become a society where we no longer allow our children to grow up. Some have even gone so far as to say we are developing a generation that will always be children. They will not learn responsibility, decision making, self reliance and other vital life skills until they are well into their 20's or 30's. And that is a terrible shame. Luckily here in NL we are slightly more sheltered from that urban North American phenomenon, but it still certainly exists here.

Over protective parents have no idea the disservice they are doing to their children. It is through adversity and struggle that we learn how to be self reliant. It is through dealing with problems that we learn problem solving skills. And it is through doing some of these things alone that we learn what we can accomplish alone, and what we need help to accomplish. These are the traits that build strong and thoughtful people.

There was a time in this province when we had no choice but to grow up fast. 50 years ago at the age of 14 Burton would have been almost considered a man. He would have most certainly been helping the family to put food on the table through hunting and fishing. And he may well have been doing some of those things for his family a few short weeks ago.

Just as NL is slightly isolated from North America, even more so are the more remote areas of our province, such as the North coast of Labrador. And while isolation has its challenges, it also has it's benefits. Our isolation is partially why we have such a vibrant culture and such self reliant people. I like those things about us and I don't enjoy when people say we should be more like "normal" people.

I think I take such personal offense to those criticizing Burton's family and community because while I never met the young man I could have easily shared his fate. I can recall many incidents where I was off on my snow machine alone and got stuck, almost ran out of gas, got overtaken by a storm with no working light etc. These sorts of events can be dangerous, of that there is no doubt. But they also build character and self confidence. I learned how a snow machine works because mine broke down, a lot. I developed a keen sense of direction, because I had to. And I learned to respect the wilderness and the dangers it can hold.

I grew up in a house hold where I knew others took responsibility for me and loved me a great deal, but I also learned to be responsible for myself. But then again I grew up with my grandfather, and he had his first rifle at the age of 12. He grew up in Hopedale, on the North coast of Labrador.

I would ask that we all be respectful of a way of life that holds many challenges, but grows such wonderful and resilient people. Even at the age of 14 I have no doubt that Burton had more life experience then many in their 20's or even 30's.

Rest In Peace Burton Winters

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Secret Nation?

It was long overdue but I've finally done it. I watched the 1992 NL film Secret Nation. I know, I know, I should have done it a long time ago but I just recently got my hands on a copy and I was certainly not disappointed. As a film buff and a student of NL history it was a pleasure to see the two blended in a fictional history lesson played out by some now well know NL performers. The themes explored in the film are thick and rich and have been talked about in kitchens around NL since confederation. In case you haven't seen it the basic plot follows a researcher who uncovers an unseemly secret regarding the confederation vote.        

I was raised in a distinctly anti-confederate home. It wasn't that my grandfather had anything against Canada but he was certainly a Newfoundlander first and a Canadian second. And when I say Newfoundland I mean both Newfoundland and Labrador, and so did he. He was raised in Jack Lane's Bay and Hopedale, so he certainly understood and loved the Big Land. I was naturally drawn to NL History while studying at MUN and ended up with an Academic advisor who wrote extensively on NL and Canadian relations. Some of his writings were paralleled in the film including the idea that confederation with Canada was essentially inevitable. The question remains however, could we have made it on our own, without Canada?

Back when The Independent was still a print newspaper and headed up by none other then current MP Ryan Cleary they ran a 6 part series as part of a cost benefit analysis of our relationship with Canada since confederation. Unfortunately the current online version of the paper doesn't have one link that could point you to the entire series so you can use the following links to help you out. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. The Indy seemed to think that overall we could be better off on our own, but is that really the case?

A romanticized version of our past will always see how we could have done better, but there are still certainly those who still feel we can make it on our own. The example of Iceland is often used as a comparison country that became independent after years of being part of another nation. Of course the recent near economic collapse in Iceland just goes to show that with independence comes great responsibility that can certainly be mismanaged. So some might ask is it better to have others manage your affairs, or for you to have the ability to mess it up or be successful on your own?

NL still has many of the holdovers from the time when we were a nation and they will lead some to argue that we could be a small but successful country on the edge of North America. We have a unique culture, language, way of life, history and the potential for a very successful economy. To make matters worse is that our place in Canada is not exactly at the top of the food chain. While we have significant clout based on our population, we certainly aren't an equal partner in this confederation. 7 seats out of 308 does not an equal partner make.

Many folks feel like me and my grandfather, a Newfoundlander first and a Canadian second. And while becoming a country of our own again may not be overly realistic, it certainly is a great topic for conversation over a couple of drinks. My final recommendation is that if you haven't already seen Secret Nation then you certainly should ASAP and then sit around with some friends and see if you can figure out if we'd be better off on our own. Is it time we moved from being a secret nation to an actual one?