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.
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.
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.
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.