Grits deputy leader optimistic about party’s future
Politics: Ralph Goodale makes stop in Okotoks
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am
Visits from the two top federal Liberals in Okotoks in the past two months is a clear indication the party isn’t about to concede the Macleod seat in the upcoming byelection.
Federal Liberal party deputy leader Ralph Goodale spoke at Crystal Ridge Golf Course March 12 less than two months after party leader Justin Trudeau visited Okotoks.
“Justin has said very clearly that wherever there is a byelection in the country, we are going to be there, we are going to work hard and we are going to campaign hard,” said Goodale. “We are not writing anyone, any place off. We have every determination of being a national party and that has to include places like Macleod.”
Goodale said the Liberals have already put dents in Conservative strangleholds with strong showings in the November byelections in Calgary Centre, Brandon and Provencher. He has seen the ups-and-downs of the Grits in his 40 years in federal politics.
Goodale’s federal political career spanned from Trudeau to Trudeau. He was first elected in his Saskatchewan riding under a Pierre Trudeau Liberal government in 1974. He now serves as deputy leader for the Justin Trudeau led Liberal Party.
Goodale is impressed with the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
“Justin’s first campaign stop was in Calgary, his second one in Vancouver — he has demonstrated that he wants to be a leader for all of the country and not just part of the country,” he told the approximately 35 people in attendance, including Macleod Liberal candidate nominee Dustin Fuller from Okotoks.
Goodale said Trudeau is striving for a government the works from the ground up.
“We have had far too long a government a political process that has been dictated from the top down,” Goodale said. “You expect them (MPs) to be your voice in Ottawa and far too often it turns out to be the other around. They end up being Ottawa’s voice here.”
He said Trudeau would support more free votes in Parliament to allow MPs to represent the voice of their constituents, admitting issues like the budget, the throne speech have to be votes of confidence.
“That means people in cabinet will have to work harder,” Goodale said. “Right now, the 20 or 30 of them get together in a certain policy and it may or may not be what their caucus wants. They say to the whip: ‘now you go out and make sure everybody votes along the party line.’ Cabinet members don’t have to go out and persuade their support, they just take it for granted.”
The Wascana MP who lives near Wilcox, SK., is a former federal agriculture minister. He has been inundated with phone calls from across western Canada about the logjam of grain waiting to be sent by rail to ports in Vancouver. He estimates the logjam and other factors has cost the grain industry as much as $5 billion.
“I have heard from every part of western Canada, that his has been an unmitigated disaster,” Goodale said. “Farmers did their job, they produced probably the best crop on record in Canadian history.”
He admitted railways were affected by the bitterly cold weather in getting grain to the ports, but said they must be held accountable.
“It is fair to say the railways let the farmers down this year,” Goodale said.
He said an order brought down by the Conservative government forcing the railway to get more grain to port on March 7, is too little too late. He said the emergency order should have been done five months ago.
Goodale added another of his concerns with the Harper government is its alienation of Canada’s veterans.
He firmly believes the Liberal Party, which sits behind the Conservatives and NDP, can form the next government in the 2015 election.The Macleod byelection, to replace the retired Conservative MP Ted Menzies, will be held later this spring. The Conservative candidate is former Western Wheel editor John Barlow.