I might have been the first to concede that Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie would win the current liberal party leadership contest in Ontario but the idea has been getting a lot of support lately. The other day, Bonnie’s campaign released a letter signed by more than 20 present and past MPPs recommending her candidacy. Their best argument is that she scares Doug Ford and his conservatives. The key is to getting her into the legislature as soon as possible.
What is missing though is a strong and aggressive party to back her. I sure as hell was not impressed when the party trumpeted that this leadership contest had increased party membership—without a fee—to over 70,000. Back when I was editing the liberal party newspaper at the end of the 1960s, the circulation was to 75,000 liberal households in Ontario. To-day, with double the population in Ontario, they seem to have a problem giving away memberships for free.
Because free membership is idiocy. I thought when Justin Trudeau cancelled the membership fees for the federal liberals, he was expressing his dislike for the party. I was watching him closely up to the election in 2015 and the disdain he felt for the party was easy to see.
For the Ontario liberals to also cancel their fees was just plain stupidity. After all, if somebody gives you something for free, how do you treat it? Do you respect it? Do you make an effort to give it support? What’s it worth to you?
We used to send people who joined the party a membership card. They kept them and brought them with them to party functions. They used to turn out for pubic meet and greets with cabinet ministers. In the largest riding in Canada, at one time—York Scarborough. We held a huge annual event at one of the big hotels and monthly public meetings with our liberal MP when the House was in session. We didn’t just send some meaningless drivel to voters, we kept in touch. We had training sessions on door-to-door canvassing. We held policy development meetings, we were active on boards and committees of the party. We were real liberals.
Pierre Trudeau used to joke with me about where we met. It was at a meeting in Peterborough of a group of MPs, party officials and activists. It was called the GOYA Group. It meant ‘Get Off Your Ass.’ We need that group again today.
Copyright 2023 © Peter Lowry
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