On federal politics: an interview with Marjory Loveys

August 14, 2009

Marjory Loveys worked for years in the Prime Minister’s Office.  I leaped at the chance to talk to a woman who understands federal politics.  Marjory is running for the Leeds and Grenville Liberal nomination.

Why is it important that the Liberal Party of Canada form the next government?

It’s worth looking at the current government and defining for ourselves what makes people so uncomfortable with Stephen Harper.  For me there are two things:  1.  he is mean and divisive, and I fear that over time Canada will become like him, meaner and more divided;  2.  he seems to have very little ambition for Canada.  I don’t see any big ideas coming from Stephen Harper; I don’t see big plans for progress for Canada.  I don’t see him excited about new industries, new technologies, or major reforms of any kind.  He likes the oil sands, law and order, and ethanol.  That’s about it.

Yes, but he’s an oilman, from Calgary.

He’s no oilman.  I worked with guys from the oil patch and they were builders.  They wore iron rings and they built things.  Stephen Harper is not a builder.  He has plenty of ambition for himself, but not for Canada.

What’s Michael Ignatieff doing talking up the oil sands?

It’s a big industry and a big resource, and it has to learn to operate sustainably.  In Calgary there are lots of iron rings and a can-do attitude.  In terms of climate change if we had fewer economists and lawyers and more engineers, we could accomplish a whole lot.  It’s like anything else.  You don’t do it until you’re pushed, and the trick for government is that we will push them in a way that works for them.

Engineers are taught to solve problems, and that’s what politics needs:  people to solve problems.  That’s what I did for ten years in Mr. Chretien’s office:  listen to all sides.  Find an approach that is supportive, not destructive, that works for everybody.

One blogger suggested that Michael Ignatieff should stop trying to appear a statesman and speak to Canadians the way he would talk to members of a book club.  Are there enough readers in Canada to make Michael Ignatieff our next Prime Minister?

I look at Mr. Ignateiff as someone who is learning very quickly in one of the toughest jobs in the country.   He has a strong philosophical framework for the job.  He has actually thought about the role of government.  He is liberal in the finest sense of the word.

Mr. Harper is like Mike Harris:  he doesn’t believe in the organization he is leading.  He is there to weaken it, not to make it work well.  He has instructed his MPs to make Commons committee work totally partisan and dysfunctional.  If Conservative Party of Canada MPs don’t like where the committee is going, they often get up and leave.

Stephen Harper is caught up in an ideology of not believing in government.  He does not believe in government as a force for good.  By contrast Michael Ignatieff believes in a government which functions well and is doing the right thing.

George W. Bush’s ideology demanded that he cut taxes, deregulate, and wage war.  He left the United States bankrupt.  To what extent has this Republican trend influenced the Conservative Party of Canada?

One of the great myths is that Liberals are spendthrifts and Conservatives are good fiscal managers.

The Chretien Liberals inherited a huge deficit from Brian Mulroney.  By the end of the Chretien years we had surpluses that were being used to pay down the nation’s mortgage.  Stephen Harper increased spending and cut taxes to the point where the surplus was gone before the recession began.  With no rainy day funds, the entire stimulus package was funded by going into debt.  No prudent family would run their finances this way.  We have seen this pattern in Saskatchewan, and in the United States in Republican years.   The right wing ran up the debts and the left wing paid them off.

What local and national challenges will the next government face?

The big challenge for Canada over the next few years will be to recover from the recession.  What I would push very hard for is more help for small business because they are spending lots of money on stimulus.  If you are a car company it’s great, if you build infrastructure it is great, but the vast majority of enterprises in Leeds and Grenville are small businesses, and Ottawa hasn’t beefed up support for small business.

Your next hurdle is to gain the nomination.  Why should members of the Leeds and Grenville Liberal association choose you as their candidate?

I know how government works and I know what it feels like to be in a small business and feel that you’re not being heard. I grew up in a village in Oxford County and I have seen a lack of understanding of rural and small communities in the federal government.

Mr. Ignatieff has made a commitment to use a rural lens on his policies.  This is his way of recognizing that one size does not fit all and he is committing that all of his policies will work for small towns as well as for cities.   I’m particularly interested in day care programs, for example.  They will need to be designed quite differently in rural communities than in downtown Toronto.

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