My fellow Liberals, my fellow Canadians: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address had less than 300 words. This hypothetical address has about 500. Like Lincoln’s speech, I immodestly hope mine will be remembered.
Every word I speak here today will be the truth.
Canadians are sick of falsity. They are tired of false outrage, and false claims of accomplishment, and partisanship before citizenship. So here is the truth.
My party has lost its way. Arrogance, entitlement, indolence: All of these things contributed to our loss in 2006, and every loss since. We used to believe in great things: A strong central government. Empathy, diversity, creativity, honesty.
Most of all, we used to believe that government could be a force for good in society, and that we owed an obligation to each other.
To help the poor, and the helpless, and the sick. To help shoulder the burden of our fellow citizens, while helping them make their own way.
We became indifferent. We became self-important. We treated Canadians’ money as if it were our own. We fell victim to petty tribalism and, ultimately, a civil war. We abandoned our principles. We started to look for quick fixes.
There are none. If there were simple solutions to the impossibility of daily existence, the improbability of Canada, those solutions would have been found by now.
They don’t exist. Canadians know that. Liberals need to know that, too.
The immensity of the challenges that lie ahead leaves me humbled, and afraid. How do we pay for health care, with a population that grows increasingly old, and provincial treasuries that grow increasingly smaller?
How do we ensure that people receive the services they need, and not just the ones they want? How do we reconcile this: A federal government enjoying structural surpluses, and most of the provinces facing a future like Greece? How do we contain regionalism and resentments in a nation as big and as diverse as this one?
Another truth: The government we have is not as evil as we regularly suggest that it is. On social issues, on his response to the global recession, on appointments, the prime minister has surprised me. I give him some credit.
But I will not hesitate to criticize the PM when he deserves it. I oppose many of the things he favours. But I do not hate him. There has been too much hate in our politics, in recent years. The prime minister bears responsibility for some of it.
I also reject the solipsism of too many Liberals and New Democrats, who believe that progressives can win when we are a house divided. We cannot. To New Democrats who unconditionally accept federalism, and free markets, and the equality of regions, I say: Let us work together.
Finally, I say this: I am not my father. I miss him, and my brother, more than you can ever know. But it is unfair to expect that every son is like every father. He gave me a privileged upbringing, and my name. But the rest is up to me, not him.
These words are the truth. I am Justin Trudeau, and I am running to be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.