There are some who believe that I overstepped a line in the Leadership debate yesterday. To Justin, his family and to those who were offended, I apologize. My comments were not meant to be personal, in the sense of being in any way a comment on Justin’s character – indeed, I have the greatest respect for Justin’s passion, enthusiasm and commitment.
My concern is what I have been saying from the beginning: that to lead the Liberal Party and to lead this country, particularly when the economy is the most important issue facing Canadians, we need leadership that not only understands the many challenges facing Canadians, but also understands how to meet those challenges.
When choosing a Leader, it is a person’s record of experience, substance and achievement that are important, regardless of the circumstances into which that person was born.
I am proud of my educational achievements, my background of success in law and business, my record of fulfilling responsibilities to my employees and to my family. I agree with other of my co-candidates, that platitudes and lack of concrete policy ideas are not enough. We all have lofty goals, but it’s how we plan on achieving them that is critical. Clear ideas, clear goals and clear plans of action are what we need to regain the trust and confidence of Canadians.
A comment on my concern over the use of the word “class”:
We all know that we have economic disparity in Canada – too much. We have lower income people who struggle to make ends meet, a great many who get by with the basics, and people who are well-to-do. We also have a great many who, by dint of hard work, improve the situation they started with for themselves and their families. We all know that our society is made up of people of a variety of income levels. But for me, the words “middle class”, “lower class” and “upper class”, although we hear them often in the US and the UK, are terms that carry with them a societal judgment, connotations of social ‘standing’ that I would prefer we not have in Canada.
My objective is to improve access to opportunity for all Canadians, whether it’s a kid at Jane and Finch in Toronto, in Attawapiskat, or in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We cannot ignore the income disparities that we have – indeed, our focus must be on increasing equality of opportunity. All Canadians want jobs. All Canadians want a better future for their kids. All Canadians want to be proud of their country.
My colleagues in this race have all come from different backgrounds, and have had access, in different ways, to the great opportunities this country can afford. I myself had the benefit of excellent education, opportunities and role models when I was young.
This campaign will have its moments, some we might regret, and we will all face challenges and criticism. It is politics. I will say, though, that if there is a Liberal in this country who doesn’t believe that the next leader will come under intense scrutiny from the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party they are mistaken. We need a leader who has the ability to withstand that inevitable scrutiny, to take them on, and indeed – take the fight to them. I have the ability and the commitment to do just that.