Manitoba Liberals knock on Portage doors

Charles Huband, centre, Lloyd Axworthy, at right, door-knocking in Portage la Prairie. Mickey Dumont/Citizen photo
Lloyd Axworthy

On the eve of Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister campaigning in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba Liberal Party candidate Charles Huband also unloaded his big guns, bringing in an elder Liberal statesman to help him knock on doors.

is a Canadian politician, elder statesman and academic. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Huband invited Lloyd Axworthy to Portage to speak to Huband’s troops and to help get out the message door-to-door.

Dr. Axworthy’s elected political career spanned 27 years, during six of which he served in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and 21 in Parliament. He held several cabinet positions, notably Minister of Employment and Immigration, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Minister of Transport, Minister of Human Resources Development, Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996-2000.

Most recently the former foreign affairs minister led Canada’s election observation mission to Ukraine

“Even though he (Lloyd Axworthy) is retired from the cabinet, he is still a very active person (politically) and I’m delighted that he is here to help me this evening by speaking for a few minutes,” Huband said in introducing the senior Liberal statesman.

“I want to say that in coming here I just kind of had a rush of memories going back to my first election from 1973 when Gordon Johnson was the sitting MLA. I was a new kid on the block and got myself elected in Fort Rouge,” Axworthy said. He explained about the help he received then and how others took him under their wings. “They took me under wing and kind of taught me the tricks of the trade and also to weather the slings and arrows which are bound to come your way. So I’ve always had a kind of affection because Gordon was really my mentor the youth of public life and that’s close I now.”

Axworthy described Huband as a leader for many years and “intellectually very sound in terms of being able to give us in this province a good rendering of how things work and how they should work. He said Huband is a real Liberal. “I mean a real liberal that really believes that there’s a thing called liberalism that’s not just a transaction and a quick fix.

“If you added up the campaigning years of the four of us, you probably came to about two hundred years of accumulated experience; knocking on doors, going to meetings but always on the basis that through the Liberal Party, it was a way in which we could make changes that we felt would better the community, our lives and children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I think that’s really the purpose of this election. Let me just give you perspective. If I could bring anything to the meeting Charles said I was the head of a mission for the Canadian election observer team in Ukraine last April there were three elections in a row.

And you know it impressive. And I think this is something that we have to keep reminding ourselves about that the people in Ukraine saw that using the ballot box using the power of the vote was the best and most effective and most democratic way to get a change made. We sometimes are a little cynical about elections and politicians and the system and Parliament — there’s a lot of people out there who (are) full-time big cynics, but I think that the real issue as Liberals is that if we don’t have a system by which people are represented … I mean, I come away from Ukraine looking at how that country mobilized around a vote and they were committed that this is their way of participating and making a change — that is something that I think kind of is deep in the soul and psyche of all of us. We want to feel that we have something to be part of and that we can make a contribution and that the political system is for all of us. It’s not that not based on how much money you have. It’s not based on what religion you follow. It’s based on the fact that you’re committed to making some good ideas work. Making sure that too much power doesn’t get concentrated and you can put some checks and balances whether it’s executive power of government or big corporations or universities. I’ve been through them all and if nothing else you have to make sure that those who exercise power do so in an accountable way. And that’s a big issue around the world now. How do you make it accountable?

“I think it’s very true in this province. We have a provincial premier who doesn’t believe he’s accountable to anybody. Just doesn’t believe that the legislature and the political system is one in which there is ongoing and full respect on both sides from the elected leaders to the people and from the people to them because he does not respect. He doesn’t want to talk to anybody he doesn’t want to meet with anybody. And in fact, has really turned Manitoba almost into an isolation ward because of his lack of involvement.

“I was at some meetings just last week where some of the members of Liberal members of Parliament were telling us that there are a billion dollars of federal infrastructure money that could go in to do sewage treatments, build new schools and hospitals and whatever the capital requirements of the community is, and Brian Pallister is sitting on that money because he doesn’t want to give Justin Trudeau another win.

“And in the meantime what’s happening is that Manitoba now has the lowest level of economic growth in any province in the country. And we’re also beginning to feel real pressures on our infrastructure.

“Your governments are not thereby divine right. There’s nobody that has a burning bush. They’re there because they undertake the protection and promotion of the rights of people. And we don’t have a government that does that. And I think that that is one reason why I think it’s really important that Charles has put his name forward because I think it is that the range of voices that can be brought into the legislature be new and fresh and different and be prepared to stand up against the kind of disinterest and lethargy and arrogance that takes place presently,” said Axworthy.

Huband quoted Thomas Payne (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain)

“Now why do I mention Thomas Paine because he dealt with individual rights. The right of the citizen for this or that. But there were individual rights. Now those individual rights are solidified into our constitution. We have a Canadian Bill of Rights. So all of us have certain inalienable rights such as the right to vote. The right to have a trial without being prejudicially dealt with, so those rights are embedded in our Constitution. But the rights that are not embedded are the community rights, social rights. The rights to have an economy that works for everyone. The rights to have a workable society in terms of opportunities and so on. So these rights, these social rights are something that I think the Liberal Party has now offered to the people of Manitoba. And when I say offered it to them they’ve offered it to them through Dougal Lamont and the policies that he has put forward. And those policies are profound and in the direction of establishing fairness for everyone.

“My poor our happy, neither ignorance nor distress it is to be found among them. My jails are empty, the streets are free of beggars and the aged are not in want. When a nation is able to support these things and say these things, then that country has a constitution and a government that is working,” quoted Huband from Paine.”

“I think the same is true of the government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba and even the cities and villages of Manitoba, Huband said.

“If we have these problems that are solved in an adequate way then we can be proud of our country. But as things now stand we have not attained those things. We have not obtained fair wages for all people. We have not attained opening so for childcare that people want and need in order to be economically advanced. So there is much to be done. There is much to be still developed and I think that the Liberal Party has the best answers and I am proud to be a candidate in Portage la Prairie and carry those ideas forward.”

The provincial election will be held on Sept. 10.



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