Monday, March 28, 2011

Where is the NL vision?

The following is the text of my Monday evening (March 28th) speech during the New Democratic Party nomination meeting for the federal riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl. The meeting was held at the Battery Hotel in St. John’s. It was standing-room only.


Wouldn’t you know it — I stand before you this evening and I’m suddenly overcome with déjà vu.

Déjà vu all over again.

Where did that come from, I wonder?

This is actually the third time I’ve won the New Democratic nomination in the great riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

What’s the expression?

Third time’s the charm; third time lucky.

But then it’s also said that you make your own luck, which I believe in.

New Democrats make our own luck.

I first won the nomination in the fall of 2008.

I came out of nowhere as a career journalist, as a newspaper editor and columnist, and I won the nomination.

Who is this Cleary guy to carry the New Democrat flag in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl — when he has challenged the New Democratic Party itself?

Who is this Cleary guy to represent a party that he has taken to task?

I can answer those questions.

I like to see myself as a challenger of the status quo.

Because the status quo MUST be challenged.

The political status quo MUST be challenged.

I’ll come back to that shortly.

I ran in the 2008 general election, and, with little money, hardly any time (we were a late entry into the race), and few volunteers, came oh so close to victory.

St. John’s South-Mount Pearl was one of the closest races in all of Canada, a nail biter, the race was neck and neck the entire night — from what I was told anyway, I kept going for walks.

In the end, we lost by less than 1,000 votes.

Less than 1,000 votes — a heart breaker.

I won the New Democratic nomination again in the fall of 2009, thinking that a federal election was imminent.

It was not imminent.

Then I was stuck — it’s hard to make a living as a journalist (the only thing I’ve ever known) when you’re a declared New Democrat.

And so I walked away from the nomination.

Family first — which includes feeding them — and I returned to journalism.

In recent weeks, with escalating speculation of a federal election, I have been asked by the public — on the street, on the side of the hockey rink, in the lineup at the coffee shop — whether I would run again.

Then I got a call from the federal party, asking whether I was interested.

Yes — was my immediate answer.

Yes, I was interested.

Yes, I had been thinking about it.

I had only one condition — or question, actually.

I asked where the New Democratic Party stood on a judicial inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

Was the federal party for an inquiry — or against?

The New Democratic Party, I was told, supports a judicial inquiry into the fisheries.

The party had me then.

We can’t fix what’s wrong with our rural engine and cultural industry unless we have all the facts — the facts on science, the facts on management, the facts on quotas.

Why is it that almost 20 years after the northern cod moratorium and our fisheries remain in shambles?

Where is the rebuilding plan?

Where is the leadership?

Where is the vision?

The situation we’re in today is as backward as ever.

We’re supposed to run out of oil — not fish.

If we’re not careful we’ll lose both.

I heard an economist say recently we have 7 years of decent oil revenues left before they start trailing off.

The clock ticks.

How do we keep the economy strong?

How do we prepare for economic reality after oil?

I gave a speech earlier this month at The Ship in downtown St. John’s as part of the Jack Cycle, an event exploring Newfoundland’s identity through the Jack tales.

I spoke about Jack the Sailor Man — from the song Jack was Every Inch a Sailor.

Jack the sailor man, our Jack, Newfoundland Jack … he’s no longer a sailor.

Certainly not every inch of him.

Young Jack today no longer dreams of a life in a fishing boat.

It’s certainly not a life that old Jack wants for his son or daughter, either.

Who are we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

Where are we headed?

Where do we see ourselves in 10 or 20 years?

Are we destined to lose our have status?

Are we destined to revert back to the poverty stricken province of Canada?

Where is the vision?

Where is the leadership?

Here in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl there’s a difference between this election, and the general election of 2008.

We’re better organized.

We’re better funded (don’t forget to drop by the donation table before you leave).

We have more volunteers (we need more … don’t forget to sign your name to the volunteer list).

We have momentum.

We have a grass-roots rising.

Most importantly, the biggest difference between now and the election of 2008 is that we KNOW we can win.

As the New Democratic MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, my focus will be on the future.

But my focus will also be on the present.

Our seniors are struggling — struggling — to make ends meet.

Our poor are cold in their homes.

They cannot afford to turn on the furnace.

Low-income earners are often forced to make choices — food or medication.

Where are the jobs and affordable training programs?

Where is the vision?

Where is the leadership?

I said earlier that the status quo MUST be challenged …

I said earlier that the political status quo MUST be challenged.

We have to get away from what I call pancake politics.

Some constituents are impressed by the sheer number of pancake breakfasts, community barbeques, seniors’ visits, family-fun days, and Town Hall meetings held over a term in office.

Other constituents are awed by the newspaper-size newsletter mailed to their homes every few months to extol the virtues of their representative.

That’s even though the politician or their staffers wrote the newsletter.

And taxpayers paid for it.

I look for a little more in a politician.

We should all look for more in a politician.

Ask your MP — what has he or she done since 2008?

What have they done for Newfoundland and Labrador?

That’s what I meant earlier by saying the status quo must be challenged.

The political status quo must be challenged.

It’s not enough to say you stand for Newfoundland and Labrador and then stand by your party as Newfoundland and Labrador is punished — punished — come budget time.

That’s not good enough.

It’s not enough to say you stand for Newfoundland and Labrador and as a fisheries ambassador then do nothing to save the fisheries.

That’s not good enough.

Stephen Harper is no friend to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Harper has not only showed contempt for Parliament, he has shown contempt for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Where is the vision?

Where is the leadership?

I say look to Lorraine Michael.

I say look to Jack Harris.

I say look to Jack Layton and his team of New Democrats.

There’s your vision.

There’s your leadership.

Thank you.

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