Thank you, everyone … for that great Liberal family welcome.
And, thanks above all … for coming here today … and in such great numbers …
I have been going to Provincial Councils for more than 20 years and this one is the biggest I’ve seen. Thank you for coming together to start the important work of building our party.
You know, the other day in the legislature I rose to ask a serious question about who he had consulted on the use of the notwithstanding clause.
And in response to that very serious question (the real answer to which was no one, by the way) Doug Ford stood up and called me, to roaring laughter, the “leader of the minivan party.”
And I said … that’s a lie … that’s untrue … you take that back …
Because … I’m actually the INTERIM leader of the minivan party.
And I was really very deeply offended by that. I take my role very seriously.
It’s important to be accurate.
And … truthful.
This morning, we confronted some harsh truths …
About the message that Ontario voters sent us …
And about our party.
The truth is … last June, voters told us, in pretty unequivocal terms, they’d had enough of us.
That after 15 years, they wanted change.
But the harder truth is that … we lost our way and in turn, we lost the election.
We forgot who first elected us … and why …
And they sent us a clear and unmistakable message …
And it’s only right … and only fair … that we think about that message …
That we don’t shrug it off and say … well … if only we’d introduced this differently … or communicated that differently … things would be different.
We didn’t lose because voters were “low information” or because young people were disengaged.
Let’s not insult voters that way …
They’re smarter than that.
They put us in the penalty box.
Time will tell for how long.
And, frankly, they made the right call …
I think we lost our way …
And lost sight of some fundamental truths about the Ontario Liberal Party …
We lost because we forgot who first elected us and what they sent us to do.
They sent us a clear and unmistakeable message.
One that we need to accept with humility, we respect for the voters and with a promise to never ever let it happen again.
And I’m here today
Not to dwell on our mistakes …
But to celebrate the truth.
Because the truth is … you and I … and the Ontario Liberal Party … we’re builders.
We are builders.
In the mid 1990s … back before some of you in this room were even born … we started building the party back up … after a stunning election loss in 1990.
I was there … my hair was a lot darker and I was a lot skinnier … but I was there …
I was there as a young volunteer … working in Ottawa … as a certain young, skinny Liberal leader was crisscrossing the province … literally crisscrossing it, mind you … not just dropping into friendly BBQs like Doug Ford …
And Dalton McGuinty, that skinny leader… and a small team of dedicated volunteers … built this party up … riding by riding … meeting by meeting … dollar by dollar …
Driving across this province in … you guessed it … a minivan.
And a few years and a lot of hard work later, that young skinny leader was Premier Dalton McGuinty… and we were back in government.
So … go ahead … Doug Ford …
Call us the Minivan Party.
I will wear that title as a badge of honour.
Because it is emblematic of those hard working men and women who assemble that minivan.
It’s emblematic of the moms and dads and grandparents and kids – the families of this province, who are counting on their government to ensure they have good healthcare, good schools and public services.
And it means that just like the last time, we will stop at nothing.
We will overcome every obstacle …
And we will use every resource at our disposal … no matter how small it may seem …
To build up our party again …
And through grit and determination and hark work … we will be back again … to build Ontario up, too.
Because ultimately … that is our goal.
Not just to build our party up for its own sake … but to build an alternative to the cuts and the chaos we know will be coming soon.
Because that’s what Conservatives do.
They take services and opportunities away from the poor and the middle class.
They pit one group of people against the next.
Teachers against parents … police against the communities they serve … physicians against patients …
They cannot help themselves and it is as predictable as it is tragic.
In the mid and late 1990s … our party got a lot of its youth and energy from people who were in school when Mike Harris’ cuts and chaos ended their extracurriculars …
And screwed up their school years.
Those kids became Liberals … and they were the policy minds … the communicators … the chiefs of staff and the party leaders who won in 2003 … and kept winning for 15 years.
And if you think those kids were motivated …
My gut tells me that when Doug Ford is done ransacking Ontario …
There will be even more young Liberals ready to build again.
Right now … those Liberals are kids … not even eligible to vote yet.
But we need to be ready for them.
So a lot of what we need to do starts with strengthening OYL.
That’s the foundation. That’s where a lot of our energy and ideas and leadership has always come from.
From young … bright … talented … motivated … people … with new ideas for a new era.
That’s one important way we built last time.
We built our party … to build our province.
We built education.
We lowered class sizes.
Raised graduation rates and test scores.
We built a world-leading education curriculum.
We built infrastructure.
We added service on the GO lines …
Built new highways and roads and bridges …
In every corner of this province.
We built a cleaner environment.
Yeah … we scrapped a few things … like some coal plants … and in turn, smog days …
But we built a green energy sector and today our water is safe to drink and our air is clear and clean to breathe.
And we built health care.
We stopped the bleed of nurses and the brain drain of talent to the US.
We hired nurses.
We built new hospitals.
We lowered wait times.
And I’d like to tell you a personal story about that.
My mother had a stroke a few weeks ago.
She was out shopping with my sister when it happened …
Some very kind people at the store helped them.
The paramedics got to her quickly.
And the whole team at the Civic Campus at the Ottawa hospital and the Heart Institute, especially the Neurology acute care unit gave her amazing … professional and compassionate care.
It reminded me of something
Three things actually.
First of all … when someone you love is sick, whole world shrinks down to the size of that hospital bed in front of you and
… nothing else matters…nothing
Not politics … nothing … matters as much as that three by seven foot square space where that person is
Now … my mom is on the mend … improving every day.
What’s most important and what we need to remember is that every time one of those beds is cut … that means someone, somewhere … and their family is going to suffer needlessly … and you and I need to fight protect every single three-by-seven square of our health care system.
Second … we helped build that system.
Over 15 years you and I helped build a health care system that is the envy of our friends in the US, certainly … and if not the world.
Those beds exist because we put in place the funding and the training and the resources they need to operate.
And there will be a time when we will be called upon again to build that system up.
Third … we need to be ready for that time.
And that means we have to start building the Ontario Liberal Party…
We can’t spend the next four years navel-gazing or licking our wounds in a corner somewhere
That’s not productive.
We can’t spend the next four years complaining and criticizing and opposing at every turn …
That’s not productive, either.
Ultimately, neither of those things are what Ontarians want.
They want us to remember who we are.
So let’s do that.
First of all … we’re family.
You and I are part of a movement … a family … not just a party.
And that loyalty and that support for one another that we’re all feeling in this room, right now …
Is also how we feel about our fellow Ontarians.
Ontario Liberals aren’t the party of some “nation” within Ontario …
There will never be a “Fraser-nation” … And Thank God for that
Because Ontario Liberals invite everyone in …
We are the party of and for all Ontarians … of all backgrounds and beliefs …
And we bring people together …we don’t divide them.
And I can think of no better example than the one set by Kathleen Wynne … because her leadership was based on that principle … of inclusion … and respect … and caring … and we cannot forget that.
And second … as I said earlier, we are builders … who always put Ontario back on track …
We’re the ones who built our schools and hospitals and energy sector and clean water and clean air …
After the Conservatives tore it all down.
And we will build Ontario up again when they are finished doing what they always do.
And it starts today …
With building up our party …
Step by step … town by town … riding by riding
One volunteer and one small donation at a time …
So that in a few years …
When people are looking for an alternative to the cuts and the chaos …
They remember who we are …
Because you and I will have remembered who we are.
Yes, we are the minivan party.
But not for the reasons Doug Ford thinks.
We’re on the side of the people who drive minivans …
The hard-working moms and dads who go to work each day and build our province up …
We need their schools and hospitals to be strong … so their families will thrive.
So Liberal Family …
Let’s get to work.
I’ll start the minivan.