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Rose Simpson: No place to sit in the political tent

_ Rose Simpson’s column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose’s Cantina . You can read her previous columns here .

_ I grew up under the care and tutilege of a single mother. We lived on mother’s allowance, a more gentle term for welfare, until I was 16 when my mom went to back to work in a sweltering factory making sweaters for rich people.

This is not a sob story. I never felt poor, not really, because I lived in a country that took care of its own. I knew Canada could give me a better future, a better life than my mom had.

I just knew it. I didn’t need any government advertising to tell me it was so.

Because I lived in Canada, and I was poor, I qualified for student loans and grants, lots of them. I also got a bursary from the Royal Canadian Legion in the name of my father Russell who served his country with distinction before PTSD took his life in 1957.

My brothers Bob and Gary got those loans and bursaries, too. Bob went on to a successful career as a financial manager and motivational speaker. Gary became a public school principal and, one year, won the City of London’s Principal of the Year for his work with kids with learning disabilities .

I went to journalism school and happily landed a job at a national newspaper right out of university. By the time I was 23, I was flitting around Parliament Hill. By the time I was 25, I was working in the Prime Minister’s Office. Not bad for a kid who grew up wearing hand-me-downs and eating Kraft dinner.

I will always be grateful to Canada. The country invested in us, and it paid off.

I left journalism early to go into politics because the Liberal Party of Canada spoke to me as a woman with dreams. Liberals talked about the social safety net, universal daycare, job programs to give people a leg up, insurance when sometimes they found themselves in the gutter. The principle was always clear: everybody has something wrong in their lives, whether it’s job troubles or illness. We’ve all been there. Sometimes we just need a helping hand.

If we work together, we can make this country better for everybody.

At the centre of this vision was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a man who talked about a just society, about keeping government out of the bedrooms of the nation, about helping immigrants to realize their own dreams.

Sure a lot of it was just puffery. He wasn’t, as it turned out, all that interested in the rights of citizens. He turned Quebec into a police state for a time. He asked Westerners why he should sell their wheat. He gave the people of Salmon Arm the finger.

But nobody’s perfect, and we forgave our Pierre because, well, because of the alternative. Conservatives, it always seemed, were against everything. The NDP was getting there, but embraced a kind of untenable nationalism that a lot of hardscrabble people found hard to take.

But the Liberals always seemed to have a clear vision and an open tent.

And for a time, I was there.

I haven’t been a card-carrying Liberal for nearly two decades. I haven’t belonged to any party because nobody is speaking to me. I lost my dreams long ago when I bet on a horse that ran away. I’ve gone from a house I owned to a house I rent. Because of a few well-meaning but bad choices, I haven’t had any kind of real job in years.

It’s not that I didn’t try.

In the meantime, this country has become unrecognizable to me. It has become a mean-spirited place that pits the haves against the have-nots, like some kind of dirty reality show up the dial where it’s everybody for themselves.

I feel like I’m one of Dorothy’s chums if the Wizard of Oz tale gone badly. There isn’t anything in anybody’s bag of tricks for me. I’m broken, finished, limping toward to finish line on a wing and a prayer and nobody gives a damn.

Canadians today have to keep their wits about them, and stay healthy. If you break your leg and you’re in the gutter, that’s where you stay.

And yet….

I have lots of people inviting me into their political tents.

Trouble is, when I get there, I’m handed a phone and some phone numbers to call.

And there’s no place to sit!

So for now, I’m just here in my own tent, speaking to the universe over a fibre optic connection.

The Internet is my tent now. I sit here and commiserate with others who have no money, no jobs, no purpose, just sitting here, waiting to die.

And so, you must be asking by now: what does this have to do with Justin Trudeau and the New Liberal Party of Canada?

Let’s start by saying, Justin must the son from another father. I don’t recognize his father in him. When I look into his beautiful eyes, I don’t see purpose and vision. I see no empathy, no love for Canada.

I see something else and it disturbs me.

In one of our rare meetings, I asked Pierre Trudeau what he thought of Joe Clark, his predecessor for a short period.

Trudeau turned to me, without a beat, and said this: “Joe Clark is a small mean man.”

He could have been describing his own son, and man who has lost the big picture who has become obsessed with the details.

With his every action, and Bozo explosion, Justin Trudeau is making the Liberal tent smaller and smaller. As my friend Ron Wood, the long-term Reformer has noted, Justin Trudeau has turned the Liberal Party into a pup tent.

There are two things that disturb. First, he runs roughshod over his Party nominations, meaning that unless you look like him, or talk like him, you don’t get to be an MP.

Second, and in my view, the biggest sign of the real man, he tells Liberals that if they are pro-life, they can’t run for office under the Liberal banner (although if you are a sitting MP, you are grandfathered; just don’t talk about your stance in public.)

Why should this bother me? After all, haven’t I been a fervent advocate for choice?

It bothers me because I’m a big tent girl. It bothers me because the Liberals have elected a party leader who tells them what to think. Imagine Stephen Harper telling the Tory candidates that the only people who could run for office were people who were pro-lifers?

The smell would permeate the party like a bad air day in Thurso.

I heard one Liberal MP on Don Martin’s show, a female, who was forced to explain the abortion stance. She said when she became a Liberal, she did so by accepting that she must defend the policies and vision of that party. If she couldn’t, she shouldn’t be in the Liberal Party of Canada.

That doesn’t sound very democratic to me.

The abortion thing is a bad distraction. I don’t want a leader who tells me what to think. I want a leader who is inclusive, one who doesn’t throw out stellar party loyalists, like his fine cadre of Senators, because they’re an inconvenience. I want a leader who spends less time in court fighting with other Liberals.

I want a leader who will show me a way up from the gutter, a man who will give me a seat in the tent instead of making me wash the dishes and put them back just so.

Justin Trudeau is running a top-down party, one that is intolerant of the views of others, one that does not encourage debate or difference of opinion. It is not the Liberal Party of his father. It is the Liberal Party run by the Masters of the Universe, no mutants allowed.

Sounds like another party leader, doesn’t it?

This is so discouraging. It’s even heartbreaking for many of us who used to be believers.

My mother didn’t raise me to be a Stepford Wife. I’ll think for myself thank you.

Time to go back into the desert in search of a new tent.


Rose Simpson _ **

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** ** See also: ** Ottawa Media Guide

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