The Liberal Party of Canada has its sights set on Chilliwack.
First it was Liberal leader hopeful Justin Trudeau striding and flashing his smile through the streets of downtown last November.
Now Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, a former finance minister and deputy leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, is planning to attend Party in the Park in Central Community Park on August 23.
“All across the country there is growing momentum around Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party,” Goodale said in a phone interview with The Progress, from his constituency office in Wascana, Sask.
The veteran MP was first elected to the House when he was 24, and he was named Canada’s first-ever “Parliamentarian of the Year” by his peers in 2006.
Officials with the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon Riding Association were the ones who invited Goodale to Chilliwack this summer.
In terms of why he decided to accept the offer and travel to Chilliwack, Goodale replied that summer “is always a good time” to get out and meet people.
“The only real timing consideration here is that it’s the first time it turned out to be possible for me to come to Chilliwack,” he said.
There will be no formal agenda, he emphasized, as he visits Chilliwack’s popular Friday night event, Party in the Park. Part of the trip is to show that Liberals aren’t always pigeonholing Western Canadian voters.
“I will be doing a lot of listening,” he said. “That’s my objective.”
The party is feeling hopeful.
“Obviously we’ve gone through a difficult series of elections in recent years, and the party has worked hard on renewal.
“This has culminated in three things: better organizational structures across the country; much better fundraising and financing capacity; and the selection of new party leader.”
Momentum is leading to a “new sense of purpose and direction,” Goodale says.
“The party is getting excited about the prospects for the next election.”
Canadians will be heading to the polls in 2015, which gives would-be Liberal candidates time to get well prepared to run.
“There is a really good mood,” he says. “People have decided they would like to see change; see something positive and constructive.”
“I think people are looking at Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party with a fresh openness, optimism and hope that we can build a better government.”
They’re out for paradigm-changing political reform “so democracy becomes genuine,” Goodale says.
That includes not having candidates appointed to represent the party, but rather working to build strong, viable, grass-roots constituency organizations, that will be functioning well in every riding.
“That requires a lot of organizational work and that is being done. Candidates will be chosen in an open and democratic fashion.”
The leader wants the expenses of all MPs to be published every quarter.
“That is a timely topic right now,” he says.
But changing the rules of the House of Commons might take some time, he reckons.
“The Liberal Party is going to start doing that on a volunteer basis.”
A third priority is reducing the partisan “whipping” that goes on in the house.
“We have concluded that it is not always necessary,” Goodale offers, adding they want to allow MPs to think for themselves, vote for themselves, and assume the responsibility for their constituents.
Some of the ideas he’s talking about include limiting the use of omnibus bills, and looking to put more power and authority in the hands of the MPs, as opposed to solely the Prime Minister’s office, as well as more parliamentary control over government spending.
“These are few illustrations of how we’re working to make democracy better, and to make Parliament more transparent. All have one theme in common, which is a shift in power from a closed group within the PMO, to one distributed more broadly.”
Whether it’s in his own home riding of Wascana, or across the country, he strives to “listen very carefully.”
He’s found that many Canadians “are disaffected” with the whole democratic process and are ready for change.
It’s also about building a voter base by demonstrating a better way.
“Canadians want to see change in a way that ultimately shows respect for the citizens, voters and taxpayers.”