Thursday, June 15, 2006

One on One with Maurizio Bevilacqua

I got a chance to see the Bevilacqua event after the ALP convention on Sunday. The crowd wasn’t huge and was composed of mostly long time provincial Liberals.

This was the first time I’d actually heard Bevilacqua speak for any lengthy sort of time in public and I must say I was really impressed. Maurizio has a very down to earth speaking style – he’s not trying to sell you a used car and he’s not lecturing a grad class on political theory. He also got quite a few funny one liners off and responded to a question on his French with “je parle un français impeccable avec un accent parisien”.

Maurizio talked a lot about rebuilding the party from the grass roots, and provided several specifics for how to do it. He focused on communication with the grass roots, something the Tories do a lot better than the Liberals and something Maurizio has been doing for a long time (with his “how I wiped out the debt” updates). He also put forward the idea of “Renaissance Weekends” where Liberals across the country could propose and debate policy. Needless to say, I loved it.

Also of interest were the darts directed towards Michael Ignatieff by Bevilacqua. He said that to lead Canada you need to have lived through the referendum, the constitutional battles, and the fight against the deficit – you need to have lived in this country to lead it. He also talked about the need for a leader with experience, with roots in the Liberal Party, and someone who is in it for the long run, win or lose. I think it’s a safe bet where Maurizio won’t be going on the final ballot should be fail to make it that far.

You’re a career politician who was first elected as an MP at a very young age. Did you have a political role model, or someone who you tried to model yourself after as an MP?

My inspiration is drawn from ordinary people who do extraordinary things for the country. So many Canadians get up in the morning, put in an honest day’s work, raise their family, and try to live the best they can. These people are the people in hockey arenas and soccer pitches, you find them all over.

Political life is a vocation for me, not a job or a career, so I’m drawn to individual Canadians who give themselves and achieve special things for their communities. If you pause for a second and think of what Canada would be like without these individuals, you come to the realization that it would be a lesser country.

Many of the candidates in this race have limited political experience and limited time in the Liberal Party. But can you really say that your experience as a Liberal MP would make you a better leader or Prime Minister?

First of all, we’re electing a leader of the Liberal Party and I’m a product of the Liberal Party. I started out as the kid stuffing envelopes, putting up signs, (ed note: donating 5,400$ to my local candidate), then eventually managing campaigns, and then ran myself and served 18 years in Parliament and in Cabinet. These are valuable skills which are useful to have for an individual who hopes to lead a party, particularly in a phase where you’re rebuilding the party.

Above and beyond that, there’s expertise I’ve developed in social policy and economic policy during my years as Chair of the Finance committee where Paul Martin accepted the vast majority of my recommendations for his budget. This gives you a sense of the breath of experience an individual brings to the job.

Being leader of a party, you have to understand the party. You have to appreciate what people at the grass roots of the party are doing. You have to appreciate what’s required to rebuild the party. The more of those aspects of the party the leader has experience with, in my case, as an opposition member and a government member, the better the party will be in the long run.

All the candidates have talked about coming together after the leadership race as a unified party. But you yourself have been front and centre in the Chretien-Martin feuds so is it possible for the party to truly rally behind you?

I think people will rally behind a person who has made party unity a hallmark of his career. I’ve always fought for party unity. As a matter of fact, during the Chretien-Martin years, I tried to do that exactly and build bridges between what had developed.

This should illustrate to Liberals that even at a personal cost, I’ve always put the party ahead.

Obviously it’s more fun to run a leadership race in government than in opposition. What do you think the Liberal Party could have done differently over the past few years to have prevented the January 23rd loss?

There’s no question that the lack of vision in the party was the major reason for our defeat. And, having said that, we still got over 100 seats.

I plan to bring this party from opposition to competition with Stephen Harper very quickly. I’m not prepared to fall into his traps. For example, the vote on Afghanistan was a trap that Stephen Harper made out for us. Experience I had in opposition and government made me take the decision I did.

Do you think it would have been better for the Liberal Party as whole to oppose the motion or was a free vote the proper course of action?.

In retrospect, the only thing I know for sure is that Stephen Harper tried to divide our party.

As an immigrant to Canada yourself, what changes would you propose to Canada’s immigration system?

First of all, I don’t need to read a book on the immigrant experience, I’ve lived it. I grew up in the basement of a home and went through the struggles most immigrants go through. One of the concerns I have is that it’s taking immigrants much longer to achieve the same standard of living as other Canadians than it did in the past. That’s of concern to me. It shows that the integration of immigrants into Canadian society needs the attention of our leaders. The fact that I am an immigrant puts me in a better position to understand that reality.

There always needs to be a balance between the humanitarian side, family reunification and recruiting skilled labour from other countries. I would facilitate the retention of individuals who come to this country. For example, students who come to Canada and study here shouldn’t need to wait for landed immigrant status. Otherwise, you’re losing trained and educated individuals; in a country like ours that’s aging, it’s very wise to facilitate the transition from student to citizen.

According to your wikipedia bio, you have the record for largest margin of victory ever for an MP in Canada. How does being the underdog in this leadership race compare to the easy victories you’ve had in your home riding in the past?

I’m thoroughly enjoying the leadership campaign. I’ve traveled the country extensively throughout my political career so it gives me a chance to meet up with people I’ve kept in contact with over the years.

My riding is a microcosm of the country. You have to use the same strategy to win delegates that you try to use to win elections; it’s just that the apparatus is a lot more elaborate.

I’m going into this campaign with a great deal of confidence. Confidence that Canadians are looking for generational change, looking for a person with experience, and looking for a person with unquestionable loyalty to the Liberal Party of Canada. And when you look at those three things, you can put a check mark beside each one. I’ve also got a track record as an individual who has worked for the party, has stood for party unity, and has produced good work for the Liberal Party. I think what Liberals will find very attractive about me is that nothing was ever given to me, I’ve needed to earn every thing throughout my life.

I haven’t had a chance to watch the debate from yesterday yet, but what are your initial thoughts on the format and how you performed?

When you’re dealing with 11 candidates, it’s not the easiest…it’s a real challenge (laughs). I think people got a sense of everyone’s speaking styles, their ideas, and how quick they are on their feet. I was very happy with my performance.

I hear from some people that you go into a heated exchange with Joe Volpe and Gerard Kennedy.

That was an interesting exchange. I think that the one-on-ones weren’t as good as with three people. You get a lot more multi-layered and people from different perspectives with three people.

OK. Finally, I’ll ask you for a few of your favourites. What’s your favourite movie?

There are many. When you think about movies that have an impact on you in different ways. Remember that movie Erin Brokovich? That was good movie. Pay it forward was a very good movie.

Of course, my favourite one when I was a young kid was Rocky. At the end of the day, there are different movies that deal with different aspects of your being. Roberto Benini in Life is Beautiful speaks to certain values.

Favourite book?

There again, there are different ones that speak to you in different ways. For obvious reasons, I tend to read books which speak to the issues and policy – right now, I’m reading a book called “The Mystery of Capital” by Hernando De Soto. I read a lot of Italian literature as well.

Favourite sport?

Soccer. I played in the National Soccer League. So soccer is definitely a sport I’ve enjoyed since I was a child. Cycling is also one I enjoyed. For my 15th anniversary as an MP we did a cycling race in my riding and raise $100,000 dollars for local Charity. Some friends of mine wanted to do a dinner. I said “you know, everyone does a dinner, let’s do something different.” So I trained and we did 113 kilometers. We did it with Steve Bauer, who was the Canadian who held the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and Lisa Bentley, who is a world triathlete champion, and Rick Vaive who was the former captain of the Toronto Maple Leads.

We gave the proceeds to hospitals and women’s shelters and I thought that was a better way to do a 15th anniversary. It speaks to community; people like the fact that I didn’t do a dinner where people just get up and say “oh, he’s so great”, and there’s no sacrifice.

I invite everyone to check out TDH Strategies for his interview with Bevilacqua as well. Maurizio’s a great guy with a lot of the qualities I think this party could use at a time when we need to rebuild. I’d certainly rank him in my top 3 or 4 on the preferential ballot at this point.


  • I think Maurizio would make a good Finance Minister the next time the Liberals form government.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:30 p.m.  

  • This "you can't lead the country if you did not live here for XXX" is crap.
    How about you can't run the country unless you lived through Expo, or the October crisis or the Conscription crisis or the Manitoba schools question.
    How about you can only run for leader if you attended the Trudeau leadership convention.
    How about you can only be Prime Minister if you were born here?
    It is all just variations on that.
    Ultimatly it is just a fake standard, bordering on being un liberal because it is anti immigrant.
    I was thinking of going to see him when he came to Calgary next week, if I do now it will be to tell him to drop out of the race as he was not born in Canada and so should not run.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 12:33 p.m.  

  • aristo; Can you think of one country in the world which would elect a leader who hasn't lived there for 30 years?

    And, I think that given Ignatieff's background is in foreign affairs, it does cast a few concerns on his grasp of domestic issues. I know a lot of the criticism directed towards Iggy (ie. the torture stuff) is unfair, but to me his time outside of Canada and his lack of political experience are the two most valid criticisms about his candidacy.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:08 p.m.  

  • CG
    I accept the time out of Canada is an issue, I could argue about always identifing as Canadian, teaching at the Banff centre for a few summers and in a sense travelling over more of Canada over this time by speaking all over Canada and seeing the country. Yes Iggy spent time out of Canada but he also saw more of Canada in that same time then say, Harper did. He always came back and remained engaged with the country and always identified as a Canadian.
    Ultimatly though if someone wants to draw a line in the sand and say you must have been in Canada for x number of years to run for leader well ok, draw that line in the sand. Just be prepared for some consequences in the immigrant community for that stand because ultimatly it is arbitrary where you draw it.
    If you feel it is a reason to disqualify someone then go ahead, ultimatly it is not an unreasonable stand to take. Be aware though of the arbitraryness of your decision. What is the purity level of your Candidate and what is the parochilism of your stand.
    What are you saying about governing a country like Canada. Does it mean that anyone who never lived through the NEP can't govern Alberta?
    People who have never been to the Yukon can't?
    It is the same as needing to write an exam to vote. If I create the test then I can make sure you never pass.
    Carefull about setting benchmarks for purity, you never know when you end up on the wrong side.
    To me Iggy understands Canada at least as well as most if not all the leadership candidates and he has seen as much or more then most.
    If he has the passion for the country then that is my test on this issue and I would suggest that all Candidates are good enough Canadians to run for leader. I am looking or other qualities.
    Plus CG if you are looking for political experiance then how can you endorse Kennedy. He has less then Iggy at the national level and we know that ultimatly that is an entirely different ball game then provincial, take a look at that track record, that should disqualify Kennedy right away.
    I guess we just have different standards on what is crucial and I feel the absence, while significant is not crucial.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 10:01 p.m.  

  • The current Latvian president was a Canadian Citizen for many years, from what I can tell around 40 years.

    By Blogger Manley Man, at 12:05 a.m.  

  • jpn Liberal
    Kennedy has no experiance at the Federal Level.
    Having experiance at the provincial level is a negative.
    Do not mention it as it is a mark against him.
    Provincial politicians have a terrible terrible record at the federal level.
    It is better to have no experiance then provincial experiance.
    This is a huge negative for Kennedy.
    What is ridiculous is for the Kennedy people to argue that provincial level experiance is a positive, its not.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 11:30 a.m.  

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