Talking to John Lennard
I think it’s a question of building the Liberal Party. I think the Liberal Party is desperate for change, for growth, for rebuilding. I think young Liberals need to be a part of that - I’ve got a couple of ideas, and a lot of passion for that.
I think it’s very important that young Liberals become the leaders of today in terms of moving the party forward. That’s why I’m running. I think I can do that better than anyone else, and we’ll see what the delegates have to say in Vancouver.
What’s the best way to get young Liberals to become leaders of the party?
I think the YLC’s job fundamentally is to become a link between our core constituency, which is young Canadians, and the party itself. That means young Canadians need to take on leadership roles within the party.
I personally was a campaign manager at the age of 20 and 21. I think the YLC’s job is to foster that kind of engamenet.
The hot topic of the convention seems to be one member one vote. I’ve seen your comments on blogs, so and you’re obviously getting mixed up in all that. I see you support one member one vote – are you for or against the youth amendment that would set a 25% quota on the points?
I’m against the YLC amendment. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s productive for the party.
I think it’s a very defensive measure to try and defend a small piece of the pie, a bit of the turf, rather than thinking about what’s in the best interests of the party. And the best interests of the party as far as I’m concerned is making sure every single member gets a direct say in the choice in the next leader.
I think it’s divisive as well. I think it creates a gulf between the youth of the party and the rest of the party. I think it’s time to stop treating ourselves as young Liberals as though we’re some sort of junior partners.
Finally, I think it sends a pessimistic message, that it allows us to think young Liberals can’t do more...that we need some sort of booster seat or training wheels to go where we want to.
I’m with you on that. But, just to play devil’s advocate, isn’t the role of the YLC President to look out for the interests of youth? So shouldn’t the YLC be protecting the gains they’ve made in the past?
I think the role of the YLC is to grow the party and bring more young people into the party. It’s not about protecting our piece of the pie – it’s making sure our voices are heard louder by bringing more people into the party.
My push as President of the YLC is going to be to bring more people into the party and make sure their voice is heard all the way up.
So, talking about the role of the YLC. Looking at the big picture, young voters don’t seem to be voting Liberal, the Liberal Party hasn’t had more youth candidates or elected more younger MPs than other parties. So, in that context, do you think the YLC serves a useful purpose for the party?
I think we need to get our organization away from a lot of the internal trying to defend our turf, or protected ourselves against the “senior party”. We want to bring people in, take a senior role in the party, have people run for MPs, have more young Liberal riding presidents - we have a 25 member national executive and there’s only one young Liberal on it outside of the YLC president. We need to get ourselves organized and start thinking big.
I get all these campaign e-mails and I saw you had an endorsement from Simon Begin, a former Quebec Young Liberal President who supported the Conservatives last year. In his endorsement, he seemed hostile towards the Liberal Party’s traditional position vis-à-vis Quebec, saying “the Liberal Party of Canada has never really made a point of opening itself to Quebec while in power” and “the abuse of power of some centralizing federalists contributed to the distorted Liberal Party’s image”. I know you’re at McGill so you obviously have a sense of Quebec – is that kind of your view of the province?
My opinion has shifted a bit since I’ve lived here over the past few years. I think it’s important for people to recognize Quebec’s distinctiveness.
I’m very happy to have Simon’s endorsement. The key is building the young liberal organization, so that means relying on connections we have to other provincial parties that share our philosophy, our general philosophy. In Quebec, in particular, there’s a huge organization of young Liberals there that are untapped.
See also - John Lennard interviews with Scott Tribe and Jeff Jedras