I am supporting Rahim Sajan in the Calgary Centre By-Election

It is a point of pride, for me, that I have been a part of the Liberal Party since 1993. However, at the same time, I have not let my party card manipulate my opinions. In Federal, Provincial or Municipal Elections, I have always chosen the best candidate for me. I am an Independent Liberal and I am proud of it.

This is why I was appalled by the Chrétien-Martin Leadership fights. Those fights did not move the party forward and it did not add to the Canadian Conversation. This is most likely why I have rarely participated in nomination or leadership processes. I cannot deny that I helped to nominate Carolyn Bennett and Michael Bryant, for the ridings of St. Paul’s Federal and Provincial, respectively. Nor can I deny that I was a delegate for Dwight Duncan in 1996. However, those examples are exceptions rather than the rule.

Simply put, it is not normal for me to support a candidate seeking a party’s nomination. So why am I changing my rules for Rahim Sajan? Why am I supporting him? Or better yet, why would I want someone who has less experience than I – within the Party – to be the Liberal Flag Bearer in Calgary Centre?

Firstly, let us start with his commitment to Calgary Centre. Rahim has committed himself to building the Liberal Riding Association Party. This includes running in the next election. If we assume that the next election is in 2015 or 2016, Rahim is willing to make a four or a five year commitment to our association. Since Frances Wright in the late seventies, no past candidate has made that type of commitment to our association. And the truth is we need that type of commitment. 

While, we can win this by-election, we also have to admit that we have more challenges than our Conservative Friends. Reports produced by Elections Canada indicate quite clearly, that for nearly a decade, the Conservatives have spent much more election money in this riding that we have. One can only guess that their membership numbers are also higher than ours. With all of this being said, one could easily argue that the Tories have much more “connection” to the riding than we do. Therefore, while, we can win this race, we have to be prepared for the likelihood that we might lose again. With all of this being said, we need a plan to build the party in Calgary Centre. Rahim has already committed to being there in the next election. This has to be a positive for him.

Secondly – and in my books, most importantly – Mr. Sajan was not a member of the Party throughout the Chrétien-Martin years. This makes him one of the few people in this area that does not have a grudge, chip or other issues that needs to be settled. In fact, he has a fresh viewpoint and independent vision. This means that he will bring new ideas to the party.

Some might say that this is all wishful thinking. But I would disagree. Just look at his recent proposal for Senate Reform. Instead of blindly accepting the need for a Triple “E” Senate, Mr. Sajan thought deeply about what a Canadian Senate should look like. He wanted a non-partisan, elected Senate that promoted the idea of Generational Thought. He wanted a Senate that thought about issues in a more rigorous way than the House of Commons. Or put differently, since the House suffers the wrath of the electorate every 3 to 5 years, it acts on a short term basis. The Senate though – a Chamber of Sober Second Thought – should think in terms of decades. Just as the Fathers of Confederation hoped, a new Senate would think about our future and not be driven by the electoral prospects that so often drives the activities of the House. This is a Senate that many Liberals and Canadians could live with. He calls it a 4 “A” Senate; I call it a glimpse of visionary thought.

Additionally, in his speeches, Rahim talks about a three point plan. Accountability and Responsiveness of both Government and Parliament comes first on the list. Part of the solution, in his mind, is obviously Senate Reform; but it does not stop there. Second, on the list, is his drive to make Canada a more innovative country. As the Curator for TEDx Calgary, he has listened to some of the best minds in the world. Therefore, it would not be surprising to find him speaking on ways that our Government could improve itself and the public and private sectors. Thirdly, Rahim wants to have a conversation about creating a strong economy that has a strong environmental focus. This final point is the most difficult to deal with but it has the most gain for Alberta.

For the last five years, Canadian Governments have had to fight rear-guard actions in Europe and the US to keep our oil exports flowing. The Keystone Pipeline has been the most obvious struggle. However, the EU has been arguing internally, for quite some time, as to whether they should tax Western Canadian Oil Sands at a higher rate due to the refining process required to make the Bitumen usable. But, it does not stop there. For our Energy Industry has suffered bad press on other fronts – in Europe and in the States – because of the failure of the Canadian Federal Government to establish regulations which are as strong as other Western Countries. While Canadian Environmentalists have called for regulation, what is surprising is that so has the Canada’s oil industry. In 2011, Lorraine Mitchelmore of President of Shell Canada said:

Canada’s emergence as a global energy superpower hinges on the country’s ability to develop a truly national approach to energy. A national energy strategy will support a balanced approach to strengthening the economy, improving the environment, and turning environmental stewardship into economic advantage.

Or one could look at the The Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy. As noted by Greenpeace, the Council “included Stephen Harper’s former Industry Minister and the former CEO of Shell Canada. It was asked how to ensure the prosperity of the province in 2040. It came back in May 2011 with the startling advice that ‘we must plan for the eventuality that oil sands production will almost certainly be displaced at some point in the future by lower cost and/or lower-emission alternatives. We may have heavy oil to sell, but few or no profitable markets wishing to buy.’”

These issues require a national conversation and national leadership. Alberta needs to have an MP who can take this conversation to the House; since no other MP, MPP, MLA or MNA is willing to have this conversation. Just look at the way, Premier Christy Clark of BC and Alison Redford of Alberta are acting. They are behaving like children over a potential pipeline instead of talking, like adults, about the needs of an industry that stretches throughout the Country. This can change with Rahim. For through, TEDx Calgary, he has learned some of the skills necessary to engaging to engage the Other, and their Ideas.

Or put differently, while he has not held the Party Card for a long time, he has held our values. This man of which I speak has been a teacher for years. In fact, this summer, he even taught at a Young Offenders Correctional Facility. While, in his off-time, Mr. Sajan has been a community organizer. As noted above, Rahim has been curator of TEDx Calgary; and as a result, he has helped to organize community talks that use the “power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.”

If one thinks about it, TEDx’s belief that “a community of curious souls” can change the world by “engaging ideas and each other” is no different the big Tent Party that the Liberal Party has been and wishes to recreate. Mr. Sajan has lived Liberal Values for years, so I am confident that he is not an instant Liberal. Nor would he want our Party to become just a bunch of disparate people looking to seek power.

When I look at other prospective or rumoured Candidates in any party – Liberal, Conservative, Green or NDP – I have not heard a clear vision for the future. Let alone a vision which takes one such huge goals. Rahim does so in a clear, precise and concise manner. He understands the issues that he has to face and is willing to take them on in a serious manner. Rahim is willing to create a new pragmatic and serious paradigm. This is why I support Rahim and this is why I implore all of my colleagues in Calgary Centre to allow Rahim to be our flag bearer. I ask everyone in Calgary Centre to allow Rahim Sajan to represent the Liberal Party in the upcoming by-election.

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