“Impossible is Nothing”: A speech given to the 2016 Joint Red Deer Alberta Liberal Party AGM

With the recent death of Muhammad Ali, one of his more powerful quotes came to rest on my ears:


“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”


That quote, to me, sums up our challenge. The Alberta Liberal Party can become Government in 2019, if we accept one truth: “Impossible is nothing.” Peter Lougheed and Rachel Notley came to government because they accepted that fact.


However, they also understood another set of truths:  Albertans are open-minded and, to paraphrase Anita Van Herk, Alberta is a province of mavericks. From First Nations who continue to fight for their voice, to farmers who tilled the soil to Oil Men who have built billions and billions of dollars of wealth, we are a province of unconventional and brave people.


Just to prove it, can you think of another province that would continually elect third or fourth place parties to become their government? For that is how Peter Lougheed and Rachel Notley ascended to power. This is our province and this is why I am filled with optimism. The conversations which we are having as a province indicate to me that all Albertans – Liberal, Progressive Conservative, New Democratic, Wildrose, Alberta Party or Independent – are not ready to give any party a 43 year mandate. Nor do we want give anyone the 36 year mandate that the Socreds had. Albertans want something else.


Albertans are looking for a party that knows where it stands and why it stands there. For this is what they have always wanted. Now I might say something controversial; but for the last number of years, I have said one thing: Albertans aren’t – per say – conservative. If you get into a conversation with a farmer, a rancher, a student or us city dwellers, one thing is clear: Albertans are a pragmatic bunch.


We do have wants. Albertans want a party who has a vision of the future that includes us all. Albertans are not scared by hard or difficult work; in fact, we want it. But we want that challenge for a reason: to ensure that our neighbours, family and friends are taken care of. Albertans want to become rich together and to lift each other up. We want to do that so we can create a future that protects ourselves and our heritage because our province is our home. To date, we have created a future that uses the greatest resources of the province – our land and our people – and it has created much wealth for us all. But we are not per say conservative.


Remember in 1993 that Laurence Decore led the Alberta Liberal Party to victory in 32 seats, and collected 39% of the popular vote. It was not Government but it was damned close.


Peter Lougheed and Rachel Notley also understood that Alberta was not conservative. They understood that Alberta Politics is clearly driven by our need to protect ourselves; and with good reason. Do I need to mention the NEP here? For the Alberta Liberal Party severed ties with the Liberal Party of Canada over that policy choice.


So Albertans aren’t conservative, but we protect our own. Whether one subscribes to Edmund Burke’s “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it,” or George Santayana’s variation: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” or Winston Churchill’s “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it[i]; the Alberta Liberal Party must remember what is important:  We have to prove that we can defend Alberta. We have to show that we can protect the First Nations who continue to fight for their voice, or the farmers who tilled the soil, ranchers or the Oil Men who have built billions and billions of dollars of wealth. The Alberta Liberal Party cannot falter in this task.


We must prove that we can protect Alberta’s land and water for future generations. We must prove that we can diversify our economy through building new economic institutions. We must prove that we can build and invest. In doing this, we, the Alberta Liberal Party, can show that we can be strong for Albertans. We can demonstrate that we can think independently and criticize Ottawa when they are wrong, no matter who is Prime Minister. That is our challenge. For in showing what it means to be both independent and Albertan, we can regain the trust of Alberta.


And we know this truth inherently. Many of you have heard Pastor Niemöller famous words:


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Those words speak about helping the Other because in doing so we help ourselves. This is why we fought so hard for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is why as MLAs, Kent Hehr and Laurie Blakeman fought so hard to make Gay-Straight Alliances Clubs (GSAs) a reality in schools. For as Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. Our party cannot be the Party that does nothing.


In our past we have rarely done nothing. In 1986, in spite of not having elected any Liberals to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta since 1969, Nicholas Taylor led our party to four seats. Bettie Hewes, Sheldon Chumir and Grant Mitchell stood in that caucus and they helped us right our ship then. We can do the same thing today.


So here I stand before you. I have been ignored and laughed at. I expect to have to fight to win this challenge. But it will be worth it. To have a government that uses evidence and conversation to come to conclusions. One that doesn’t jump on the latest controversy but a government that pragmatically comes to decisions. A Government that uses shared goals, evidence based decisionmaking. A Government which knows to benefit the most people – if not all – in its goals, while using policy tools that harm the least amount of people, if any. This is what I aim for. That’s why I want to lead the Alberta Liberal Party


To wrap up, in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt said: “The credit belongs to the [person] who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs and may fall again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”


I would like to be one who in the twilight knows the taste of victory. Will you join me?



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