[Check Against Delivery]
Seven years ago, the people of Skeena-Bulkley Valley elected me as their voice in Parliament.
I was 31 years old. I’d no previous political experience when I was asked to run.
I’d heard my MP at the time give what I call the “them” speech.
The “them” was anyone not like the people in the room.
It was wrong. And I decided right then to do something about it. Because “we” wanted in.
My riding is a long way from Ottawa. That may be a good thing, because I learned to practise politics differently…and in the seven years since, I’ve learned that new politics works.
I’ve seen politicians tell the room what they want it to hear.
I’ve watched leaders and parties shift their beliefs like a weather vane.
And I’ve seen how that fails our country.
I also represent a riding with some of the oldest and proudest political and cultural traditions in Canada. The mentoring by these First Nations has made me a better politician and person…it’s taught me the meaning of the words passion, respect and dignity.
It’s shown me how working with others pays off.
But I look at our government now, and think it’s just not working. Which is why now’s the time for an honest discussion about the direction our politics is going in…and how we must change it for the better.
Because I believe truth has a tremendous, critical place in politics. And there’s one truth I’ve believed since being elected seven years ago…it’s time to do politics differently.
Why? This country doesn’t have time to lose.
We can’t afford eight more years of Stephen Harper.
That’s why, today, I’m announcing my candidacy to be the next leader of the NDP.
Because it’s time for the next generation to take the next step…delivering a progressive government for a progressive country.
A step that builds on the legacy of Jack Layton, someone I know we all wish was still here to carry on his inspiring work.
I lost a friend.
I was honoured by his generosity…to those of us who knew him well, and those who never met him.
And I am not alone. Because when he extended his hand to Quebecers and invited them to build a better country together, they said yes.
So don’t tell me change isn’t possible.
It is. And that’s why today, I am announcing my candidacy for the leadership of Canada’s NDP.
The precious gift Jack left is fragile.
The hope and inspiration that is his legacy can’t be let go. Let’s build something from it…something not fragile, with the power to change our country.
We don’t want politics that divide rural Canadians form those in cities. Eastern Canada versus the west. Quebec from everyone else. Politics based on crass political calculations serve Stephen Harper, not citizens.
Make no mistake. I don’t want to just beat Stephen Harper. I want to beat the way he does politics.
Because the test of a prime minister, whatever their stripe, is whether he or she leaves the country better than how they found it.
And he has failed that test. Failed it because we are now more unequal. Failed it because we are now more unsustainable. And failed it because wedge politics divides us…right when there are big challenges coming our country’s way.
Big challenges like growing inequality and the crisis of climate change. Big challenges that need all hands on deck, and a prime minister eager for their ideas.
We don’t need a prime minister who is his own strategist. Politics is more than that.
Every riding is made up of people from across the land, and around the world. We’ve got to end the politics of winning by exploiting differences…
…and embrace new politics that bring us together more than keep us apart.
That’s why I want to lead the NDP.
Not to beat Stephen Harper for the sake of it. But to beat him with purpose and vision, send his kind of politics to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and get a progressive government that this country’s progressive majority deserves.
I want to lead the NDP to be a prime minister eager to listen to the hopes of Canadians in every corner of country…and put those hopes to work.
Mr. Harper isn’t that kind of prime minister. And in four years’ time, progressives are going to tell him…in French…in English…and many other tongues …that he’s not prime minister anymore.
We can do it, too. Because since being elected four elections ago, I’ve met countless people who just want politics to work.
They thirst for it. They hunger for it. And when they get it, they just want more. So when they see Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, they wonder why it’s barren ground for the kind of politics most people want.
We should change that.
We need to change that.
And change it together we will.
It can be done. I’ve seen it being done, as a kid who grew up in Toronto now representing beautiful northern B.C. A place that taught me to trust my neighbour….
…that taught me to ask first if an idea’s a good one, not which party proposed it…
…and where problems get fixed faster when more people pitch in.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley didn’t always have that kind of politics.
So do you know what we did? We changed them. By working together, we defeated a Conservative MP.
It wasn’t easy. We had to work hard. And I’m under no illusions that we will have to work hard again now.
Because every day that Stephen Harper practises the old school of politics is another day when more people lose faith that we can do the things together that we can’t do apart.
We can’t let that happen, my friends.
We must seize this new openness to new politics.
And help more people realize we will get further and do more by embracing a new kind of politics.
And over the course of this leadership race, I will be laying out new ideas and new thinking…for a new government that represents this country.
I know the Ottawa establishment thinks this race is already done.
That’s one of the things I love most about British Columbia. By the time you wake up, Ottawa’s conventional wisdom for the day has often already been proven wrong.
The Ottawa establishment couldn’t imagine Liberals might lose government. Or that Quebecers would vote federalist again. It’s been wrong before.
It will be wrong again.
Because Canadians are tired of being told that more divides us than brings us together.
And they’re energized by the thought of taking the next step.
Seven years ago, I didn’t get into politics to play by old rules, stay stuck to old fights.
I had a choice.
And so do you.
We can’t let this moment pass. Let’s seize it together. So we don’t have to hear our leaders give any more speeches about “them.” And get more speeches about “us”.
I’m up for it.
And I’m inviting everyone on board.
Because we’re going to take the next steps together, and replace Stephen Harper and his politics with something better.
Thank you so much.