Federal Liberals working to foster rural economic development

Close to 100 people attended the Liberal Huron-Bruce riding association’s annual meeting held on Saturday, March 30th in Lucknow.

Allan Thompson, the party’s 2015 candidate who came a close second in the Federal vote in the Huron-Bruce riding and was nominated on January 12th to represent the Liberals once again in October, 2019, opened the meeting with a ‘pep’ talk and encouraged supporters to focus on the work that will be required to win the election, rather than fixating on events unfolding in Ottawa. 

“I know there is a lot of noise and a lot of distraction and I don’t dismiss the fact that there are things going on in Ottawa,” Thompson said. “My advice to people is, we’re moving on, we’re moving forward and we are going to win this election. And that is because when people start to think about the choice they have to make in October, they will be thinking about who they want to lead this country and what program is it that they like from what is being put forward.

“At this point we’re the only political party that actually has a program on offer. Everyone else is spinning their tires, doing interviews and engaging in smear tactics and personal politics. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re moving forward constructively, positively and with a terrific leader and a great program.”

   Allan Thompson (L) and MP Francis Drouin

Thompson introduced special guest speaker, MP Francis Drouin and stressed that people in Huron-Bruce should be aware that the Liberal party now has more MPs from rural ridings than it had MPs in total after the disastrous results of the 2011 election.

“I want to talk about the importance of rural voices in the Liberal party,’’ said Drouin, who represents the solidly rural eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

“There could be a “rural renaissance” if governments can create the right conditions for young Canadians to build their lives here,” said federal Liberal MP Francis Drouin, the chair of the Liberal party’s national rural caucus. 

            MP Francis Drouin

Drouin came to the riding to give a boost to the campaign of the Liberal candidate in Huron-Bruce, Allan Thompson and also to spread the word about federal Liberal efforts to make inroads in rural Canada. 

“The Conservatives will say they’re the rural voice, but they’re the ones who eliminated the rural position in government when, in 2013, they completely eliminated the department of Rural Development,” Drouin said. He was referring to the fact that in 2013 the Stephen Harper government shut down the Rural Secretariat that had been created by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien to apply a rural lens to policy decisions across government. 

The rural caucus that Drouin chairs is made up of more than 40 MPs who meet weekly and who have been a very effective force in lobbying the Liberal government for more attention to rural concerns. 

“Every Monday night we meet and discuss issues that impact rural Canadians but more importantly, every Wednesday at caucus we air our dirty laundry and we tell the Prime Minister the importance of rural Canada,” Drouin said.

Drouin said the evidence of that impact is the recent investment of $1.7 billion, on top of an existing $500 million, to give all rural Canadians access to broadband internet.

“If we want to keep our young Canadians in rural Canada, we’ve got to give them the tools that they want for access,” he said. “That was the major issue that we fought for.” 

The rural caucus also lobbied for two years for the creation of the new position of Minister of Rural Economic Development, which was filled by MP Bernadette Jordan in the January cabinet shuffle.  

Thompson also pointed to some of the Liberal party’s successes since taking office in 2015, including the direct Canada Child Benefit – which has lifted more than 300,000 children out of poverty. 

He noted the government’s successful renewal of the NAFTA agreement, “with the most volatile, unpredictable administration, south of the border – or anywhere, ever.” 

He also pointed out that the government is now laying the foundations for a national pharmacare plan. 

“I tell you, with no uncertainty, despite all the noise and distraction in Ottawa, I am more than happy to be marching under that banner and with those policies and with our leader,” Thompson said. 

“I don’t offer communications advice to the prime minister, but if I were him, I would be telling people, ‘you know what, don’t compare me with the Almighty, compare me with the alternative.’ “

“For me, I will take ‘Trudeaumania’ ahead of Scheer Madness any day, any day,” Thompson said. 

He decried the fact that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has been pussy-footing with white nationalist elements, for fear of losing voters who could otherwise go to Maxime Bernier’s far-right People’s Party. 

And Thompson encouraged those who are anxious about the news unfolding in Ottawa to work off some of that angst by joining his campaign. 

“Put on your running shoes, join me and get out on the street. Let’s go knock on doors and win this election, because we are not going to win this election by staring at social media or watching the news for hours at a time. We’re going to win this election a month at a time, a week at a time, a day at a time by being out there knocking on doors and talking to our neighbours.”