By Justin Crann
Liberal leadership candidate Alex Burton is a Crown prosecutor for the British Columbia Attorney General and president of the Vancouver Kingsway riding for the Liberal Party of Canada. To date, he is the only candidate to declare for the Liberal leadership race out of Western Canada. On Wednesday, he sat down with the Times-Herald staff to discuss his vision for the future of the party in Moose Jaw and across the country.
Q:What is the Burton Brand?
A:I’m a Westerner, from Vancouver. I’m not from the Ottawa bubble. I’m somebody who wants to bring a new voice and new approaches to the Liberal Party and to Canadian politics, somebody who wants to make sure that the voices of Canadians who live between the big cities, and in rural Canada, are heard in this political process.
Q:What is a key element in your platform?
A:I believe that jobs and the economy are something that we must talk about. The Liberals must make sure that we are a credible alternative that can speak responsibly about economic and fiscal policy.
Q:What do you think of the “brand name” candidates in your race?
A:I think some of the candidates will bring attention to the race, and that’s great. We need attention, we need avenues in which to communicate with Canadians. But I’m not going to be distracted by shiny objects. I’m focused on my plan, my vision for the country, my policy ideas.
Q:Would you say the West has a big part to play in the Liberal Party’s reinvention?
A:Absolutely. We cannot go into the next federal election with one hand tied behind our back. We can’t concede Western Canada to other political parties. And so we have to change the way we do business ... I believe the values of small “l” Liberalism can resonate with Western Canadians. Values about individuality, hard work, reward for that hard work, but also helping out your neighbour when they need a hand up ... we need to go and talk to people, and talk about these values and principles that we have, so Western Canadians understand that the Liberal Party actually stands for something.
Q:You are, as you mentioned, the only candidate so far to declare from Western Canada. Does this give you an edge?
A:I think that the country and the party is ready for a leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from Western Canada. There are approaches and voices and ideas that are coming from (the West) that I think are helpful on the national stage, and that I think can contribute.
Q:Moose Jaw isn’t a traditional stronghold for the Liberal Party. What is your message to Moose Jaw Liberals?
A:We need to change that. It can’t be that the Liberal Party of Canada is only a party of urban centres. It has to have ideas, policies and voices that connect with people who live in places like Moose Jaw and other smaller centres, and small towns across the country ... In terms of actually building the party in Moose Jaw and Saskatchewan, we need a plan. We need an accountable, step-by-step plan, and I have one.
Q:Could you explain it?
A:The idea is, there are a lot of ridings in this country, particularly in Western Canada, that don’t have a Liberal presence ... we need to identify people in those communities as potential candidates, not a month before the election, or two months, or three months — how about two years before the election? We need to find somebody who wants to step up, who cares about their community, and who will spend the time to engage their community, go out and talk and listen to people two years before the election and develop those relationships. And then we need a national party that actually listens to those people on the ground ... we need to change the culture and the way the Liberal party works at the national office and listen to the people who are on the ground and know what the issues are in their community.
Interview has been edited for length. For more information, see an upcoming edition of the Times-Herald.