Bob Rae may be leaving the post of Liberal Party of Canada leader, but not before he spends some time in Prince George.
The former Ontario premier has held the federal partys leadership chair since Michael Ignatieff stepped down following a sound defeat in the last election, and Rae said from the outset he would not join the race for permanent party boss once that was called. That leadership campaign is on now, and Rae is on his way west to take stock of northern B.C.s sense of the future of the national Liberal party. He is billing his town hall meeting as "an open discussion on the future of Canada."
He has been to the region twice in the past few years. An interest has been taken in this region, said Ben Levine, a local candidate for the federal Liberals in the past election and a declared candidate whenever the next one might be held. Levine said it was a rare event for any of Ottawa's party leaders to visit northern B.C., but with the economic engines of the nation revving in this region it has caught the attention of his political team.
Rae will also visit Kitimat and the Haisla First Nation on this tour, the proposed terminus communities of the contentious Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Both the NDP and the Conservatives have politicized this for their own reasons, and havent taken a contemplative approach, said Levine of the pipeline controversy. We see the benefits that are available, and we see the risks that must be weighed. We have not jumped to a position. We are waiting for the Joint Review Panel to do its work and then we will consider what the experts and scientists have to say, hold a discussion about that with Canadians, then come to a proper conclusion based on facts and evidence. What we do know already, though, is there has to be effective regulation of any pipeline, regulation that has integrity.
Levine said Rae wanted to gather Prince George viewpoints on other issues as well. Perhaps the looming infrastructure deficit across Canada might be scaring taxpayers about huge future bills to repair roads, sewers, water mains and civic buildings. Perhaps the pros and cons of importing temporary foreign workers is a discussion to be had. Canada's relations with Aboriginal nations is also a potential topic from the floor to the visiting leader.
Levine said one message coming into the community with Rae was the unique process the Liberal Party of Canada is using to elect their next leader. A full party member can cast a ballot, as is the case with all political parties when a leader is selected, but in this case you can also vote if you sign up to be a supporter of the party. This requires no membership and it is free of charge.
Rae will hold more intimate meetings with Liberal party members, then he will meet the public on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in room 205 of the Civic Centre.