THE COURAGE TO CARE
The President Catherine R. Charlton, M.A,. Chairman
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: For two generations, the name Grossman has been an esteemed and influential one in the government of this province. Most of you, I think, would agree that Ontario has been the better for it. Both the father and the son have held various cabinet portfolios, devoting a large part of their lives to serving the people of this province. The Honourable Larry Grossman, who addresses us today has two young sons and a daughter. Who knows? Perhaps what we have here has the makings of a dynasty!
Larry Grossman was elected to the Legislature ten years ago from the same riding that sent his father to Queen's Park for twenty years. Two years after he was elected, Larry got his first cabinet post - Consumer and Commercial Relations. In succession, he moved to Industry and Tourism, Health, and currently, Treasury and Economics. He was re-appointed to that post recently, after his narrow escape - just 77 votes - from being elected party leader and, automatically, Premier
THE COURAGE TO CARE
they pale when compared to the sense of exhilaration and satisfaction of having fought in common cause to invigorate and renew a party deeply committed to the critical human, social and economic issues of our time.
I believe this province is at a crossroad. To build the future, we must assert what that future must stand for. We must choose a future that embraces the values of humanity and mutual respect, freedom and a shared opportunity born from a shared concern for each other. When I spoke at the leadership convention, I urged the delegates - and through them the public - to take neither economic growth nor equitable sharing of that growth for granted. I also urged them not to trade off one against the other. What I said was that in order to have both we would all need courage. We would need the courage to care.
There is no disagreement within our party about the need for economic growth - growth that is driven by the private sector. There is no disagreement about the need for common-sense policies that reduce government regulation, create a fairer and more equitable tax system, and give business the freedom to compete and create jobs for our people. There is no disagreement about the need to control government spending, or to control government's total share of the total wealth of the community. Those are not the issues. On those we all agree. Under the leadership of our new Premier, we are ready to move forward. We are ready to take the next step-united in a common spirit of partisan solidarity.
Today, I want to share with you some of the causes I hope that spirit of solidarity will be marshalled to serve. They are the causes I carried forward during the recent campaign for the leadership of my party. They are the causes for which we must all now have the courage to care.
... if government is to remain relevant ... those who are elected to serve the people will have to find a new humanism and sensitivity ...
I believe that if government is to remain relevant - if it is to remain worthy of public confidence and trust - then those who are elected to serve the people will have to find a new humanism and sensitivity with which to share public policy and guide political progress. We will have to find the courage to speak not simply at the "macro" or "big picture" level, but to address the individual human circumstances that those of us in public life have a duty to improve.
For politics is not so much a question of systems or programs as it is a question of people - their individual problems, their individual circumstances, their individual needs. It is a question of people who have been locked for generations in the cycle of welfare dependency and are looking for a way out. It is a question of women who want a fair deal - in the home, in the workplace, in society. It is a question of young people looking for the opportunities they need to build the lives they want. It is a question of older workers who must have the chance to upgrade their skills, regain their self-confidence and re-establish themselves in the workforce.
To me, those are our most pressing human and social responsibilities. But I worry sometimes that we, as a society, have become somewhat distant, somewhat removed and somewhat desensitized to the human and personal dimension of the collective challenges we face together.
... It is easy for the ninety per cent who are working to think of those who are not working as statistics ...
It is easy for the ninety per cent who are working to think of those who are not working as statistics - as part of some unavoidable problem of "structural unemployment" we can do little about. For I have often heard economists describe unemployment in precisely those terms. It is easy to concentrate on the mainstream of society without thinking seriously about how those outside the mainstream actually got there - and just how painful being there can be.
Indeed, one of the passions that has driven me through ten years of political life is the commitment to ensure that the "mainstream" is not our "main focus". For in my view, a proper role for government must be to create opportunities for those outside the mainstream. We must ensure that the majority who can cope, the majority who can survive, never become the sole focus of government's action or the sole measure of government's achievement.
While satisfying the mainstream majority may result in electoral success, it should not be the yardstick for government's success. The success of my party has always been measured by our ability to marshall the efforts of the mainstream in support of those outside the mainstream.
Now, in the face of the restructuring of industry, the rationalization of excess capacity and the economic transformation underway in world economies, government and - I want to suggest to you - the private sector have a responsibility to ensure the humane and respectful re-deployment and re-orientation of those human beings who are affected.
The issue is not whether to modernize or not. I have been arguing for years that we have to modernize more quickly and more aggressively. We have to develop new skills, new technologies and a stronger commitment to entrepreneurship. We cannot afford to be slaves to caution. We must embrace the future. So the issue is not whether to modernize or not. The issue is how to modernize without dehumanizing our very society in the process.
For the kind of economic progress our province needs is progress accompanied by social compassion. If we do not stand for those principles, if we do not act in their defence, if we do not work to protect them, we will turn our backs on the tolerant and moderate society that generations of Ontarians have worked so hard to build.
... the kind of economic progress our province needs is progress accompanied by social compassion ...
Many who see workplace adjustment, or quality of working life issues, or trade unions, or collective bargaining, or training, or re-training as hindrances to a free economy misunderstand what a free economy really is in a civilized society. The kind of free economy I believe in is one where we all bring to the marketplace our skills, our capital, our hard work - and seek, through civility and negotiation, fair market recompense and participation in the process.
Indeed, the party I sought to lead knows that the primary duty of anyone who calls himself or herself a "Tory" is to ensure the greatest degree of fairness and equity.
That takes courage. It takes the courage to care.
- The courage to care about the farmers seeking longterm, fair and manageable credit;
-The courage to care about training and career counselling for our young people;
- The courage to care about dignity, self-respect and independence for our seniors - for those who built Ontario and deserve the best Ontario can offer;
- The courage to care about the mentally ill and the physically handicapped;
- The courage to listen to the quietest voice and hear the softest plea.
But the courage to care implies even more than this. It implies the ability to do something valuable, something sensitive, and something effective to give meaning to that care, and to help make society a better place for all our people.
As I look across my own riding, I see families who have experienced generations of unemployment and who are now trying to break out of welfare dependency. - I see families now able to get the best health care in the world without charge - but who are not yet using it or accessing it as you and I do;
- I see schools struggling to keep pace with a multicultural, multi-coloured and multilingual society;
- I see single parents who require high quality, affordable child care if they are to participate fully in our economy;
- I see ex-psychiatric patients who need to be given jobs by you and the chance to build lives of dignity, purpose and self-worth;
- I see seniors in nursing homes who should be in their own homes.
They are the causes. They are the people. They are looking to government to provide them with an opportunity. They will be disillusioned if an economy that grows, a society that flourishes and people who prosper deal only with the problems of the mainstream.
You and I know how to ask, access and achieve through government. Surely government has an obligation to provide for those who do not know how to ask, those who have not gained access and those who deserve the chance to achieve.
These are the causes. These are the goals. As I believe we proved in the leadership race, they are not inconsistent with fiscal prudence or reduced deficits.
Indeed if we move now to address the root problems -rather than respond to the symptoms with governmentpayments and subsidies - then ultimately it will cost the taxpayer far less. And we will turn lives of frustration and dependency into a future of hope and productivity.
... if we move now to address the root problems - rather than respond to the symptoms with government payments and subsidies - then ultimately it will cost the taxpayer far less ...
I have committed myself to help build a party that genuinely reaches out to all the people - a party that refuses to be the preserve of any interest group, any elite, or any demographic sector. For it is only that kind of party that can earn and justify broad, legitimate public support.
That support comes naturally to no one. It comes automatically to no political party in any genuine democracy. To my party, it has come only when we have had the courage to care. It has come when the competence of our performance has sustained the reality of those things we care deeply about.
The opposition must exaggerate, alarm and seek to divide - for that, to a certain extent, is their job. It is an inescapable ritual that is as much of a burden to them as complacency would be to the party I represent.
But history has proven that our party has never allowed complacency to take the place of the courage to care.
I do not know when Premier Miller will choose to dissolve the Legislature and seek a mandate from the people. What I do know is that when that happens, thoughtful Ontarians committed to moderation and progress would do well to do as we have always done - namely to take nothing for granted, and to look beyond the mainstream in every constituency and community of this great province.
Above all, our party must let the smug and the complacent, the self-righteous and the insensitive, the ideologically extreme and the rigid, reside elsewhere. The public expects and needs more. The public expects their government to be a home for the young and the old; the compassionate, the enterprising and the responsible; those seeking social justice and equity; those striving for security and independence; those seeking stability and equality; those who want to build a future of caring and courage. They must continue to be welcome. They must see government as their ally.
None of this happens automatically. It can be neither willed nor inherited. It cannot be a child of political convenience or voiced without conscience. It requires commitment and courage.
My belief is that the future belongs to those who believe in it. I believe in a future that shows government to be humane, sensitive, caring and efficient - a future where the accident of birth into poverty need not mean a lifetime of limitation and defeat.
It will take resolve. It will take focus. It will take commitment. And above all, it will require the courage to care.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Major Arthur Langley, a Past President of the Club.