Outgoing interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae was in Windsor on Wednesday night to take part in a party fundraiser at the historic Low-Martin house, which has seen Prime Ministers and politicians ranging from Paul Martin Sr. to Pierre Trudeau gracing its halls while discussing the affairs of the country.
The “Thanks a Million, Bob” tour has been spanning across the region over the past few days, and the events are meant to raise funds for local riding associations while honouring the outgoing interim leader.
“Windsor has been a strong centre of liberal activity, obviously not in the last few elections … we’ve had our clock cleaned as you might say at the federal level, [but] provincially we’re still very strong,” commented Rae, “going back to my own memory as the leader of the NDP in Ontario, Windsor has always been competitive…the Liberal party has always been very strong [and] we attach a lot of importance to this part of the province.”
“I can tell you as Premiere I attached a lot of importance to the success of Windsor, to the success of the Windsor economy, and I can tell you…we went through a very tough time here in the 90s, it was very similar to the situation that we face today in terms of jobs, manufacturing, the car industry facing real challenges” stated Rae.
Come April, Rae will step down as the interim leader of the Federal liberal party and a new leader will be selected by delegates. “It should be good fun, but we’re going to have a lot of fun over the next couple of months raising money, raising awareness, talking about the party organization, talking about the ideals of the liberal party and that’s a great opportunity for me to do that.”
The key thing that Canada needs to look to as a country according to Rae is how the manufacturing base of the country can be rebuilt as “manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay well, they provide for a strong middle class, and I think it’s really important for us to focus attention on how we create those jobs.”
Rae believes in the value and importance of education and innovation and “of supporting entrepreneurs…supporting people who can create jobs and bring ideas.”
In order to move forward, he believes that regional governments, municipal governments, universities, and colleges need to work to bring “people together and [make] sure we’re doing everything we can to create new opportunities. It isn’t going to happen without federal and provincial governments working hard together…that’s the basis we’re really going to be able to do this.”
Rae’s advice to next Premiere of Ontario is to follow in Premiere McGunity’s footsteps and find the “balance between creating strong opportunities and jobs, understanding that government has to discipline itself…sometimes in terms of its own spending…but really investing in the key things.”
“When you look at Premiere McGuinty’s legacy, investing in [healthcare, hospitals, training, education],” stated Rae, “these have been some of the key things that he’s done as a leader and I think that the next leader will have to do even more of the same.”
Regarding his own future within The Liberal Party, Rae explained that while he has no idea of his potential future role, he is “happy to play any role that [The Leader] want[s] me to play. The new leader is going to have to hit the ground running and I’ll offer whatever support I can, but it won’t be on the basis of some privileged position.”
When Rae returns to Parliament Hill on Monday, he explained that he believes that the economy will be a critical issue. “I don’t think the government has shown a lot of imagination, they tend to be caught in their cocoon of ideology. I don’t see a lot of moving a lot in terms of imagination.”
In addition, the relationship with the Assembly of First Nations is going to continue to be important and Rae believes that what Chief Spence and Shawn Atleo has done in terms of trying to build a successful First Nations’ agenda is going to be critical.
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.