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Executive Director Rick Smith's closing comments at the Progress Summit


Bon matin tout le monde.

What a fantastic energizing weekend it has been. Many important conversations. New friends. Lots of great ideas to act on.

Let me thank our speakers, our staff, our volunteers, and all of you for your active engagement. Je veux remercier l’équipe extrêmement dévoué de l’Institut Broadbent. Il m’est un grand honneur de travailler à vos côtés.

We are the inheritors of the best country  in the world. A country with a proud progressive tradition.  But, a country that is moving in the wrong direction.

So what are we going to do about that?  Well:  the best defence is a good offence.

It is time for progressives to go on the offence again.

On sait tous ce qui arrive quand on met l’accent sur quelques priorités importantes et, surtout, quand on s’organise. Le progrès arrive.

When my grandmother was a kid growing up in Montreal, women weren’t allowed to vote in provincial elections.  In fact, the first provincial election in which she could vote was seventy years ago, in 1944.  This was only possible because of the determined efforts of committed people over the course of decades.  And my grandmother witnessed huge advances in the economic and social rights of women in her lifetime.

When my parents were kids, the concept of environmental protection was virtually unknown.  The federal Department of Environment didn’t even come into being until 1971, the same year, by the way, that maternity leave as we now know it was created nationally. 

In the 1960s and 1970s we saw enormous social progress in Canada.  Medicare. Decent public pensions.  Expanded Unemployment Insurance.

When I was a kid, I remember that gay jokes at my elementary school were a dime a dozen.  Now chances are my kids will go to a school with an active Gay-Straight Alliance. 

Et lorsque j’ai raconté à mes jeunes fils comment jusqu’à récemment, selon la loi, les officiers sikh de la GRC ont été interdits de porter leurs turbans, ils m’ont regardé comme si j’étais fou.

Our country has changed.  For the better.  But not magically and inevitably, but because progressives worked hard to make it so.

Political parties and democratic politics have been the vehicles of change. But progressive opinion and progressive activism have been the motor of that change. 

Have you ever noticed that conservatives are prepared to acknowledge that some progressive victories were alright and common sense, but only if they’re safely in the past?

How many times have you heard conservatives saying things like “Unions had their place once, but no more.” 

Or, “Environmental protection was important when we had lots of smog days, but carbon?  That’s not real pollution.” 

Today, conservatives attack basic trade union and democratic rights, rip up environmental legislation, and sit by and watch the erosion of decent jobs.

Instead of investing in high quality child care to meet the needs of today’s working families, they want to recreate the Mad Men world of big shot men and stay at home mothers.

Ceci n’est pas le progrès, mais un retour au Canada dans lequel ma grand-mère a été née. Un Canada avec un filet de sécurité social faible ou non existant. Un Canada d’inégalités extrêmes. Un Canada avec la reconnaissance limitée des droits de la personne fondamentaux.

What are our progressive victories of the future going to be?  This weekend has provided some further clarity for me.

We can create decent jobs by diversifying our economy, building new kinds of intelligent partnerships with employers, and by promoting labour rights.

Nous pouvons promouvoir une économie qui est vraiment durable.

And we can expand rather than shrink basic democratic and human rights, starting with fighting the Conservatives’ Unfair Elections Act.

So here’s what the Broadbent Institute is going to do.  Voici notre engagement à vous.

We are going to work with our amazing Policy and Leadership Fellows and act on the ideas of this conference to develop a practical agenda for change.

And we are going to train activists to take that progressive agenda to the doorstep in effective campaigns for change.

And here’s what I’d ask all of you to do:

Keep in touch.  Follow Press Progress. Come to our November gala.

Continue working with us and with each other on a set of common priorities  to make our great country even greater.

And we will meet again at the 2015 edition of the Progress Summit. 

Thank you very much. À la prochaine.