Liberals set to brainstorm

Yukon Liberals are inviting people from all political stripes to "the biggest Canadian policy discussion ever" on Saturday.

Yukon Liberals are inviting people from all political stripes to “the biggest Canadian policy discussion ever” on Saturday.

The much-hyped Canada 150 conference, taking place in Montreal, will feature questions drawn from 70 town halls across the country.

“It’s not like a Liberal club coming together to talk policy; it’s a lot bigger than that,” said Kirk Cameron, president of the Liberal Party in the Yukon.

Cameron and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell are hosting the Whitehorse brainstorming session in the Gold Rush Inn’s town hall room.

Each local meeting has picked one of the conference’s five topic headings and will live-broadcast the speakers.

The Whitehorse gathering will tune into the Energy, Environment and Economy in 2017: Growth and Responsibility discussion.

“If people have questions or comments that they want to make, we’ll send those in and the moderators will take every second question from off-site,” said Cameron.

The conference in its entirety is being broadcast live on the web and on CPAC beginning today into Sunday. But the Whitehorse event, which begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, offers a chance for people to discuss the issues afterward.

Conservative MPs have ridiculed the conference’s nonpartisan label and called the event elitist.

Cameron stressed that Canada 150 is not a normal policy convention and that’s what makes it nonpartisan.

In run-of-the-mill policy conventions, discussions lead to resolutions, which lead to entries in a policy platform that will eventually be used by the party for the next election.

Canada 150 is taking a step back in the process, opening the floor to more ideas and perspectives than what you’d usually see at a policy convention, said Cameron.

“Before we get to the point that we build our resolutions and take them to the Liberal policy conventions, let’s have a big picture or big tent event that captures as many Canadians as possible on the big themes that are important to us over the next 10 years or so,” he said.

Derek Burney, who managed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s transition into power, is one of the speakers.

“(Let’s) not restrict just to Liberals but bring in as many people into that discussion as possible, stimulate that debate by bringing internationally recognized speakers on these topics,” said Cameron.

Speakers include firebrand labour defenders, executive trend setters, journalists and academic wunderkinds.

“At the end of the day, the people who go to the policy convention will be infinitely the wiser on Canada’s pulse and what that means for their work to shape policies going into, well, in our case, going into government,” he said.

The thinkers’ conference is an effort to help renew the Liberal Party. The 1960 Kingston Conference gave future prime minister Lester B. Pearson the ideas that shaped his government, and the Aylmer Conference in 1990, when Jean Chretien was head of the party, also set the party on course for government.

There are nearly 50 speakers in total and the Saturday session will begin with a speech from Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada and an advocate for northern issues.

Following Watt-Cloutier’s address, there will be a series of speakers on the energy and environment file. A discussion on energy and geopolitics will feature Dan Gagnier, chair of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and Michael Phelps, former chair and CEO for West Coast Energy Inc.

That will be followed by a talk on clean energy, featuring Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada; Satya Brata Das, founder and principal of Cambridge Strategies; Steven Gylbeault, cofounder of Equiterre; and Nicholas Parker, executive chair and cofounder of Cleantech Group.

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