Liberals in a timeout
The federal Liberal party is in the penalty box.
That’s the analogy from a longtime Grit MP from Ontario who met with local Liberal members as part of an effort to start rebuilding the party.
“I think we’re trying to come out of that penalty box,” said Jim Karygiannis, MP for Scarborough-Agincourt and the party’s multiculturalism critic, during his stop in Kamloops on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
He said the party has lost support from ethnic communities, typically a strong block of Liberal voters.
Karygiannis believes those groups felt the party wasn’t listening to them.
He said it’s now up to the party to regain the trust of ethnic communities and show it can be a responsible government that listens.
The MP is already starting to get some ideas after talking with party members and community groups in Kamloops.
For example, Karygiannis said he met with officials from the Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS).
He heard the organization gets its funding one year at a time and, leading to end of fiscal year, KIS will spend a month putting proposals together for the next year.
The organization would like a more predictable long-term funding model.
Karygiannis said he will bring the concerns he heard to his colleagues and hopes a policy change will find its way into the party’s platform.
The Ontario MP was also blunt in his assessment of the party’s failures in recent elections.
Karygiannis said the Liberals had some “unfortunate difficulties with leadership” — without naming names — adding they were leaders who were paying more attention to staff and less attention to places like Kamloops.
Rebuilding the party won’t be easy, especially in the Kamloops- Thompson-Cariboo riding, he said.
The Grits have seen support in Kamloops drop dramatically at the polls in the last three elections, from 13,454 votes in 2006 to just 3,026 votes in the May 2 election.
Karygiannis suggested the Liberals not only need to find good candidates, but give people who are willing to sacrifice for the cause a reason to belong to the party.
“If we don’t, we’re going to be in the same mess we were in before, again,” he said.
Karygiannis said the party has a choice to rise up or fold, adding: “I’m not ready to be taken over.”