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July 26th, 2023

By Rick Peterson

A big part of what we’re doing today at Centre Ice Canadians takes a lot of courage.

We – and by that I mean you, our other supporters and the Centre Ice leadership team – are looking to see if we should be starting something radically new and controversial.

If we go ahead on September 20th and roll out plans for a new, federal, centrist political party, we’d be upsetting the traditional landscape of federal politics. We would be coming right up the middle with a disruptive force that could fundamentally change what has been a comfortable, left-right, political country club on the federal scene.

If it takes courage to launch something like this, it will take even more courage to make this party one that can help get the things done in Canada that need to get done – and which aren’t being done now.

And the way to do that is to tackle big issues with bold solutions. We simply don’t see that in Ottawa these days, nor have we for a long time. We think it’s time that changed.

It appears that some prominent Liberals agree with us.

On June 30th former Liberal deputy prime minister and cabinet minister John Manley and former Liberal MP, shadow cabinet minister and leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay published an op-ed entitled Where is the Purple Party?

The authors lament that Canada feels “stalled” and call for bold ideas. They refer to former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau’s excellent book - which I reviewed for Centre Ice Canadian supporters – and some ideas it lays out for getting Canada back on the path to prosperity.

So why aren’t Manley and Hall Findlay advocating for this change inside the Liberal Party? Probably for the same reason that Morneau’s no longer sitting in government – the perception that the Trudeau Liberals are, as Manley and Hall Findlay write, seen as being “too divisive, prone to virtue-signalling and too far left on economic issues.”

We hear that a lot.

How about from the Conservative benches? Manley and Hall Findlay highlight the perception that the Tories have “become populist and too far right on social issues and the environment”.

We hear that a lot, too.

So where can these new bold ideas come from? That’s potentially the gap that we’re looking to fill in our work at Centre Ice Canadians.

We absolutely need bold ideas in Canada today more than ever. Manley and Hall Findlay are right - our standard of living is indeed stalled. Statistics Canada’s most recent quarterly numbers on labour productivity – measured by real GDP per hour worked – apparently show Ontario on par with Alabama, the fourth-poorest state in the US.

Why is our productivity nosediving? Because of lack of capital invested in machines and equipment that make things and in the R&D that generates new ideas.

And why are these investments not being made?

For starters, because the Canadian playing field is tilted in favour of a group of preferred and protected industry players in key sectors. We have oligopolies in our transportation, banking and telecom industries. We prop up dairy farmers. We can’t seem to get large infrastructure products built. Regulations stifle new investment in the energy sector. Provincial trade barriers block the free movement of goods and services across the country.

The result: investment capital goes elsewhere. The consequences of this on the economy are real: we have no money to pay for things we desperately need.

Dominic Cardy, co-chair of our Advisory Council, wrote an articulate, impassioned and sobering letter to you all last week pointing out why it’s absolutely vital that Canada defend Ukraine, step up our defence spending, expand our armed forces and invest in R&D sectors.

He’s 100% right. Ukraine must win. Canada must step up. Our government must show leadership.

Mustering up the desire to do the right thing here is the easy part, though. The hard part is finding the money to pay for it.

It will take an extra $20 billion dollars annually of extra spending for Canada to meet it’s NATO commitment of 2% of GDP on defence. To put that into perspective, the federal deficit today is $40 billion. The feds spend nearly $50 billion annually in the Canada Health Transfer.

Is finding another $20 billion annually doable? Unless we grow the economy substantially, the only way to achieve it is program cuts in other areas. Would that mean cuts to the Canada Health Transfer? Not likely.

If not, then where? Easy targets would be the endless Liberal government programs started up to help boost productivity with doubtful results to date. But that would take political courage – not something we see a lot of in Ottawa these days.

If we want to live up to our 2% NATO commitment, it will take more than lip service. We’ll need to unleash the economy and make tough calls on program spending in other areas. That takes political capital, and courage.

If there is a deficit in Canadian politics today, it’s a deficit of bold and decisive policy actions. It’s important to keep this in mind as we continue our work over the next several weeks to decide if there is enough support to start a new, centrist political party in Canada.

If this decision is green-lighted, it has to be one taken by people who want to make bold decisions on the federal scene. There’s no use starting a centrist political party that kicks cans down the road like we’ve seen being done by past federal governments. I have no interest in doing that, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

At Centre Ice Canadians, we’re actually out there and doing what John Manley and Martha Hall Findlay are talking about. They are right – but we’re the ones making it happen. The fact that we’re all on the same page, though, shows how widespread, powerful and timely this effort has truly become.

Your efforts and our efforts are doing exactly what so very many Canadians hope to see.

Bold ideas. Tackling big issues. To get things done.

That’s why we’re here, and that’s why your support is so greatly appreciated – and why your courage means so much to us.

Thank you.


Rick Peterson is founder and chair of Peterson Capital of Edmonton, a capital markets advisory firm with offices across Canada and in Europe. He’s co-founder and director of Centre Ice Canadians.

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