- Akaash Maharaj might have passed for one of the Young Liberals
with whom he was set to cruise Halifax harbour on Thursday night.
In fact, the 32-year-old is running for the
presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Mr. Maharaj is taking time out from his work
as president as CEO of the Concordis Foundation – where he
helps to create a dialogue between warring nations – to find
out what Nova Scotia Liberals have to say about the direction the
party should take.
Mr. Maharaj, Toronto-born and Oxford-educated,
says this jaunt through Nova Scotia is part of a vision of having
citizens become much more involved in forming policy.
“Democracy can be more than just a way
of choosing governments; it can be a way of governing ourselves,”
Simply voting is only the “minimum price
of entry” to the democratic process. Mr. Maharaj wants to
see Canadians become more involved, contributing their ideas and
holding the government to account.
But to achieve that, he recognizes he will have
to overcome deep-set public cynicism about politics.
“The challenge for the Liberal party is
to ensure that, at a time when the formal opposition is so poorly
organized, so poorly disciplined, that we draw our strength from
the courage of our convictions, not from the weakness of our adversaries,”
said Mr. Maharaj, the party’s national policy chairman.
With a full-blown leadership convention
on the horizon after Prime Minister Chretien’s recent retirement
announcement, Mr. Maharaj feels what’s so far been labelled
infighting among Liberals will become a healthy discussion of ideas.