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Grit policy boss seeks views on party’s direction


By John Gillis
31 August 2002


HALIFAX - 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,” he said.

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.

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