These Pockets of Change Are Too Small

I am a pragmatist first. Canada can balance the budget, grow the economy, and take action on climate change. It is up to you and me to show them that we have the will.

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Planning for a more sustainable future doesn’t mean weakening our economy - but not planning does. 

It will take real leadership to create better jobs, make life more affordable, build resilient infrastructure, and transition the economy. 

What should Canada do?

Canada should be:

  • Taking care of its citizens in the present.

  • Planning for the next 15+ years - not just the next election.

Canada should begin:

  • Diverting subsidies away from fossil fuels - which currently draw 3 billion tax dollars per year.

Canada should create millions of jobs by:

  • Retrofitting buildings.

  • Greening the energy grid.

  • Retraining workers.


Way back when

It is well over a decade ago now that I was on the verge of finishing a business degree at Laurier. 

As graduation approached, I was filled with a sense of optimism - for how businesses could be part of the solution to the climate crisis - and frustrated with a lack of political action.

So what did I do?

Some friends and I got to work. We wrote a business plan and brought a big dream to life.  Our community rallied around the idea and Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) was founded.

Within 5 years, SWR was buzzing -  almost 15% of the workforce in Waterloo Region was employed by companies voluntarily taking action on reducing their ecological footprint. These organizations were saving money, as well as growing the low carbon economy.

Fast forward ten years

Although I remain frustrated with the lack of sufficient political action on the climate crisis, I am optimistic that the path forward is one that can strengthen our economy. 

I’ve seen it time and again with so many businesses across the country - they have created a competitive advantage by taking action on climate change.

For example, accounting firms like EY Canada were not only able to differentiate Waterloo Region as an up and coming place, but used their work with SWR to demonstrate their own sustainability strategy. This helped EY attract and retain the best talent, offering bigger purpose to their employees.

Manufacturers like VeriForm were able to double their profit margin while cutting their emissions in half, simply by adopting sustainable operating practices

Through voluntary actions, businesses and organizations can reduce their carbon impact and save money. However, these pockets of change are too small. There needs to be decisive action, driven by government, and supported by industry, that prepares our economy for the changing times.

-Mike 


Everyone Deserves a Dignified & Affordable Place to Call Home

 
Forest Hill residents with Mike during a weekend canvass

Forest Hill residents with Mike during a weekend canvass

After more than three months of listening to the priorities of thousands of people across Kitchener Centre - be it at our neighbours’ doors, at kitchen conversations, meet and greets, or festivals - some shared priorities are becoming increasingly clear.

Towards the top of the list is the affordability of day-to-day life, punctuated most significantly by the cost of housing - whether renting or owning across the riding.

House prices have gone up 50% in just the past four years, while wages have stagnated. The result: a recent study found that for someone earning minimum wage in Kitchener, there is not a single one or two bedroom apartment that is affordable. As our community grows, many are being pushed further to the margins, one visible example being a tent city recently moved to Madison Ave from Mill Courtland. 

A graph included with the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors' monthly market update illustrates the number of housing units sold and average prices for the month of February, over the past decade. - Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors

A graph included with the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors' monthly market update illustrates the number of housing units sold and average prices for the month of February, over the past decade. - Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors

There is lots of talk of addressing the crisis: most recently, in 2017 the federal government announced a federal housing strategy. But as of June of this year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that the strategy falls well short and even slightly reduces targeted funding for households in core housing need.

The impact is cross-cutting: I’ve spoken with people across our community for whom housing consumes more than 90% of their income, leaving them little to put towards the rest of life. For some, this has led to addiction, and a further downward spiral. I’ve spoken with others who see affordable housing as a central roadblock for new Canadians moving to Kitchener. And for others, house prices remain a significant anxiety, including young people who wonder if they’ll ever be able to afford their own home, and parents who wonder whether they can help their kids get into the market at all.

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Here’s where I stand: Every person in our community deserves a dignified, supportive and affordable place to call home, in neighbourhoods that bring together a diverse mix of people, commercial, and public spaces. 

And we must take decisive and sustained action to bring this aspiration to life, with solutions that address our housing crisis over the long term.

Housing affordability is already in the Green Party’s vision. There are several policy options including adding supply incentives, regulation, or providing people with financial assistance, and the net new budget required can come from a mix of closing corporate tax loopholes, ending federal fossil fuel subsidies, or in the costs avoided to our health care, judicial and social service systems. 

While a full policy roadmap is forthcoming, today I’d like to affirm what I’ve heard from people across our community - that affordability of day-to-day life is a key priority.

And I commit to you: Should I have the honour of representing Kitchener Centre in Parliament, housing affordability is a priority I will work hard on, respectfully, and across party lines, to make progress for people across our community, and across the country. 

This kind of change addresses the root cause of so many challenges our neighbours face.

And it’s one example of change that puts people first.

- Mike

 

Four Ways We’re Doing Politics Differently

 
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It’s a line I won’t soon forget. A woman I spoke with at her door said it to me a few weeks ago. 

We've been knocking on doors across Kitchener Centre for more than two months now, and as I've done before, I’ll share another major theme: the large number of people who feel left behind by our political system.

The statistics are staggering: in Kitchener Centre last federal election, 24,225 eligible voters didn’t vote at all. That’s one third of all those eligible. 

The past couple months of meeting people disillusioned with our democracy has put a face to a shared aspiration among Greens across the country: to do politics differently. And so in our campaign across Kitchener Centre, we've committed to do these four things:

1. Showing up

Mike with a Kitchener Centre resident during a recent canvass

Mike with a Kitchener Centre resident during a recent canvass

Not only have most people told us that we’re the first ones to knock on their door this election, I’ve been surprised by the number that didn’t expect me - the person actually seeking to represent them - to be at their door at all. Even worse is the number of people who have shared that we’re not just the first ones to show up this year, but the first ones to show up, ever. Wow. I’ve relished these conversations. What a gift to have a candid moment to connect with a neighbour one on one, and share that, yes: this is what our democracy is supposed to be about. I’m applying for a job, and that begins with showing up, listening, and aspiring to represent what I hear. Whether the person ends up supporting our campaign or not - or whether they even choose to vote at all - at least their democracy showed up at their door. And we had the opportunity for a moment of genuine conversation; moments I’ll cherish long after this campaign has finished.

2. Turning down the partisanship

Mike, Founder of Sustainable Waterloo Region at a local business event

Mike, Founder of Sustainable Waterloo Region at a local business event

So many people have shared how repulsed they are with the hyper-partisan nature of our democracy: from heckling politicians in the House of Commons, to nasty attack ads. None of this is serving us, and it’s even more troubling at such a pivotal moment, when the need for decisive action is so great. In place of the divisiveness of left vs right, I’ve been sharing with our neighbours my interest in finding common ground: not only across Kitchener Centre, but in Ottawa as well. So much of what we’re working towards, from better health care, to addressing housing affordability to climate action, doesn’t need to be partisan. I learned this over the past decade working in a non-partisan way, at both Sustainable Waterloo Region and Green Economy Canada. Why would this change now? While I’m proud to share values with Greens around the world, I’m also keen to work across party lines on the priorities that matter most to people in Kitchener, and across the country. Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner have modelled what this kind of collaboration and openness can achieve, and I’m looking forward to learning from their approach to getting things done.

3. Putting people ahead of politics

Mike Morrice &  Mike Schreiner  at a local festival in Kitchener (July 6, 2019)

Mike Morrice & Mike Schreiner at a local festival in Kitchener (July 6, 2019)

When I chose to run with the Greens earlier this year, it was for two reasons. First, because I share the Green Party’s core values - like social justice and sustainability. Second, because they encourage Green Members of Parliament to vote with their constituents, even if that means disagreeing with the party. In other words, there is no party line to hide behind in the name of ‘being a team player’. Instead, MPs are accountable to their community first, above their party. This means I can actually listen to what people across Kitchener Centre think, and act on those local priorities. With Green values as a foundation, we can talk about the party’s position, and hear whether this matches with the interests of people in our community. 

4. Advocating for electoral reform

In the two months of listening to people at the door, and in small group conversations,, it has become clear that we must move toward a more representative democracy.  I’m proud that demanding democratic renewal is part of the vision being advanced by the Green Party of Canada, and I fully expect it will also be one of the top priorities we share back from our campaign. We’ve heard it loud and clear: people across Kitchener are looking for a system that makes every vote count. 

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By showing up, by being less partisan, by putting people ahead of politics, and by advocating for electoral reform, my hope is not only to earn our neighbours’ trust in support of our campaign, but that together, we can start rebuilding trust in our democracy, one conversation at a time.

- Mike

 

Canada risks falling behind in low-carbon economy

 

Global investors are already mobilizing capital to take advantage of investment opportunities in climate-smart infrastructure, emissions-reducing technology and updated electricity grids

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This article, written by Sean Cleary, and Ryan Riordan, originally appeared on The Conversation and is republished here with permission:

Earlier this spring, the most in-depth analysis to date on Canada’s changing climate provided clear evidence that Canada is warming twice as fast as the global average. As we increasingly experience the physical impacts (flooding, extreme weather, forest fires), we will experience the financial impacts as well in the form of both increasing market risks and unprecedented investment opportunities.

For the financial sector, this is a pivotal moment where it can realign its structures to ensure global capital flows toward solutions that will protect Canada’s economy and our prosperity, more broadly. However, Canada’s financial community has yet to fully grasp the numerous challenges and opportunities that climate change presents for us in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

On June 14, an independent panel of experts released recommendations on what Canada’s financial system needs to do to support this transition. The key message: we must empower our financial sector to design a made-in-Canada sustainable finance system so that Canadian firms can compete successfully among their global peers over the long term.

In its simplest definition, sustainable finance means aligning all of our financial systems and services to promote long-term environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. That includes channelling investments toward climate solutions and managing climate-related financial risks.

Canada has the talent, resources and institutional muscle to define sustainable finance for our economy. We need to grow and harness that capacity now, if we want to captain our own ship through one of the most significant global economic transitions in history.

Climate change is expected to trigger global financial losses in the trillions, but there are also opportunities for investment.

Climate change is expected to trigger global financial losses in the trillions, but there are also opportunities for investment.

Much to lose, but more to gain

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a 2C global warming scenario will trigger global financial losses of roughly US$4.2 trillion. With 6C of warming, those losses balloon to $13.8 trillion. That represents about 10 per cent of the global assets currently under management.

Losses at this scale will have wide-reaching implications for investors and the asset-management industry. Everyday people who are depending on investment income for their retirement will find themselves in dire straits. That includes every Canadian counting on the Canada Pension Plan.

On the flip side, there is tremendous value — some $26 trillion worth — to be gained by shifting economies to avoid worst-case climate scenarios. This represents massive and economy-wide investments in climate-smart infrastructureemissions-reducing technologyupdated electricity grids, to name just a few examples. Global investors are already mobilizing capital to take advantage of these opportunities.

The question for Canada is: how do we attract global investment while, at the same time, protecting Canadian assets, investors and firms from risk?

In essence, this is what sustainable finance is about — harnessing our financial systems to help accelerate the activities, decisions and structures that will put Canadian industries and our economy ahead of the curve without ignoring the environment.

We can’t afford to fall behind

Other global players are already acting. The European Commission has spent the past two years mobilizing expertise to build a financial system that supports sustainable growth. It has made significant progress in establishing disclosure rules for climate-related financial risk and creating unified definitions (a taxonomy) on what can be considered environmentally sustainable economic activity.

For example, this includes defining the labels and criteria for green financial products, which will, among other things, significantly shape the direction of the rapidly expanding green bond market.

The problem is these rules and definitions are being pioneered elsewhere and are unlikely to benefit Canada. They may even penalize us, because they are designed for economies significantly different from our own.

For example, there is a current gap, and huge opportunity, to pioneer financial mechanisms and incentives could be created to expedite the sustainable transition of higher-emitting sectors like oil and gas and agriculture.

This requires our leadership.

If we allow others to direct the innovations in sustainable finance, we will find ourselves without the financial tools and structures that Canada’s resource-rich economy needs to determine its own path through a global transition.

The expert panel’s report is our wake-up call. It is time to catch up and get ourselves to the table. Our financial sector — and the broader ecosystem including our accountants, lawyers and actuaries — needs to start answering some big questions.

What does meaningful, responsible and consistent disclosure look like in a Canadian context? How do we create incentives and opportunities to draw in private capital to boost clean tech innovation across our economy and to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure? How do we better assess risk and the value of assets through a climate-smart lens?

We must, and we can, build the knowledge, understanding and capacity of our financial system to rise to these challenges. We can do this by investing in the research, education, professional training and the collaboration necessary to lift our current generation of professionals to the next level, while preparing an emerging generation to lead.

For those of us in the financial sector, this is about the future of our industry. For all Canadians, it’s about the future of our economy and well-being. Let’s get started now.

Sean Cleary, BMO Professor of Finance, CFA, ICD.D, Queen's University, Ontario and Ryan Riordan, Associate Professor & Distinguished Professor of Finance, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under the Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Climate Emergency? It’s Time We Act Like It

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On Monday night, the City of Kitchener bravely followed in the footsteps of 42 other municipalities across the country and declared a climate emergency

Words can be powerful. ‘Climate emergency’ is the appropriate term, and Council chambers were packed with people, many of whom have tirelessly advocated for our municipal representatives to get these words right. It was a significant milestone, building on years of progress the City has made on climate action, linked with a referral back to staff to explore a community-wide carbon budget.

Many on Council, delegations and those in the galleries, spoke of what needs to follow, to further align their words with their actions.

It’s time our federal government reflected, and acted, on the same. 

They too declared a climate emergency, on June 17, though no policy changes were directly connected with the declaration. And the very next day, they re-approved a pipeline, committing billions of dollars of public money to infrastructure destined to worsen this very same emergency.

We can do better than this. Moments like this are exactly why I’m seeking to represent Kitchener Centre in Ottawa.

Photo depicting wildfires spreading across Alberta

Photo depicting wildfires spreading across Alberta

Because we know that words are never enough - and even more so at a time when scientists, economists, Indigenous leaders and young people are all telling us what a pivotal, urgent moment we are living in. 

It’s time we act decisively, together. For example, by moving forward with a Green New Deal for Canada: an economic mobilization that matches the scale of the challenge we face. This could include a mix of 20 items that are in the Green Party of Canada’s science-based climate action plan, Mission:Possible - including stringent climate targets, greening the grid, a national building retrofit, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and providing a guaranteed livable income for all. 

This is a level of ambition that mirrors the emergency we find ourselves in, and one we need to bring to Ottawa.

This is why we’ve been building a winnable campaign across Kitchener Centre for the past five months. 

And while a team of almost 100 people have already knocked on over 6,000 doors, we’ll need to up the pace: our goal is to knock on all 45,000 doors in Kitchener Centre. Twice.

To do it, we’ll need the hundreds of people that filled Council chambers to join us in hitting the streets. 

Will you join us? If so, please let us know here: www.morrice2019.ca/join 

Together, we won’t just get the words right. We’ll get the actions right too.

Mike

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For more information about Kitchener council’s decision to declare a climate emergency, The Record published an article, found here.

 

One Door at a Time

 
Mike speaking with a Kitchener homeowner

Mike speaking with a Kitchener homeowner

It’s been just over a month now that our team has been knocking on doors across Kitchener Centre, talking with our neighbours about their priorities heading into this year’s federal election.

We’re hearing from people every day about the concerns at the forefronts of their minds: from health care to affordable housing to the costs of failing to act decisively on the climate crisis.

Far and away however, the most common conversation we’re having at the door is people telling us they want to vote Green, but they just aren’t sure we can win. They don’t want to ‘waste their vote’, and they’re curious why we think we have a shot in this election.

Each time I hear this, I feel so grateful for this honesty. Because it gives us a chance to share just how different this election is going to be, and why we feel so strongly: that, yes, this is our moment.

First, there is what’s happening across the country and across the world: Greens are winning. From the European Parliament last week, to Paul Manly’s by-election win in Nanaimo last month, to Greens forming the Official Opposition in PEI, to Mike Schreiner’s win in Guelph last year. We are seeing that it’s possible: we can collectively vote for what we’re for, rather than the fear of what we’re against. And we can win.

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Second, there’s what Canadians are saying across the country: Greens are now polling at 12% across Canada, almost 45% of Canadians would consider voting Green (and truthfully, based on what we’re hearing at the door, this number seems even higher), and Elizabeth May continues to be the most popular and ethical party leader.

Third, there’s what is happening across Kitchener Centre as we step in to this moment. We continue to see the onus being on us, together, to demonstrate that we can build a campaign worthy of our neighbours’ support. To date, this includes:

  • Doubling the membership of the local party back in February, and the nomination meeting hitting fire code before it even began

  • More than 200 people asking to be part of our campaign team to date

  • More than 500 people attending our campaign launch party, with Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner, on May 16

  • This column in the Waterloo Region Record in advance of our launch party, and this one immediately after

  • Raising more than $23,000 in 10 minutes at the campaign launch party, putting us on track to have a fully funded campaign before the writ drops

In short, this is about being ready with the message, organizing ability and resources to be able to engage our neighbours across Kitchener Centre, at such a pivotal moment. At a time when the status quo isn’t working.

The team of volunteers on a weekend canvass in May

The team of volunteers on a weekend canvass in May

Increasingly, people at the door have already heard of our campaign from a friend, on social media, or in the local media.

We often talk about active hope, as more people choose to be part of this momentum with us: every lawn sign requested, every new canvasser that signs on, and every new donation gives us the drive to continue on to the next block, to knock on the next door.

One at a time, as more people choose this ‘active hope’, we move that much closer to bringing to Ottawa ideas that match the scale of the challenges we face.

And while these conversations may only be a few minutes long, we promise to continue to show our neighbours just how hard we are willing to work for their support: we intend on knocking on their door again before election day.

So while canvassing isn’t the only way we’ll be engaging across our riding, it certainly is one I’m grateful we are focusing on. One door at a time.

-Mike

 
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#Morrice2019 Kitchen Table Conversations

 

Listening, Learning and Finding Common Ground

Byron & Ann hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation

Byron & Ann hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation

For me, one of the highlights of our campaign so far has been what we’ve been calling “kitchen table conversations”. Though the name is somewhat misleading.

Last Tuesday night for example, Kitchener residents Byron & Ann hosted more than 25 friends, family and neighbours for a conversation about our campaign in their beautiful home in Central Frederick. In this case, it was over dinner in their living room.

While always hosted in someone’s home, both the size and format have been varied: from 4 - 40 people, either on a back porch or over pizza, with brunch, or over tea and brownies.

And each time, we’ve had candid conversations. I’ve had the opportunity to hear priorities from people across our community, and also to share about our campaign. Topics have run the gamut, from why I’m running at all, to why I chose to run with the Green Party, to how we expect to build a winnable campaign - along with a wide mix of policy questions, from criminal justice reform to health care to Indigenous reconciliation.

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The beauty of it for me? Rather than being limited to a couple minutes at someone’s front door, these conversations are usually a couple of hours among friends and neighbours. Getting together in small groups means we can have more in-depth conversations about what is meaningful to those in the room. Often, they even feel magical, as we move closer to the best of what democracy can be about: listening to each other, learning from each other, and finding common ground.

For anyone living in Kitchener Centre interested in hosting a kitchen table conversation, please let us know here: Morrice2019.ca/join.

We’ve had about a dozen of these already, and are planning at least 15 more in June alone: these are one part of how we continue to engage more and more widely across our riding, and how we intend on building the momentum needed for a winning campaign.

-Mike

 

This is Our Moment

 

Reflections on the #Morrice2019 campaign launch party

Last Thursday night was definitely a special evening: to have over 500 people join me, Elizabeth May, Mike Schreiner, and our whole team as we celebrated the launch of this campaign was poignant and inspiring.

Photo credit: Dave Klassen

Photo credit: Dave Klassen

It reminded me of another special night: the very first event Sustainable Waterloo Region ever hosted. It was just over ten years ago, in January 2009. After months of talking with people across our community about our dream of businesses becoming part of a local network for climate action, we brought people together for the first time. 200 people showed up in a blizzard.

Sustainable Waterloo Region inaugural Education Breakfast, January 2009

Sustainable Waterloo Region inaugural Education Breakfast, January 2009

And then, like now, the real success of the event wasn’t just in the turnout, but in the magnitude of the response from our community afterwards.

Green Economy Hubs (missing: London ON, launched in May 2019)  Source: Green Economy Canada’s 2017/18 Annual Report

Green Economy Hubs (missing: London ON, launched in May 2019)
Source: Green Economy Canada’s 2017/18 Annual Report

In the case of Sustainable Waterloo Region, that first event was the catalyst for all the ways our community came together to launch the first-ever Green Economy Hub a few months later. In the days and weeks that followed, the organization received its first coverage in The Record, corporate sponsors confirmed their support, we raised $200,000 in the midst of a recession, and business leaders gave us input on the rules for how businesses would later set their carbon targets. The organization would go on to work with dozens of companies that employed 14% of Waterloo Region’s workforce within just five years, and the approach has been replicated in six other communities in the years since.

Fast forward to last week. While I’m elated by what happened on Thursday night, this once again not only because of who showed up, but because of how enthusiastically people responded.

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On Thursday, I shared with attendees that it’s time we be honest with ourselves. That despite the progress we’ve made over the past ten years, we need to listen to what scientists, Indigenous leaders, young people and economists are urgently telling us: we are living in a pivotal moment, and the status quo is insufficient. Almost half of Canadians are on the financial brink (BNN Bloomberg). Home ownership is out of reach for most in Kitchener, and we are living through a climate emergency of our own making. The cost of this crisis is projected to soar to anywhere from $21 - $91B per year by 2050 (National Roundtable on the Environment & the Economy) and we must cut our carbon in half in less than 12 years, if we are to sustain human life on this planet (IPCC).

In light of this, I said that we can be better. We can dream bigger. We can rise to meet the scale of the challenges we face.

As a community, we can bring to Ottawa ideas that reflect the time we’re living in: for example, an economic mobilization at the scale of a Green New Deal for Canada, which could include a shift to 100% renewables, high speed rail, universal access to affordable and energy efficient housing, and a guaranteed liveable income, in place of billions in fossil fuel subsidies and lost corporate tax revenue.

And I shared my offer to residents across Kitchener Centre: that we can choose hope over fear. That, together, we can build a campaign worthy of our neighbours’ support.

I closed by offering attendees this choice:

  • They could either wait until August, September, even October, and decide for themselves at that point whether we had built enough momentum to earn their support.

  • Or they could choose to be part of it now, with us, and contribute to the momentum we’re building together. I called this ‘active hope’.

The response? It was incredible. Minutes later, 32 people committed a combined $23,400 to our campaign, moving us to over 70% of our fundraising goal for fully engaging with residents across the riding over the coming months. 14 people offered to host informal kitchen conversations in their homes, 16 more offered to be part of the campaign team and 39 asked for lawn signs.

Photo credit: Dave Klassen

Photo credit: Dave Klassen

And that was just on the first night of the campaign. In the days that have followed, even more have come forward and offered to be part of our campaign.

All of them actively choosing hope over fear.

All of this which affirms for me: this really is our moment.

That across Kitchener Centre, we are ready to dream bigger. Just like we were ten years ago when so many rallied together to start Sustainable Waterloo Region.

Today, so many are ready to stand together again, to ensure we leave our kids a generational gift, instead of a generational debt.

And because of this, every day, we move closer to building a winning campaign in Kitchener Centre, and bringing big ideas to Ottawa.

152 days to go. Together I know we can do this.

Mike