When we made our historic breakthrough to Official Opposition under Jack Layton in 2011 it was incredibly exciting - but it also created a big challenge. Our tremendous popular support in Quebec had to be transformed into solid organization. Over 50 brand new Members of Parliament had to quickly learn how to build effective community offices and riding associations. Who did the party ask to be part of the team sharing the important task of supporting and mentoring them - on top of his own Parliamentary duties and constituency responsibilities back home in Burnaby and New Westminster BC? Peter Julian!
Why Peter? After growing up in a working class family in New Westminster, like many young people then – and now - Peter worked, went to school and travelled – looking for his place in the world. He found himself in Chicoutimi Quebec in 1987, teaching English, working the night shift at a motel and organizing for the NDP. In the two years after his arrival the membership in the region exploded from 200 to 2500 thanks to the hard work of the entire Saguenay - Lac St. Jean organizing team.
But Peter’s dedication to building the social democratic movement goes back well before that. He joined the party as soon as he turned 14 in 1976, founded the New Democrats Club in his hometown of New Westminster, and helped create the national Young New Democrats in 1985. That same year when the federal council for the first time included two youth representatives Peter was one of them.
So no surprise when Peter was asked to become the provincial secretary for the party in Quebec. However, for most of the time there was no salary and no budget for the position. No problem for Peter. He worked at other jobs, volunteered with a number of organizations including the Cercle d’emprunt de Montreal (a microloan organization serving immigrant women) and built the party. No one knows when he found time to sleep.
After the 1993 election collapse when the party did not have the resources to pay him and keep the Quebec office open he put the party first. He gave up his apartment, went back to working other jobs to support himself. He kept the office open and continued organizing for the party as “volunteer” provincial secretary. When he did catch a few winks it was on a friend’s couch or in his car or curled up on the floor of the office.
His hard work and proven results led to him being hired in 1995 – with an actual salary! - to lead the renewal of the party by engaging with the grassroots, riding by riding, member by member. The same challenge the party faces today in the wake of the disappointing results in 2015.
Peter will bring that same passion, enthusiasm and hard work to the leadership of our party.