A Personal Story of Transformation

By Gord Gekko
web posted August 1996

I was not always the strident conservative that you have been reading for the last few months. At one point in my life I was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada at different levels. I steadfastly supported the policies and principles of men like Pierre Trudeau, John Turner (I was young), and David Peterson.

I started out in politics as a young man. In the early to mid- 1980’s I was beginning my involvement with the Liberals. My first brush with politics was while I was in high school. I heard that a teacher in my school was running for the nomination in my riding for the provincial wing of the Liberal Party. I approached him one day and volunteered myself. Those were heady days for the Liberal Party. The Progressive Conservative government was tangibly at the end of their long rule of the province and voters wanted change. My teacher won the nomination and the election in that riding and sat as a member of provincial parliament under the leadership of David Peterson.

About the same time I also ran for a position in the Liberal club at Laurentian University. My holding that position was against the rules because I was not a university student, but only in grade 10. The club though was small and the president did not mind that one of her executives was under-aged.

And with that began an active role in the party. In nearly ten years I had held nearly two dozen executive positions in local and provincial Liberal executives, including president of the Laurentian Liberal club, Youth Campaign manager for Federal Liberal Diane Marleau, helped create the National Youth Service Program (how I rue that today), and sat as the Student Director for the Ontario Young Liberals.

Something was wrong though. It seemed that many of my ideas, which had always seemed to be common sense to me, was in opposition to the policies of the party. The position of president for a university club was generally for those who held firm with the ideological principles of the party, but I always seemed to be the freak.

I worked as Sports Editor for Lambda, Laurentian’s newspaper. During my tenure at that position, I got the idea of writing a weekly conservative column to combat what I saw as the militant leftist activism that is present at many universities, Laurentian included. It was written under a pseudonym (Gord Gekko) and every week I took a different group to task for what I saw as being just plain wrong. I cannot tell you how many letters I got (mostly opposed to my views) and how much controversy I sometimes raised in the pages of that newspaper….it was fun.

How does one reconcile the fact that I was being increasingly conservative and still a member of the Liberals? Good question. It was not easy. I attempted to reconcile the two by fighting for policies that reflected my beliefs. You can imagine that that did go very successfully. As left as the main party can be, the youth wing is always even more left. I won few victories. The parties were good though…Liberals can really party.

My involvement in the party ended after the last provincial election in Ontario. Although I was still a member of the Liberals, I voted Progressive Conservative for the first time. Many of the policies of the Harris team appealed to me so I made what was for me a big step. My family did not know how to take my conversion. A family that has voted Liberal since the 1970’s, my parents saw all my work in politics thrown away with a single vote.

During my last year in university, I discovered an author that has truly made the greatest impression on me. Ayn Rand. I read Atlas Shrugged. It was the most powerful work I had ever read. The truly staggering vision of that woman has left an incredibly powerful mark, one that will never go away. Her philosophical defense of laissez-faire capitalism, individualism, and freedom, and her opposition to collectivism will often be felt in the pages of this magazine.

That brings me to today. I continue to write my column for Lambda (called coincidentally, Enter Stage Right). I am aligned with no political party. The main reason for that is the danger of supporting an agenda that you do not agree with. Supporting the Mulroney regime would have been an anathema to me, and there are elements of the Harris plan I do not agree with.

So why have I created this mini-bio? Believe me, this was not an exercise in self indulgence. My ego is inflated enough already. I do actually have a point to all of this.

Never give up the fight in going for what you believe. Although I spent almost a decade as a member of the Liberal Party, my switch to the side of conservatism was a relatively quick process. It is actually possible to convert, by rational argument and debate, even the most stubborn of ideological opponents. Much of it rests on their ability to be truthful with themselves, but the chance does exist. If a person such as me can realize their errors, admit to their mistakes, and start fighting for the truth, then anyone can. Never give up on that intransigent leftist. They may be your biggest ally someday.

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