A Personal Story of Transformation

By Steven Martinovich

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 several different levels. I steadfastly supported the policies and principles of men like Pierre Trudeau, John Turner (forgive me, I was young), Jean Chrétien, and David Peterson.

I started out in politics as a teenager. It was in the early to mid-1980's when 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 my time for the nomination meeting. Those were some 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 and everyone seemed to know that it would be the Liberals to which they would gravitate to. My teacher won the nomination and later the election in the riding and sat as a member of provincial parliament under the leadership of David Peterson.

About the same time I also ran for an executive position in the Liberal club at Laurentian University. My holding of 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 underage.

Gord and Jean Chretien
Steven Martinovich and current Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

And with that began my active role in the party. In nearly ten years I had held well over 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.

During the same time 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 don't have to imagine to know that that approach failed rather miserably. As left as the main party can be, the youth wing is usually even more left. I won very few victories. The parties were good though…Liberals can really party.

Gord and Audrey McLaughlin
Steven Martinovich (far right) with former New Democrat leader Audrey McLaughlin. I and the former president of the Laurentian University Young Liberals penetrated a union headquarters out of curiosity to see what New Democrats acted like when they were with their own...not much difference (and no, my hair isn't anywhere near that heinous today)

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 on me, 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.

Jesse Jackson
You'll just have to believe that this blurry photo is that of Rev. Jesse Jackson. Rev. Jackson appeared at my alma mater, Laurentian University, to spout his rhymes and slogans. I and my friend Neil showed up to have him sign a copy of Rush Limbaugh's See I Told You So! but we were crowded out by people who wanted him to sign Dr. Suess' Green Eggs and Ham. Jackson appeared on Saturday Night Live and read from that book when Dr. Suess passed away. That appearance on SNL was cool, but it was hardly original to get him to sign that book. Either way, our collectable Limbaugh books never were signed...

That brings me to today. I continue to write my column for Lambda, called coincidentally, Enter Stage Right (I have stopped writing that column in early 1997 due to time constraints - G.G.). 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.

This article originally appeared in Enter Stage Right, Vol. 1, Issue 3 (August 1996)
Text and photos revised: September 13, 1997



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