VANCOUVER – Michael Ignatieff has taken the helm of the federal Liberal party and he wasted no time telling members it's their job, as well as his, to lead the party back to power.
Ignatieff, formally confirmed as Liberal leader yesterday before a cheering crowd of supporters, made clear that the road to government will demand a strong team, a compassion for the hard times and large doses of U.S. President Barack Obama's hope and optimism.
"You can feel a longing for change sweeping the land. A longing for a new politics that replaces spite and spin with civility and common purpose," Ignatieff said. "A longing for us to lead rather than follow on the world stage ... our task in opposition is to frame that longing in a platform of action."
During his speech, he highlighted the economic woes that have battered the nation and acknowledged the worries about job losses and retirement savings confronting Canadians, saying "we are living this with you.
"In opposition we are fighting to protect you. In government, we will lead you back to prosperity," Ignatieff said.
"If we offer our fellow citizens a message of hope, I believe Canadians will ask us to form their next government," he said.
If there was a theme to the day's proceedings, it was that the next chapter of the Liberal story is more than about one man.
At times yesterday, as Ignatieff spoke, the crowd broke out into cries of "tous ensemble" (all together) and the song blaring through the speakers was "Absolutely Everybody" by Vanessa Amorosi.
In the morning, Liberals voted to end the decades-old method of choosing leaders through delegate elections and, instead, extend the vote to all members of the party – one person, one vote. In the afternoon, the speakers who came before Ignatieff dwelled on the idea of the party as a team.
"We have a one-man government right now and we know it doesn't work very well," said Bob Rae, former Ontario premier, MP for Toronto Centre and the one-time leadership rival to Ignatieff. "It's like Stephen Harper has thrown out the entire cabinet table, and in its place there remains a throne and a mirror."
Rae, a friend of Ignatieff going back to their university days, helped pave the way for the new leader's unchallenged ascent when he pulled out of the leadership contest last December.
"This is not a time for griping about what might have been," Rae said, in a direct allusion to that sacrifice he made and to the decades of previous leadership infighting that has plagued the Liberal party. "It is a time to come together, to join hands and heads and hearts, to bind up the wounds that have divided us in the past."
The new party president, Alf Apps, ignited the Liberal crowd yesterday with a spirited cry for revitalized Liberalism, to turn it into "something bigger and better than any of us can achieve on our own."
The Liberals' political foes were on hand in Vancouver yesterday in a bid to puncture any inflated hopes partisans may have been feeling.
Dimitri Soudas, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called Ignatieff's speech empty of substance. "He provided absolutely no answers today," Soudas said. New Democrat MP Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) said Ignatieff gave a "pretty hollow" address.
There were, however, a few details of the policy proposals Ignatieff wants Liberals to embrace.
Ignatieff called for a national standard of eligibility for employment insurance, addressing the complaint that tight restrictions shut out too many people from getting benefits. There were also calls for early childhood education and equal pay for work of equal value for women. He also talked about investing to create the "jobs of tomorrow," while offering no specifics. Ignatieff also cited help for aboriginal children, tackling illiteracy and assisting disabled Canadians.
On the world stage, he said Canada will "keep the peace and if there is no peace to keep, we will fight for our freedom and yours, too."
Ignatieff closed his speech by taking aim at Harper, charging that the Prime Minister has pitted provinces and regions against each other.
"You have failed to understand that a prime minister has only one job: to unite Canadians. Mr. Harper, you have failed us," he said.
Ignatieff, who lost to Stéphane Dion in December, 2006, jumped into the
leadership race again when Dion announced, after the Oct. 14 election, his
intention to step down. However, Ignatieff was installed as interim leader in
December during the parliamentary crisis that occurred when Harper prorogued
Parliament in the face of a confidence vote, after Rae and New Brunswick MP
Dominic LeBlanc ended their own leadership bids.
With files from Petti Fong
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Ignatieff is following a script, but its plagiarized, the "we can". Yes, "we Can TORTURE, says Ignatieff, he condoned and supported TORTURE, how can such a PROMOTER OF TORTURER expect to be prime minister? The body language the words could all be used in a movie about a successful politician, he is using as a template "Obama", only problem is, Ignatieff never graduated in Law, if he did, he might have learned that TORTURE is illegal. We have yet to hear Ignatieff open his mouth on the need for a legal presumption of equal parenting, or replacement of the Canadian Judicial Council, or how to get rid of our corrupt Family Court Judges. www.OttawaMensCentre.com
9:20 am May 3, 2009