Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/3/2010 (4199 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canadians hoping for a coalition or realignment on the centre-left of Canadian politics will have to wait for Michael Ignatieff's departure from the Liberal leadership.
"Everybody talks loosely as if we're all on the left in the same box," he said in an interview. "I've never thought that. I think a Liberal is a Liberal and an NDP is an NDP. They have related but separate political traditions and I respect that."
On the other hand, he would be willing to work with the New Democrats as Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau did in the 1960s and early 1970s. "Unlike (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper, I will play the hand that the Canadian public deals me. He never talks to other party leaders. He never consults. He smacks his cards down on the table and says my way or the highway. That's not the way I would run a minority Parliament."
He believes the Liberal party remains the only alternative to the governing Conservatives. He's interested, he says, not just in wooing NDP voters but in poaching former Progressive Conservatives and Bloc Québécois soft sovereigntists.
"I've never ruled out co-operative, collaborative arrangements with other parties, particularly the NDP... There are countless areas where the Liberal party and the NDP have shown they can work together, so I don't have any problem... But let's be clear. I'm running in the next election to win a Liberal government, period...
"I'm proud to be part of a party that created the Canada Pension Plan, medicare, equality rights, the charter, gay marriage and the best and most sustained investment in post-secondary education since the Second World War... I want a fiscally responsible government that invests in the future of Canadians.
"If you want investments in aboriginal education in this country, this is the only place you're going to get it. If you want early learning and child care, this is the only place to come. If you want justice policies that balance severity for violent repeat offenders with job training and employment opportunities for others, there is only one option to the hammer approach of the Conservatives, there is only one government you can choose. It's not enough to register a protest vote."
Ignatieff spent a lot of time in the interview contrasting his style to that of the Harper Conservatives, which he describes as "letting the market fix it" and returning to the "strictest definition" of a 150-year-old constitution to say "we (the federal government) have no jurisdiction in any of this" and sealing Ottawa and the provinces off in separate boxes.
Most of the major problems Canada faces, from climate change to education to investment in its economic future, require partnerships between all levels of government. Ottawa may have "only a small piece" of some of the issues. But the federal government "has unparalleled capacity to get people in a room, to forget about jurisdictions... to get a partnership going to get the problem solved," he continues. "Harper doesn't want to put anybody in a room that he doesn't agree with. I'm willing to put people in a room I don't agree with."
Ignatieff is pinning his hopes for electoral success on education. Throughout the interview, he repeatedly returned to his party's early learning and child-care initiative, his plan to remove the funding cap on aboriginal post-secondary education and his determination to see that every child completes high school.
"The Conservatives are saying there's only one question in Canadian politics and that's the deficit. And we're saying there's another question. What must we do to get ready for tomorrow. There's a deficit in education. There's a deficit in learning. There's a deficit in justice... I've put all the emphasis on learning because I think it is the most important investment government can make..."
He promises the Liberals will go into the next federal election with a "credible" plan to erase the deficit, but also with proposals for new programs in critical areas. "There are investments we must make... How do we clean up the mess and how do we prepare for tomorrow. We've got to create the fiscal room without increasing the burden on Canadians."
He claims not to be worried about his low popularity ratings.
"I've had $10 million spent on roughing me up," he says, in reference to the Conservatives' barrage of attack ads questioning his patriotism and accusing him of "just visiting" and "in it for himself."
"I've had more BS thrown at me over four years in my political life than most politicians and I'm still here. And I'm not going anywhere."