Saturday, June 19, 2010

Open Letter to Michael Ignatieff


An open letter to Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Leader of the Official Opposition, and the Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore

Dear Mr. Ignatieff:

These are difficult times for you. No one has to remind you that the polls do not appear favourable to you and your party. Frankly, the Liberal Party seems to be in disarray and your leadership is in jeopardy. I’m sure you are quite aware of the problems you face, but I doubt that you really know why you are not connecting with the public. These are blunt words, but they need to be said.

Who am I to be telling you this? Well, I am one of your constituents and I am one of those voters you seek to attract. Yes, you are my Member of Parliament and I am a resident of your riding – Etobicoke-Lakeshore. You would do well to pay close attention to the grass roots of your constituency.

I have never spoken to you. During the election campaign of 2006, you paid a visit to my place of residence. I was at work, so I did not get an opportunity to converse with you. However, you spoke with my husband. When I asked him his impression of you, he told me you were very erudite and well spoken. He also told me that your manner and appearance reminded him of U.S. Senator John Kerry, defeated Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States.

The comparison between you and Senator Kerry is quite interesting. Kerry hails from Massachusetts and you served as Director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard University. During the American election of 2004, John Kerry challenged the incumbent president, George W. Bush, and we all know the result. Bush won a second term in office because Kerry did not draw enough distinction between himself and the Republican candidate. He failed to clearly define his policies and how they would differentiate from those of George W. Bush. At times, he tried to be Bush Lite, even appearing in hunting gear to in an attempt curry favour with the powerful National Rifle Association.

American voters did not want Bush Lite. They determined that that was all the Democrats had to offer and they rejected it. They chose Classic Bush instead. The Kerry-Bush election parallels what is happening in Canada. The polls indicate that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not wildly popular. Many voters are hungry for change and hungry for leadership. There are many Canadians who disagree with the Conservative government’s policies on health care, the environment and gun control. You would gain support, especially in Quebec, if you would strongly articulate their concerns.

Publicly funded health care in Canada is under siege. I have not heard you strongly defend it? Why are you not championing that cause? Why are you not travelling across this great land and shouting to the rooftops that Canadians value public health care and that a Liberal government will do everything in its power to preserve and protect it?

Canada’s record on the environment is an embarrassment. I have heard you praise Alberta’s oil industry, but where are your strong words on the environment? Yes, I realize you are trying to improve Liberal fortunes in Western Canada, but does it have to be at the expense of the environment? Perhaps you are wary of speaking up strongly on the environment due to the experience of your predecessor, Stephane Dion - but are you doing any better in the polls than he did?

Then there is the issue of gun control. The Conservative government is attempting to abolish the gun long-gun registry and it wishes to weaken gun control laws. You have come out in support of the registry, but you have not made it a prominent issue. Why not?

Mr. Ignatieff, your academic achievements are impressive, but they will not win the hearts and minds of Canadians. Given the choice, voters will always choose Classic Harper over Harper Lite. If you do not wish to suffer John Kerry’s fate, offer Canadians a clear alternative. Offer them the Real Thing.


Joanne Madden