Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.

 

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ignatieff's Speech at Brock

I had the opportunity to attend Ignatieff's speech at Brock University this morning. As for an overall impression, he is unlike any politician I have ever heard speak (and I've heard a few). I'm not the first to observe this, nor will I be the last. He will answer any question, and he has the depth of intellect to mountaineer some pretty steep issues. There's no question that if he gets on that second ballot (and he will), he is going to turn some heads.

I'll report some of the most interesting moments, as faithfully as I can based on sparse notes and memory.

He structured his speech around 3 fundamental elements of governance that liberalism needs to address. These are unity, citizenship and prosperity.

- UNITY: He argued that "unity must be reframed as a much bigger task." We should not conceive it to refer only to the English-French chasm, but also divisions of race, class, religion, and ethnicity.
-He identified reinvesting in multiculturalism as an issue of unity, saying that "we are creating a hope of citizenship that in reality we disappoint... We need to ask 'why are we,
as a people, less than the sum of our parts?"
- He also identified something that seemed to approach a national Pharmacare project!
He suggested that all residents of all provinces needed to face the same medication options, and that these options should be avaiable to all. He admitted that this would be an expensive project. This was an important moment, and there was a buzz in the room.

- CITIZENSHIP: Here he presented a strong federal vision - one of the Federal government's responsibility to enforce common ground. He was very critical of the Conservatives, who he says "give up and admit that Canada is a deeply balkanized nation - so [they] make a virtue of it, say [they] love decentralization. He argued that there needed to be a "reassertion of a common spine of National citizenship... The Federal gov't is a guarantor of the national experience of our people... we need to deepen and expand the nat'l experience... or in 25 years no one is going to care enough to fight for Canada."

- PROSPERITY: He said... things about business and I shut my airy fairy social issues mind off. He did mention later that Canadians should come to understand our prosperity in a global context. He doesn't think we realize how extraordinarily rich we are, and that it is farcicle that we have been unable to meet Mike Pearson's goal of .7% GDP going to Foreign Aid.

That is the skeleton of his speech, as succinctly as possible. He then opened the floor up to questions (something he seemed genuinely to be looking forward to). The subjects of some of those questions are noted.

- How does being out of the country so long effect your outlook?: Ignatieff replied that he didn't think that was necessarily true. He had lectured at every university, was a prof at two, a constant presence in every op-ed section, the Massey lectures, etc. etc.

- Elected senate?: "If I were a wise politician I would leave it alone..." but he feels uncomfortable with it. He calls it the largest and most extensive patronage system in the liberal democratic world. Is willing to look at reform options, but doesn't want to "gum up" Ottawa any further, and create a scenario where federal legislation is massively delayed. He was particularly "steamed" about the appointment of Michael Fortier, and delivered Fortier's justification for not running in the election ("I don't really want to, it seems like an awful lot of work") in an over-the-top Fortier accent. It was a funny moment, and the audience was appreciative.

- Israel/Palestine?: This was where Ignatieff faced some heat. He answered with what would be characterized a "pro-Israel" stance, although that is somewhat misleading. He argued that based on his knowledge of the doctrine of self-determination and his time lecturing and living in Israel, he believes both parties have equal "symmetrical" claims on the land. He went a step further, noting that he did not think Canada should have any dealins with Hamas - "Shouldn't touch Hamas with a 10-foot pole." This engendered quite a reaction. Some audience members applauded quitely, others called out that "hadn't Israel been founded on political violence?" Ignatieff ultimately concluded that Canadian politicians shouldn't tell either Israelies or Palestinians how to run their show, as long as human rights, etc. are recognized.

- Where are we on Aboriginal self-government (my question)?: Suggested that one of the terms upon which this country is built is that First Nations are self-governing entities. Said Trudeau was wrong in trying to construe the First Nations people as citizens in sameness. Key is world class post-secondary education. Justice should not be the purview of a self-governing First Nation. Needs to be accountability, etc.

- What to do about health care?: "This is where I approach heresy." Ignatieff believes the Canada Health Act is a fundamental aspect of our national citizenship spine. However, he tentatively feels that Jean Charest's suggested model (of having a few privately administered clinics for very specific types or treatments) is not an affront to the Act. He thinks that any project like this has to be heavily regulated. He was basically talking two-tier health care in the European rather than American sense.

- What PMs do you model yourself after?: Iggy has made love for Laurier. He is also "proud to call himself a Trudeau Liberal." He remembered witnessing the St. Jean Baptiste Parade (during which Trudeau's viewing stand was bombarded with bottles). In a strong moment, Ignatieff said "The RCMP were trying to get him to leave or sit down. You don't sit down in front of that. You stand in front of that. That's what I learned from Trudeau."

I think I've covered any notable moments. The bottom line is that most everyone left feeling that this guy is something special.

19 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

Sounds like quite the experience.

The national citizenship I obviously like, and have written quite a bit about here. I am very impressed with that aspect as described. Where to begin...

12:13 PM  
Blogger IslandLiberal said...

I read his The Rights Revolution a few days ago; a lot of this speech he gave corresponds with what was outlined there.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Cerberus said...

I think people may or may not like his views, but there can be no denying they are deeply rooted and substantive. He didn't make them up for the leadership race. He didn't come up with his "vision" of a national citizenship because that's a good thing for a leadership candidate to have.

I've seen him speak as well. Not all the way there yet in terms of support - want to see some of the others come out of the closet first - but he is definitely impressive, definitely Liberal, definitely has a clear, articulate vision of the country and definitely will raise the bar in the leadership race.

Thanks for a great post.

Ted
Cerberus

1:48 PM  
Blogger S.D. said...

A common criticism of Ignatieff has been that he's too intellectual and can't communicate with the average Canadian. When you were listening to him, did that seem true, or do you think he was able to engage the audience?

3:19 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

To S.D., I'll let steelcitygrit answer you too, but in my own experience seeing Ignatieff speak (I think less speech-environment than what has been described so maybe less useful but nonetheless) I found that wasn't a problem for him at all. He is surprisingly engaging and communicative. He cracks jokes, responds directly, etc. I didn't find him distant at all.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Jason Townsend said...

I think the "can't communicate with ordinary people" think is just partisan flak from people with nothing else to talk about.

4:52 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

Thanks for the comment cerberus. As for S.D., that's a worthwhile question. He did use an academic tone today. But I talked with others and we all had the same impresssion - that he was catering to a university audience. My feeling is he is just too smart to make that mistake. Think Bill Clinton (an intellectual when he has to be but smart enough to understand how to connect with anyone.)

5:00 PM  
Blogger notforyou said...

Michael Ignatieff is an impressive man from what I've read...I only wish I could meet him.

5:48 PM  
Blogger James Curran said...

From One Grit to another,

Excellent post. I wasn't that eloquent with mine. I spent the day with Mr. Ignatieff. 9-5. he answered questions form all takers at all 4 events today. He did it with passion, intellect, in French, in English and with inspiration. He disappointed no one.
Thank you for your post

The What Do I Know Grit

7:34 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:46 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

Thanks for the comment James.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The speech was good but he showed poor judgement when he addressed the Middle East question. Saying "Canada should get involved and tell the parties what to do" is a cop-out.
Leaders and countries must speak.
Ignatieff left no one satisfied with his duck and run answer.

4:55 AM  
Anonymous Lester said...

What kind of rabble is this?

YOU SAID : He argued that "unity must be reframed as a much bigger task." We should not conceive it to refer only to the English-French chasm, but also divisions of race, class, religion, and ethnicity.

Great, we have to expose our differences even more. Goodie. How was he gonna unite people he is dividing? I guess he didn't.

Then you say "He identified reinvesting in multiculturalism as an issue of unity, saying that "we are creating a hope of citizenship that in reality we disappoint... We need to ask 'why are we,
as a people, less than the sum of our parts?"

What crap is this? Comeon.

Then you said "He also identified something that seemed to approach a national Pharmacare project!He suggested that all residents of all provinces needed to face the same medication options, and that these options should be avaiable to all. He admitted that this would be an expensive project. This was an important moment, and there was a buzz in the room."

Lets fix Medicare before looking at Pharmacare.

You guys sound like a lot of little girls fawning over a teenage hearthrob.

He is a smart man who has travelled the world and knows a thing about manipulation. And you are his class subjects. Fools.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ragamuffins!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I won't speak for Steelcitygrit but me I don't base observing the truth on how cool and dettached I'll seem to some stranger, who apparently knows a great deal less than I do about any of the things I'm deciding on.

Let's fix medicare first. If he just said that you'd say where's his vision.

Hey, so with all this extending rights he sounds too progressive for you now? I see. So I guess he's not pragmatic enough eh? too liberal then is it? If you're on the other side and say you care about uniting us, and could read, you'd know my feelings on that.

Manipulation. Ha ha ha. Could we not know a great deal about not being manipulated, is that not possible? Now he's mister well-travelled eh? And how did this travelling to the slums of Iraq and Afghanistan train him to manipulate us? Do tell. And while you're at it explain how he is so much better versed in manipulation than the other 98 percent of politicians who are salesmen of one kind or antoher, and who come directly from business or law, or even better, a career in politics! But no, the Harvard academic was just biding his time to win us over. Its laughable at best.

I'm also how some sheeplike little girl could manage to eviscerate you in debate, if just falling for cheap charm. What would that make you?
No, you don't know anything about us. I guarantee you we put more thought and more principle into who to support politically than you do into anything. That someone could come to a different conclusion than you is so unthinkable that it must have sprung from false idols not the reality of reading several books, researching, meeting, discussing, and on and on. Please tell me of this political figure you've found worthy with any more in-depth reserach. There isn't one. Most often it is based on nothing more than good rheoteric. If you want to accuse people of conforming to Ignatieff you've come to the wrong place. He has an extensive political philosophy formulated in print, you know that, that is why you take it out of context and attack it.

But even with this in mind, we have been nothing but questioning, in fact both of us given the opportunity have enquired about subjects we wanted answers on, rather than just attempting to make him look good. Even with all we support we continue to probe, and examine every detail of the philosophy as if it must be perfect which is ridiculous. I doubt you would ever show such integrity.

I do love how you cry fools. Fools, fools I say! Ha ha ha. So who is worthy? Do tell. Maybe you'll get it in a dream.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

And you continue to miss the point. A manipulater tells people what they want to hear. They do not talk about unpopular stances on Israel-Palestine, or when lobbed softballs over support for an unpopular war fail to take the bait, but rather affirm their original stance. Go ahead and disagree with that stance if you want but you can't accuse him of inconsistency, which would have to be tied to manipulation. They do not take big stands. Yes there is some market for this but far far far less than there is for skirting around issues. They also don't take explicit positions. And don't say he hasn't done that here as this is a SUMMARY off the top of someone's head (and a good one at that). He also didn't say he agreed with every line of it either, he doesn't feel the need to use every line for some bias like yourself.

The things you can criticize him for you don't. He is TOO principled for politics maybe, not the other way around. He hasn't changed this message from place to place. So essentially all you could be saying is believe no one, and that is not worthy of our time.

9:41 AM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

Lester delivers some stunning rebuttals.
"What crap is this. Come on." Hey, he's right!
"How was he gonna unite people he is dividing? I guess he didn't." Aside from the obvious (that is a completely meaningless string of sentences) I like the assertion that divisons of race, ethnicity, and class didn't exist until Ignatieff noticed them. Another homerun.
Lester is the kind of foil one dreams about. I just wish there were more of his brand of lesser mortals, so that I can continue to feel so infinitely superior. I hope this doesn't discourage Lester from more... because we're all really impressed.

2:35 PM  

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