Friday, October 9, 2009

I Find Myself Very Humbled and Ashamed. Is This Who Canadians are Now?

I read a bit of Kelly McParland's column the other day, and was kind of surprised by a comment he made "Ignatieff has been the target of criticism here at the National Post for quite some time. We're supposed to do that ... "

They are supposed to do that? Who said they are supposed to do that?

He then went on to list criticisms from a variety of sources while feeding a bit of a lifeline, suggesting that perhaps like Leon Spinx, he would be a long shot.

I find this terribly sad, because we are not in the middle of an election campaign, so why would anyone assume that Mr. Ignatieff has failed? He was left with little choice than to announce that he no longer had confidence in this government.

During the Parliamentary crisis, which even most Reform-Conservatives blamed Stephen Harper directly for, we saw an out of control mob scrambling to keep their jobs, and threatening national unity to do it. Adding to the debate was an out of control media, referring to the proposed Liberal/NDP coalition, backed up for confidence motions only by the Bloc; as the 'Three Amigos', the Three Stooges', a 'Coup', 'Treason' ... I mean brilliant journalism.

If they'd done their homework they would have discovered that Jack Layton got his idea for a coalition from Stephen Harper himself in 2004 and 2005. The only difference was that Harper's directly included Gilles Duceppe. But that would take work and this was much more fun.

Enter Michael Ignatieff. A cool voice of reason; he had never really like the idea of a coalition in the first place, so like an adult, he made the decision to support the budget. Albeit with some trepidation, because he knew that Canadians just wanted to get on with it. In affect; he saved Harper's job.

So did the Reform-Conservatives appreciate this extended hand? Of course not. Instead they immediately started running attack ads in one of the most horrendous personal assaults on a man's character, I've ever witnessed.

And like a fool, I thought Canadians would never fall for this. I had not only read Michael Ignatieff's resume but I had also read several of his books, and he is a man not only of high intelligence, but enormous compassion.

As a journalist he had covered many conflicts, but his commentaries always included the personal stories and tragedies. He was in Kurdisatan and Rwanda after the genocides and had seen inhumanity at it's worse, and yet he still believed in humanity. He still believed in the basic goodness of people.

And what did he come home to? I'm embarrassed to admit that the Canadian people he left, are not the same as the ones he sees now. We are no longer nice, it would seem. Polarized and bitter, we have succumbed to the bombardment of hate mail and continuous televised political warfare. And what was his crime? He was Leader of the Opposition. Not an adversary, but an enemy. Plain and simple.

The Harper government had no interest in trying to work with him. They just wanted to annihilate him, and it won't matter who leads the party, they will continue to do the same. And despite the fact that they are using our money to launch these missiles ... we have drifted into a stupor, no longer caring about what this is doing to the democratic process.

We will stick with the devil we think we know instead of taking a moment to question why the Conservatives are so threatened by Mr. Ignatieff that they have to defy human decency. Could there be something there that we've missed? Like perhaps we have a man who cares about this country and is not 'just visiting'?

Maybe we'll never know, and maybe we don't deserve any better than what we've got.

I read an op-ed piece from London Ontario, after a recent visit by Michael Ignatieff, that I wanted to share. It made me so incredibly sad. This is not the Canada I know. But I guess it's the Canada we've helped to create.

Looking Over His Shoulder
October 9, 2009
by Glen Peason

Michael Ignatieff was in my home town of London, Ontario yesterday speaking at a special Chamber of Commerce breakfast. The room was full with hundreds of curious people and the media was out in force. They were there to see a man under assault, at a low ebb in popularity, and obviously struggling with the sheer vengeful nature of politics.

Some were there to see “Michael Ignatieff” – international author and well-known figure. Still others wanted to hear what he would do about a region that has lost tens of thousands of jobs, whose communities are facing an infrastructure deficit, and whose unemployment rate will remain over 11 per cent for the next 12-18 months. It’s been bleak here and the Liberal leader opted to address a crowd in pain and insecurity. In that sense, both speaker and audience shared similar emotions.

I had coffee with him prior to the speech and he seemed exhausted. He could have talked about his ordeal, but rather he asked about the London Food Bank and how the numbers were? What kind of investment would it take for the region to recover? How were the unions faring in such dismal times? The university, colleges, small businesses, private sector – all these formed the object of his natural curiosity.

Speaking before an audience of leaders from this region, he demonstrated early that he comprehended the gravity of what it was facing and how the federal government had cut back on recent promises to invest more in the area. Heads nodded at that one because they had pinned a certain measure of hope on an infrastructure funding arrangement that inevitably arrived stillborn.

Then he moved on to speak of the remarkable leadership in the room and the promise of tomorrow if they could just find a federal partner that understood the region’s inherent strengths and talents. He closed with two five-point plans on how a Liberal government would invest in the future of green technology, research, post-secondary and other institutions of education, ramp up Paul Martin’s successful initiative of sharing the gas tax directly with communities to build their infrastructure.

The applause was sustained and appreciative. Ignatieff then circled around the room while everyone lingered to just shake hands or have their pictures taken with him. A snapshot of those moments would never reveal a political leader struggling in the polls. His wife moved off on her own and talked to everyone she encountered, her own natural curiosity creating delight in others.

And then it was time for the media scrum. Michael asked me to stand with him, so I took my place behind his left shoulder, facing the media. The initial questions were about the economic fragility of the area and how he felt about the federal government’s unfulfilled promises on infrastructure. Then came the questions that were inevitable.

How does he feel about his low personal polling numbers, or the sagging fortunes of the Liberal Party at present? It went on and on for the remainder of the brief session and it was disheartening. Following a well-received speech where he evidenced a quick grasp of the region’s struggles and for which he laid out not one, but two plans to address those woes, it all came down to this.

The media fascinated on his pain instead of the region’s deep struggles.

Peering over his shoulder, I watched a media doing what they believed was their job, macabre as it was, and a man personally accepting responsibility for his troubles. But of the two, he was the only one who dealt with the subjects of poverty, joblessness, loss of hope, and building for the future.

And I realized that my place in politics is standing behind people like Michael Ignatieff, and anyone else in Parliament, whose own deep struggles have provided a natural empathy for what my community feels. It was a proud moment.

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