Ignatieff speaks at campus rally

“Go Hawks!” said Michael Ignatieff, leader of Canada’s official opposition, to a crowd of cheering students at the Young Liberals’ rally held in Wilf’s this past Saturday.

Students from across southern Ontario crammed into the pub to hear the Liberal leader discuss the engagement of youth in Canadian politics and the current political climate.

“Your presence in the room this afternoon is a refutation of the idea that your generation doesn’t care, your generation is discontented, your generation has no commitment to the political process,” said Ignatieff.

The rally took place the day following the vote for the Ways and Means motion presented by Jim Flaherty, minister of finance, to implement budget provisions tabled last January.

Having voted against the motion in hopes of triggering an election, Ignatieff expressed his reason for withdrawing his support from the Conservative government.

“When you’re an opposition you have to do one job … which is to hold the government accountable and ask one question: is this good enough?”

Ignatieff, in line with his duty as the official opposition, pinpointed what he considers the failures of the current Conservative government, including the growing federal deficit, the shortage of nuclear medical isotopes and the lack of an H1N1 vaccine.

“[A government] has to provide the basic things in health and healthcare to give [citizens] basic security,” said Ignatieff. “If you let people down at that basic level you are failing at the basic functions of government.”

With a new wave of attack ads sponsored by the Conservative government hitting television screens across the country, Ignatieff responded to their criticisms while disregarding the political game.

“I don’t really care what they say,” he said in direct address to the ads that question his loyalty to Canada after spending many years working abroad.

“Our Canada is a Canada where almost 20 per cent of our population was born in another country; where something like 2 million Canadians at any time are living and working overseas, do we think those are lesser Canadians than the people who never left? I don’t think so,” he stated.

In an interview with The Cord following his speech, Ignatieff expressed his concerns for the high rate of student unemployment.

“You don’t want Canadians beginning their working lives on the unemployment line,” he said. “I know that we can’t have a successful economy unless our best and brightest can get jobs.”

The next time Canadians head to the polls, Ignatieff said that the Liberal’s platform will include specific commitments in aiding student unemployment and debt.

“We’re willing to work with student representatives who are right at the front end of this and see what we can do to help…We’ve got to relieve the burden of student debt.”

Although the possibility of an election is not likely this fall, Ignatieff shared his enthusiasm with the crowd for a Liberal government

“When the choice is presented to the Canadian people, I have absolutely no doubt how they’re going to choose.”