Please, Ignatieff

Like many of my fellow students, who consider themselves progressive people, I feel the Canadian parties have been unrepresentative.

Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party leader, has yet to give us a reason to rally behind him. Our position is clear: we want Prime Minister Harper out, but we do not know why we want Ignatieff.

Traditionally, the Left vote has been divided between the Green Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP). The splitting of progressive support has, in the past two elections, led to Conservative victories.

For instance, Conservative Peter Braid was selected to represent Kitchener-Waterloo in the 2008 election. Braid’s election was the product of a division between progressive voters. Had the Left concentrated their vote for one party, Peter Braid would not be our representative, proving the importance of forming a solid alternative to the Conservatives.

Much of the cause for our Conservative government has to do with our archaic electoral system, which does not give just representation for voters. Until there is real reform of our electoral system, progressives must turn to the Liberal party in order to ensure that the Bush-Redux
Stephen Harper is removed from power.

The events which have unfolded over the past few weeks have left distaste in the mouths of progressives.

Jack Layton’s partnership with his ideological antithesis, the Reform Conservatives, shows weakness within the NDP. Why do we have leaders planning for employment insurance when they should be creating employment opportunities?

Canadians, especially students, need real solutions, not band-aids. Sorry Jack, but increasing EI benefits will not stimulate the economy. The Conservatives’ continuing inaction solidifies the need for a stronger alternative for Canada.

Canadian students have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic crisis. Estimates have put the student unemployment rate over the summer as high as 20 per cent. The Conservatives appear to find this little cause for concern and continue to insist that the market is responsible for creating employment.

Progressives have the foresight to realize that what we need is active government involvement during such a crisis, stimulating the economy and creating employment opportunities.

Regardless of what you are told, Canada today remains in a serious economic crisis, a crisis that requires extensive government involvement in order to prevent further free-fall. But Harper has proven a lack of understanding in dealing with this, exemplified through such comments as,

“The fundamentals of the Canadian Economy are strong” at a time when many other global leaders took action to curtail their cascading economies.

Ignatieff has claimed, as one of his four pillars of his platform, the need to address the economy, an important aspect of which is to reach out to the student population that has been ignored over Harper’s tenure. Students’ interests branch out further than just the economy; however, the economy is a great courting tool for political parties.

On other issues of concern for students, such as the environment and foreign policy, a vote for the Liberals would mark the return to a more acceptable role for Canada on the international stage. Students are in need of a serious alternative to Harper’s inaction.

Students need to be convinced by Ignatieff why a vote for the Liberals is of more value to them than a vote for either the Greens or the NDP.

Ignatieff has the ability to bridge the gap between which reality exists and where the Conservative policies lay – a gap continuing to widen the longer we have Harper.

Ignatieff has the opportunity to reach out to this ignored constituency. By giving students a reason to vote Liberal, this niche can propel Ignatieff to victory.

Ignatieff can learn this important lesson from Barack Obama, in which an outsider candidate with little mainstream support sought out the students of America; it was with this constituency that Obama took the U.S. election.

This could happen for Ignatieff as well. All he needs to do is to realize the importance of the student population, and give us a reason to rally for him.