Reading between the lines of Michael Ignatieff’s latest speech -

Reading between the lines of Michael Ignatieff’s latest speech

They said it couldn’t be done, but we found a way to make politics 7% more boring.


Date: Monday, May 17, 2010.

Title: Speech to Toronto Leader’s Dinner

We are the big tent at the centre of Canadian politics. And we always will be.

The big tent – that’s where the clowns perform, right?

Our opponents call us names. They throw mud. They send hate mail and attack ads.

They give us wedgies. They steal our lunch money. They ridicule my ascot.

We didn’t end a 25-year consensus on a woman’s right to choose—they did.

We didn’t cut Toronto Pride, and attack the CBC—they did.

We didn’t divide rural and urban Canada over gun control—they did.

We didn’t tell women’s groups to “shut the f— up,” or lose their funding—they did.

We didn’t let the dogs out – they did.

We didn’t start the fire – they did.

We didn’t know the way to San Jose – they did.

We are better than this. We are better than this as a country.

Are we really? I mean, I guess I hope we are – but opposition leaders have been saying “We’re better than this as a country” for approximately 143 years now. Maybe this is as good as we’re going to get. Maybe we’re like David Caruso: We THOUGHT we had A-list potential but as it turns out, no, total TV actor. Maybe we’d be happier just to <removes sunglasses> accept that.

And let’s be clear about something else:

We didn’t drop you into a 54-billion-dollar hole—he did.

We kept our promises—he didn’t.

Wow. This Harper guy sounds like a total douche.

He promised smaller government. Then he increased spending by 25 percent.

Tres douchey.

He promised not to run a deficit. Then he put us in deficit before the recession.

That son of a—

He promised not to raise taxes. Then he taxed income trusts and raised payroll taxes.

To the pitchforks!

Stephen Harper flies around, boasting about our economy.

Wait, hold off on the pitchforks: They’d be no match for Harper’s apparent super powers.

There is only one party whose fiscal record stands up: ours, not his.

We’re also the only party that’s talking openly and honestly about the future.

Screw you, NDP, and your obsession with our Lost-like sideways-verse.

At the Montréal conference, we changed how politics is done in this country.

They said it couldn’t be done, but we found a way to make it 7% more boring.

We talked about the challenges that are coming our way.

‘Challenges’ is too polite; it’s a freight train coming down the track.

An ageing population. Rising household debt. Skilled labour shortages. Soaring healthcare costs and retirement costs.

Christ! We’re doomed! Throw some canned goods in a sack and run for the hills!

The message we heard in Montréal was: Wake up. Get ready.

Some of us chose to hear this message, take two Advil, roll over and go back to sleep.

The sovereign debt crisis is not happening on another planet. It’s coming our way.

So Krypton is in the clear, then? That’s a relief. NOTHING BAD MUST EVER HAPPEN TO KRYPTON!

Stephen Harper doesn’t want to talk about any of this. He lives in the paradise of an eternal present.

Dude, he lives in Ottawa. Let’s not oversell.

We will cut corporate taxes again, but not when recovery is fragile, not when we’re in a sovereign debt crisis, and not when we’re in a 54-billion-dollar deficit.

We will cut corporate taxes—when this country can afford it.

Dear Blue Chips: How’s Monday, the 12th of Never work for you?

The difference between us and them?

They trust tired right wing ideologies.

Ha ha. People who aren’t us are dumb.

We’ll do what Stephen Harper hasn’t done, for four years—we’ll invest in Canada’s people.

Hooray! I’m a Canada’s person. Invest in me – preferably with bionics!

We have chosen three core priorities for a future Liberal government: learning, care, and Canadian leadership in the world.

Three priorities. That’s it.

First: learning.

A few weeks ago, I was at a high school in Winnipeg. I did what I always do; sat on a stool and took questions, many of them from Aboriginal young people. And then something happened.

After answering questions, I went up to a young man, he must have been about 15. He was a little bit mussed up, he looked a little tired. I patted him on the arm and I said, ‘Hang in there. Finish high school.’

He looked at me for a long time, and then he said, ‘You have no idea.’

And he pointed to the gymnasium door at the back of the hall, and he said, ‘when I go out that door, it’s a jungle. And I don’t know whether I’m going to be able to come back. And I don’t know whether I’m going to be able to finish.’

As Liberals, we say to that young man—we say to all young Canadians who stand at the cross-roads between hope and despair—

We will stand by you ‘til you finish high school. We will stand by you ‘til you finish post-secondary. We will stand by you ‘til you have the solid ground of Canadian life under your feet.

Sorry, what? You see a teenager at school who looks a little tired and you automatically assume he’s poised to drop out? He looks a little “mussed up” so you have to get all “stay in school” on him? The kid could be on the fast track to valedictorian for all you know! FINISH HIGH SCHOOL, DUMMY. <Pats self on back for show of empathy> Nice.

Second: Is that actually your policy? You are going to “stand by” this particular child and EVERY Canadian until they finish their secondary and post-secondary education? You’re going to force Bob Rae to tutor them all in history? Make lunches for them every morning? But Daaaaad, my throat hurts. I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL.

We are all in this together. We stand or fall together. Every Canadian must have an equal chance to share the full promise of Canadian life.

Keeping that promise—and God only knows how far short we are—all starts with learning.

I checked with God. He says we’re pretty far short.

Affordable early learning and childcare spaces in every part of Canada, for every family that needs them.

EVERY family. In EVERY part of Canada. In EVERY timeline. Even that weird one where Riker was captain and Picard was dead.

A pledge to every Canadian middle-class family that worries how it will pay for the post-secondary education of their children: if they get the grades, they get to go.

Lower-class families? Boned.

A pledge to invest in skills training, language training, and adult literacy—so that every Canadian with a learning disability, every Canadian with literacy problems, every new Canadian who needs to learn English or French—every single person in this country gets a fair chance at the Canadian dream.

I will give EVERYONE a child care space. I will send EVERYONE to university. I WILL PERSONALLY HELP EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THIS COUNTRY. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I am setting up a little booth like Lucy had in the Peanuts cartoons. Bring a quarter, have a seat and I WILL FIX YOU.

Also… the Canadian dream? Really? I think the Americans have got firm dibs on that particular rhetorical flourish.

Conservatives want Canadians to believe they have to choose between equality and economic success, just as they want Canadians to believe you have to choose between environmental stewardship and economic progress.

We reject these false and tired choices.

We know from our party’s long history that you can successful ignore both.

Our second priority is care. We can’t have a productive and competitive society when families are out of the labour market, caring for loved ones at home.

Please say robot nurses, please say robot nurses…

We know that a country can be compassionate and competitive at the same time. In fact, you can’t be competitive, unless you are compassionate.

Not true, but both words start with ‘c’ and sound catchy together so…

A new Liberal government will do more to help families care for loved ones at home.

Mr. & Mrs. Canada: Meet your new caregiver, Denis Coderre.

Our third priority is Canadian leadership in the world. Our party has to stand for a passionate internationalism.

Feeling up the multilateral structures of 21st century diplomacy is not enough – we must get to second base with them.

Under Stephen Harper’s leadership, we’ve become a big country that acts small.

We must become a small country that acts big. Begin sawing off everything west of Manitoba!

At the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen last December, the message from the international community was, ‘Canada, please leave the room so we can get something done.’

It hurt at the time, but it made sense later when we returned to find they’d prepared a surprise party for us. You guys!

We can never let that happen again.

Lemon cake? Gross.

My opponents attack me for having worked outside the country. They say it makes me less of a Canadian. But I’ll tell you something—I think it makes me more of a Canadian.

Got that? Spending almost my entire adult life outside of Canada makes me MORE of a Canadian. By this logic, Barack Obama is the most Canadian person on Earth. You should elect him.

We understand the cultures of the world. This is an incredible asset for Canada—and I want more young people to go out and come back, out and back, out and back, testing themselves against the world, being enriched by the world, and coming home to make Canada stronger. That’s a goal worthy of our great country.

And if any of you wind up in Britain, maybe you could bring back my cat?

So this is the choice that we will offer Canadians.

On one hand, a Conservative government that wants more corporate tax cuts with borrowed money.


On the other hand, a Liberal alternative that freezes corporate taxes, fights the deficit, and makes targeted investments in our future—learning, care, and leadership in the world.


In our proudest moments, our party has summoned our fellow citizens to build the country we love.

We are the party of Medicare, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, fiscal responsibility, and national unity.

Empty promises, ethical malaise, Alfonso Gagliano and opposition to free trade.

And what these achievements have in common is that we have them in common—a visionary optimism about what we can do together—as one great people, sharing one great country.

Except for that tired, mussed up kid from Winnipeg. We gotta ditch that loser.

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