Michael Ignatieff has been visiting university campuses, promoting democracy and youth involvement in politics.
This was such a good idea, as he is proving that he can think on his feet. He's also getting all the nonsense out of the way.
Iggy on the campaign trail
January 14, 2010
By Lily Panamsky
On Jan. 13, official Liberal Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition Michael Ignatieff made McMaster University his sixth stop of his 11-stop cross-country campus tour.
The “Conversation with Michael Ignatieff,” as it was known in its Facebook group, featured Alex Sevigny, professor of communication studies and multimedia and French, as the host.
The afternoon’s events consisted of a brief introduction of Ignatieff by Vice President and Provost Ilene Bush-Vishniac, a 10-minute talk by Michael Ignatieff, followed by an hour-long question and answer period and finally conclusions and a brief meet and greet period.
Convocation Hall — the site of the forum — was filled with students, staff, faculty, and community locals; sitting behind the podium where Ignatieff spoke was a group of students bearing McMaster sweaters and scarves.
Ignatieff welcomed and received both Liberal and non-Liberal supporters. In his general speech, he stressed the importance of youth voting—citing that, in the last election, only one out of five 18 year olds voted. He also criticized Prime Minister of Canada and Leader of the Conservative Party Stephen Harper for his proroguing of parliament on Dec. 31, 2009. Under the approval of Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, Parliament will remain shut down for two months, until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Following his brief address, Igantieff opened up the floor for questions and answers. Notable topics covered included Canada’s role in helping development in Africa, Canada’s torture allegations of Afghan detainees, funding for mature students, Canada’s role in curtailing climate change, energy alternatives and policies, and policies regarding youth unemployment.
Leading the question period was the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Suzanne Costa—in French—and referred to the financing of culture and the humanities. Ignatieff managed to answer the question—also in French—in a well-articulated manner, gaining the approval of the audience with his support for an increase of funding of Canadian artists and of the liberal arts. Ignatieff continually repealed his image of being an elitist, adducing to his years as a freelance journalist as justification and support for his claim.
An accusation was thrown at Ignatieff by pHD candidate Rebecca Strung regarding his apparent support of torture in Afghanistan due to his American academic record. Ignatieff swiftly dismissed the allegation by replying: “If you read The Lesser Evil, if you read my published work on the issue of torture and interrogation, I think it is impossible to believe that I defend torture in any form whatever. I hope that’s very clear. There can be no equivocation about it.”
Continuing on the topic of torture in Afghanistan, Ignatieff reported: “Stephen Harper shut down Parliament precisely because we are asking the questions that were making this government nervous. And they’re questions in my view about the government; they’re not questions about the conduct of Canadian military forces….What we’re saying is that the government of Canada has not done the due diligence necessary to make sure that Canada has no part in torture conducted by Afghan authorities.”
The final question—when Canada should aim to return to a balanced budged—received overwhelming applause from the audience was. Ignatieff replied by talking about the importance of sustaining healthcare and lowering the current 17 per cent youth employment.
Ignatieff managed to cater many of his answers to students by touching on the topics of education and youth employment. He received much applause from the audience in Convocation Hall along with a warm “thank-you,” and walked away sporting the token McMaster sweater that was given to him as a gift on behalf of the university.
Ignatieff’s cross-country campus tour spans a week. The University of Toronto Mississauga and the University of Ottawa are the only other two Ontario universities being visited on the tour.