Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ignatieff Speaks in Edmonton.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is in Edmonton for a few days and last night he held a little town hall style gathering where he took questions from the audience. I would put the crowd at about 450, which is larger than Stephane Dion's numbers last July, and has to be considered a good turnout for an Alberta event.

Ignatieff had plenty to say. Here is how it went down.

(long post warning)

The usual local Liberals were in the room, including Senators Tommy Banks, Grant Mitchell, and Claudette Tardif, former Liberal MP Anne McLellan and a host of other committee chairs and organizers. Alberta Liberal party leader David Swann was in the room with a couple of tag along Lib MLAs, and a city councilor.

After a brief mix up as to who was going to introduce Ignatieff, Tommy Banks took the stage and gave a little talk about how lucky we are in Canada to not have the political upheaval that some other countries endure and the reasons that "we have chosen Michael Ignatieff" as the leader of the LPC. I guess Senator Banks had forgotten the details of how Michael Ignatieff became leader and that the members did not 'choose" him or about how popular the coalition was with Canadians, but the partisan crowd ate it up.

Michael takes the stage. I can feel my pulse race ( Sorry about that. I think I may have been channeling Kady O'Malley there for a second.)

Ignatieff warmed up the crowd a bit talking about Canada Day, the size of the "Edmonton" crowd and about an earlier town hall that he had just finished with some members of the Alberta Francophone community. Ignatieff commented that "the west has always been french, never forget that" and that this part of the world has always been french and "always will be french". I am not sure that his explanation of how since we have french names for some of our mountains and lakes it is enough to declare that the west is french,or if he could get away with saying that the east has always been english, but he is the intellectual, not I. He opined briefly on provincial politics by saying that the reason that the room was full was partly due to the "monopoly party government" in the Province of Alberta, but quickly returned to federal politics by taking a shot at the Harper government on income trusts even though that horse left the barn a long time ago. He went on to preach for more big government by committing more to education as well as for a state run childcare program. No mention of how he is planing to pay for this, but tonight was not to be about pesky details. He also brought up what to me sounded like a plan to regulate, or more than likely just a plan tax the crap out of, certain foods/additives in the name of health. If you use salt, sugar or oil you had better watch out because Ignatieff is coming for you and your wallet if he ever gets elected. I found it kind of ironic for Ignatieff to be talking about this while half of the audience was still chowing down on their double cheeseburgers with sides of salty oily salads from the Liberal fundraiser BBQ attached to the event, but irony and the Liberal Party seem to go well together. He talked very briefly on energy and the need to conserve; screwing up when he said "not getting enough miles per litre" which he quickly corrected into "litres per gallon". I have to cut him some slack on this one since as he was visibly tired from what no doubt was a busy day and I screw up more than my fair share on a regular basis to complain about this. To his credit Ignatieff did keep his opening comments relatively short in an effort to make more time for questions from the audience.

Question#1 was about prorogation and the gentleman asked if Ignatieff would do away with the ability to prorogue Parliament. Ignatieff with his answer blatantly borrowed from Barrack Obama as to why he could not do away with this power saying that "is way above my pay grade" to understand the constitutional issues/history of prorogation. Ignatieff added that he too shares the anger of the questioner about prorogation bringing up some of the history of the coalition and how it formed because of the fiscal update with no mention of the provision to cut off political parties from the public purse, which was the real reason that the 3 parties tossed all of their principles aside to form the coalition. Interestingly enough he went on to say how he saved the PM by deciding against going with the coalition idea, which he had just agreed to support, in order to prevent the turmoil that it would have caused, even though he apparently thinks that he could have won an election at that time with polls reading in the 50%+ range for the CPC.

Question #2 related to seniors financial issues. Ignatieff answered by talking about the current economic situation and was very critical (Remember this for later on) of the "51 billion dollar deficit" budget that would stretch into a "170 billion dollars" over 5 years, saying that this is where the PM has taken Canada over the last 3 years. He also talked about a discussion on national pension reform and brought up healthcare costs and how the Liberals would defend the principles of the Canada Health Act by fighting the provinces if they ever "go down those roads" of having any type of user pay private system. I guess he was out of the country for too long or maybe it is above his pay grade to be familiar with this supreme court ruling or that there are plenty of examples where this is happening already in Canada.

Question #3 was on a carbon tax from someone familiar with Ignatieff's history on the idea. Ignatieff hinted that while he still liked the idea of a carbon tax, the political reality of such a tax makes it impossible to implement in a poor economy. He never ruled it out completely say if the economy improves, but votes ("practical politics") seem to be more important than the environment right now for the LPC.

Question #5 was a polite question which basically asked when Ignatieff was going to stop supporting the Harper government and force an election. Now of course he was not going to give a specific date or let too much out of the Liberal bag but he did give some specifics when he said that he would pull the plug if there were not significant changes to EI saying that he will "not settle for anything other than substantial reform". He also again brought up the coalition, praising Dion for forming it, and how it forced what was basically a "bad Liberal budget" to be passed for the benefit of Canadians, but adding that he thought that the coalition would lead to "permanent division" in our society. ( Remember how he hated the deficit budget in question #2, but now says it was good for the country.)

Question #6 was on medical isotopes, which is not above his pay grade to answer it would seem. This one was spin from the start when Iggy said that in 13 years of Liberal government that there was never a loss of isotope production in Canada while in the 3 years of conservative government it has happened twice. Look this is a serious issue but the PM does not take the limo down to Chalk River at the start of each day to crank out some isotopes before heading to the Hill for oral questions, give me a break.

Question #9 was about the recent proposed legislation giving more powers to police/security agencies for monitoring. Lots of fluff in the answer talking about rights but it looked like Ignatieff agrees with the legislation.

Question #11 Asbestos. While in the past Ignatieff has flip flopped on asbestos, tonight there was to be no beating around the bush on this one as Ignatieff answered by saying that "Canada has to be out of the asbestos business. We should not export it and we should not produce it".

The last question of the night dealt with farming and the difficulty with the selling/promoting locally grown products. There was nothing particularly special about Ignatieff's answer so I will not go into it other than to just highlight one comment that he made which sort of sums up why he is not yet ready for the job and shows the kind of trouble that he might find himself in if this was a real election campaign and not just a summer BBQ/speaking engagement. While talking about a book that he was reading just that very afternoon on the plane coming from Toronto to Edmonton, Ignatieff forgot the name of the book. Not a big issue really and not one that should cause much trouble for the Liberal leader, but it was not that he forgot the name, it was the little "joke" that he made about why he forgot that was the problem. Consider what a certain Liberal blogger who claims to be their war room guy, or even what the media would do if the PM had said the following about forgetting the title of the book: "I am having a senior moment I can't even remember its title". Do any of you think that this would not be spun to no end and that there would be a post dedicated to this small snippet possibly called "Making fun of seniors" at the top of his blog or appearing as the headline of a newspaper? It is a good thing for Ignatieff that I am not that petty.

Well that's it, take from it what you will and if you have read this far I thank you for taking the time.

Alberta Ardvark, going into the belly of the beast so you don't have to.

Update: Ignatieff had some thoughts for the press after the event last night.

"Governments have a role in saying there's energy demand out east; are there ways of moving some of that Alberta oil east to Sarnia for refining?
"But it's not for governments to say where the oil should flow," he was quick to add.

But he said it anyway. h/t SDA.

Update and Clarification: There have been some who believe that I have taken Mr.Ignatieff out of context with my use of the "the west has always been french, never forget that" quote. So I am going to do my best to transcribe what he said both before and after the quote and leave it up to you to decide if I did just that.(bolding mine)

"I would like to say one thing. Which is that before this evening began I had a session in french across the road. I had a session in french with members of the Franco-Albertan community of whom they have such a distinguished representative in Claudette Tardif. I saw something wonderful in that hall, which is I saw a great Canadian tradition, uh the west has always been french, never forget that. Yellowhead; where does that come from? It comes from TĂȘte Jaune. Some anonymous (I can't make out the french term used) that named the mountains, that named the rivers. This part of the world has always been french, always will be french. That tradition was in the room, and there is another tradition which has renewed and strengthened our country. People who have came from francophone Africa, from the Congo, from Rawanda ..." He continues on about how great it is to have all of these people together and how it is good for the country.

Out of context? You tell me.


Marie said...

I saw on the news that Ignatieff called Harper arrogant and that he bragged that Harper would NEVER do a town hall like HIM - sitting and fielding questions from REAL Canadians without a safety net!!!
Did you hear that?
Guess Igs was not around for the 15 or so years that Harper toured this country in every nook and cranny with town halls growing the grass roots support that finally could compete with the Liberal wasteland of power brokers, big money, bribery and backroom deals.

Igs sounded somewhat Garth Turnerish - patting himself on the back for doing a town hall to answer questions instead of just lecture the masses.
Sheeesh.What a hero huh - not.

Anonymous said...

It is news to me that Harper used to do townhalls. I somehow missed them too and ever since he became Prime Minister, I have looked for such occassions and looked for people writing about them and come up completely empty. Harper has not even been in involved in the Conservative Party for 15 years and he was not in politics at the time he decided to run for leader - so the 15 years must be Reform years (something which didn't interest me).

wilson said...

Gawd, you deserve a medal for attending the Iffy show AA!

Not one question on the oilsands?
What the ..
Piping our dirty oil to the East was his recent 'big idea'.

Tho I am sure Enbridge will contact him and say 'call off your enviro dogs and it will be done', the Enbridge expansion plan (25% of Ontarios crude is piped in from the oilsands already) could resume.

Marie said...

As Prime Minister the security is crazy but during the reform years, for example, Harper was policy advisor to Manning who was everywhere in this great country. Then he was Deb Gray's EA and SHE was everywhere as were many Reform then Alliance MP's. Harper was not the leader of a party so his town halls at events would not have made the news but he was often on media talk shows as a political expert before he ran himself.
Since he became leader of the party I have been to three Q & A's with Harper in Edmonton alone and then as PM two more events where he also took questions and under very tight security mingled with the crowd, talked to folks and had his photo taken which then the PMO sent to people by email.
Ignatieff is in the very beginning of his political career - this is all new to him so he thinks he invented it I guess.
Another blog about his visit here - from a Liberal - We were not impressed. 'Nuff said.

wilson said...

That was a town hall?

Not a chance.
That was a Liberal meeting.

No questions about the oilsands,
but a question about Quebec's asbestos.
Give me a break.

Iffy is a fake.
Those questions were pre-selected, bet yah.

Ardvark said...

Marie, Iggy himself did not say that directly but some of the others that spoke alluded to it.

Wilson, yes it is true. The oil sands were not really discussed and there were no direct questions on the subject which is odd for this being Alberta and all.

Marie said...

Today Ignatieff is going to be marching the the Old Strathcona Silly Summer Canada Day Parade in Edmonton.

Do you think he will be wearing a photo of Pierre Trudeau around his neck in Alberta???


Calgary Junkie said...

Iggy's latest high dive off the asbestos board into an empty pool, now rates a 5.9 level of difficulty !

He's flipped, flopped, then flipped again, in three different parts of the country, in two languages, with a 360 degree spin thrown in !

The guy is amazing to watch. Somebody email Duceppe with the French translation of how Iggy is back to killing the asbestos industry in Quebec.

Soccermom said...

The West has always been French?

What ???

Smooth move, exlax, just like wearing a pic of Trudeau at the pride parade. You don't win the West over by doing/saying such stupid things.

In other words, keep it up.

Ardvark said...

Soccermom I was surprised that he would say such a thing as well and I was not alone. He did not say that there was a strong french heritage out west, which there is, or even that the culture has mangaed to thrive in places, he said that the west has always been french and "always will be french".

Try substituting the word english for french and repeat it in Quebec City. What do you think the reaction would be?

Soccermom said...

Just goes to show, Ardvark, that Iffy DOESN'T KNOW THIS COUNTRY. Hasn't lived here, doesn't know it. Can't be our PM.

Marie said...

Tomorrow Ignatieff heads to Calgary - the city he demonized this week for being a backwater of that disgusting ideology of Conservatism which poisons our country because that mean arrogant Toronto boy Harper went to school and worked there.
He should stand in the middle of the Calgary Zoo and proclaim that Calgary has always been French. Funny Albertans think that we are a wonderful example of how hundreds of cultures thrive together - treated equally and with no hyphens to divide us we are all Canadians.
Does he GET the fact that the Liberals try to divide this country by catagorizing us into catering to the "hyphenated" groups and we despise that.
I wonder if he has ever flipped a pancake?

Ardvark said...

I am off to do some Canada Day celebrating with the family.

Keep it clean please.

Bec said...

This is absolutely wonderful Ardvark and not to long to read AT ALL. You had me on the edge of my seat but unfortunately I had to read it twice, not because a 'seniors moment' but a fit of uncontrollable honking laughter re the 'West being french'.
What a bloody crazy mistake and you should MOST CERTAINLY, e-mail your post to Dave Rutherford. He would have fun with this entertainment.
Btw, 450 people is nothing, laughable really.

As far as the PM and town halls, anony @11:00 am, has not a clue besides the fact that I doubt he/she follows anything accurate about the Prime Minister.

Your reporting was first hand and anony couldn't be bothered to do what you did. That is blatantly apparent.

Anonymous said...

Well, Iggy thinks the Russians should own the Crimea instead of the Ukrainians, so why shouldn't the French own the West?

Jen said...

AA, you should have asked him for the missing money which the libs refuse to pay back.

Jen said...

Calgary junkie, follow ignatieff in calgary and remind him the party he stupidity became the leader off is the most corrupt party in canadian history plus they owe must money.

Also tell that fool, before he criticizes the conservatives on any issue he has to first deal with his corrupt party that stole from all canadians.

maryT said...

Wasn't there a story on how Iggy plans to win the west, then he makes two stupid moves to prevent that from happening.
Wearing a picture of PET around his neck at a pride parade, next saying the west is and always will be french. Was he around when they tried to name a mountain for PET out here, didn't happen.
Oh, and don't forget he has said that the liberals built this country. As for the PM holding a town hall, ask Iggy how many town halls Chretain, Martin or Trudeau held, as PM. (not counting during campaigns.) Remember Chretain saying in one that he would abolish the gst, on live TV, and then denying he said that.
I wonder how many times his stmt re having a seniors moment will come back to haunt him.
As for the slams Mansbridge made against the PM, RCMP, and others today, perhaps it is time to have term limits on news anchors. He mentioned something he was involved with as a reporter from the 1970s. Lloyd, Peter and Oliver have all been the mouthpiece for news for over 30 years. Time for new anchors, with less biased views.
Who will be our new senators. Wait for the outrage.

Felix said...

Iggy blended into the 'silly summer parade' by wearing business attire and surrounding himself by supporters in white shirts. Way to go out on a limb.

Where I was sitting, no one cheered for Iggy, but several floats later, there was massive cheering and hooting for Linda Duncan and Rachel Notley.

Anonymous said...

Felix - what was Ignatieff wearing around his neck at the Edmonton Silly Summer Parade?

No photo of Trudeau?

Or a goose?
A few days ago he said the Oil Sands is Canada's golden goose but the goose is dirty so we have to take a big stick to clean up this dirty goose and keep it in the barnyard.
Oh Yeah, Ignatieff - throw in a few stupid farmer phrases to make the Albertans think you understand the west.

Anonymous said...

Saw Ignatieff on TV at the Edmonton parade. He was wearing a purple shirt and no Trudeau sign around his neck.

Purple is the Alberta NDP colour.

In a strange twist Linda Duncan, the only NDP MP here, was wearing a Liberal red jumpsuit with MP on the front.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

You sure took one for the team here, Ardvark. Thanks so much for the great first hand reporting.

It makes me wonder how much slack the media cuts Iggy on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Slack cutting indeed Joanne. Can you imagine how much fun Ardvark could have fisking MSM articles of events that he attended?

You rock AA!

wilson said...

Beaumont, a few miles out of Edmonton, is a French community,
they vote Conservative.

Give it up Iffy, and go home (where ever that REALLY is in your heart).

Revnant Dream said...

Thanks for the excellent reporting of this event. You can bet wet monkeys to slimy toads the MSM would not touch it, except to laud Iggy.

Soccermom said...

Just a chuckle from our Canada Day celebrations yesterday in Langley, B.C.

Hundreds of people walking around with blue CPC balloons from the volunteers at the large CPC tent. The tiny LPOC tent looked a bit lonely yesterday...

Anonymous said...

P.S. It looks like that woman in the pic is wearing gigantic blue boots!

Tiny Perfect Blog said...

Anon: 6:27

Sorry to nit pick, but purple hasn't been the Alberta NDP colour since 2005.

Continuing with the picking of nits, there is a photo of Linda Duncan at the parade in today's Edmonton Journal and she is clearly wearing an Orange hockey jersey.

Annie said...

Can't wait to see him looking uncomfortable at the Stampede Parade tomorrow. If he does made a moronic statement about Alberta always being French, I am sure Calgarians will politely ignore him, just as they did with Dion last year when he came to Stampede. As a non Albertan living in Calgary I can honestly say that Albertans (of any culture - Calgary, Edmonton or elsewhere) are unfailingly polite even to moronic Eastern politicans.

maryT said...

What will Iggy wear while at the stampede. Genes, ten gallon hat, boots and western shirt. Hope he has the red bandana around his neck. Who has taken the time to explain what a stampede is, and the difference between calf roping and bull riding. That is, if he attends any of the rodeo events.

Ardvark said...

I just posted a quick update with most of the part of Ignatieff's talk where he used the "the west has always been french" line as there have been a few comments on other blogs that I may have taken him out of context.

Wilson, my EDA is Edmonton Millwoods Beaumont and you are correct when you say that Beaumont is a french community. They also voted overwhelmingly for Mike Lake in the past 2 elections.

Anon, good eye. I never noticed the boots ;)

Thank you all for the comments.

Jan said...

I wonder when the media (or anyone) will pick up on the fact that the only TWO ocassions in which Harper and Ignatieff have met during this last session of Parliament (once in Jan. regarding the coalition and once in June over the E.I issue) have been at HARPER's invitation. His comment that Harper "knows where to find me" is the HEIGHT of arrogance!! When Harper was in opposition he was in constant communication with Martin and Chretien. Guess Iggy doesn't just want to be P.M., he wants to be King!

Jeff said...

AA, in 1990 Mike Godwin noticed that citing Nazi infamy was a useful way of shutting down a debate. For the context canard, how about we call it Ignatieff's Law.

Ardvark said...

That last comment became the subject of its own post.

Thanks Jeff.