Not any more

Ignatieff sets sights on Liberal majority government

In Canada on September 1, 2010 at 17:07

BADDECK, N.S. — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said on Wednesday he’s out to earn a majority government in the next election and is pitching his party — the big red tent — as the clear alternative to Stephen Harper’s “politics of meanness.”

The Liberal leader, who spent most of his summer on an election-style tour, said he is trying to gain voters’ trust and that it’s a work in progress to persuade Canadians to ditch their party allegiances and support the Liberals instead.

“It’s not the work of a single day, it takes time,” Mr. Ignatieff said at news conference after wrapping up the final meeting with his caucus at a lakeside resort. “But I’m absolutely convinced in my heart of hearts, we get into an election, whenever it comes, and there’s a choice between a broad, inclusive, responsible, compassionate alternative on one side and this narrow low-ceiling alternative on the other — the politics of meanness, the politics of division — Canadians will choose by a large majority to come back into the red tent. But I’ve got to prove it, I’ve got to work it and I’ve got to earn it.”

As part of that effort, Ignatieff plans to host weekly “Open Mike” town halls across the country this fall, an extension of his Liberal Express bus tour, which the party is hailing as a huge success.

Over the summer, Mr. Ignatieff has developed a number of themes that he will carry with him going forward into the next campaign: non-Liberals are looking for an alternative, the Conservatives govern by inspiring fear and they are off-base on the priorities of Canadians.

How does he know what the priorities of Canadians are and that they are seeking an alternative? Because he criss-crossed the country listening to Canadians all summer, which proves he is an open and responsive leader, the Liberals say, and that’s another difference between him and Mr. Harper, they contend.

The thing Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff have in common, however, is that they are each shaping their own ballot box question, even though neither of them is talking about wanting an election. Each leader says there will be a clear choice when Canadians do go to the polls. Mr. Harper says it’s between a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois “coalition” and a majority Conservative government, while Ignatieff says it’s between a “big red tent” that unites Canadians, and “narrow, small tents” that aren’t meeting the needs of their supporters.

“I grew up under that big red tent and I want the whole country to shelter under it again,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

The Liberal leader now has a counter-attack to Harper’s strategy of telling Canadians that the opposition parties are willing to form a coalition. The Liberal party itself is a coalition because it is drawing voters away from other parties, who feel more at home with them, he says.

“We are the coalition. We are the big, broad inclusive tent that wants to get all Canadians in, who want progressive responsible government and that’s the Canadian approach,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

The prime minister’s approach is to appeal to people’s fear, according to Mr. Ignatieff, while he wants to appeal to hope and optimism.

An optimistic mood permeated this year’s annual end-of-summer caucus, according to Liberal MPs, who are now focused on carrying that momentum forward into the fall parliamentary session, which begins Sept. 20.

Liberal caucus chair, Anthony Rota, said the caucus is upbeat and feeling unified.

“Everything’s been going very well and that will carry through,” he said after coming out of the final meeting Wednesday.

A vote on the long-gun registry is set for two days after MPs return to Ottawa, and while the Liberals are vowing to do everything they can to save it, Rota said his party will also focus on other issues that are important to Canadians.

“There’s still a great deal of work to do,” said Cape Breton MP Rodger Cuzner. “We’ll come to the fall session with a greater deal of confidence and knowing full well that it’s the prime minister that sort of dictates the parliamentary agenda so we’ll see how things roll out this fall.”

“We just have to continue to work hard and listen to Canadians,” Mr. Cuzner said.

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