Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Go Ignatieff! Go, Ralph!

First, Michael Ignatieff, rookie MP and one of the (undeclared) front-runners for Liberal leadership, gives a great speech in Ottawa. I had a few doubts about Ignatieff, but this speech (in print, anyhow) blew me away. Great to see someone with a VISION, for a change. I’m not sure he has all the answers, but he’s closer to them than we’ve seen in a long, long time. Go Ignatieff!

A few highlights from his speech:

Critics say I’ve been out of the country a long time. They seem to miss the years spent teaching at UBC, at the Banff Center for the Fine Arts, the documentary series I made for the CBC, the television shows I hosted for TV Ontario, the Massey Lectures I gave on CBC radio, the books and articles I’ve devoted to Canadian problems. I don’t feel I’ve been away at all.

But yes, I’ve also been a war reporter, human rights teacher, journalist and I’ve seen a lot of the world.

Sometimes you only see your country clearly from far away.

I saw it clearly in eastern Croatia in 1992. I had just crossed a UN check point and had been taken prisoner by a half a dozen armed men high on alcohol and ethnic nationalism. A young UN peacekeeper arrived, as I was being bundled away. He cocked his M-16 and said: ‘We’ll do this my way.’ And they did.

That young soldier was from Moncton, New Brunswick.

I saw my country clearly watching a policewoman escort frightened families to and fro across a mined no-man’s land in another part of Yugoslavia. When I asked her why she was doing dangerous work in a foreign country she said, with a smile: ‘It beats writing traffic tickets in Saskatoon.’

I saw my country clearly in the young Canadians who took my classes at Harvard. I saw how eager they were to test themselves against the best the world has to offer.

So this is my Canada and these are my Canadians. We are serious people.

I’ve tried to be a serious person. Being serious means sticking to your convictions. I went to Iraq in 1992 and saw what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds and the Shia. I decided then and there that I’d stand with them whatever happened. I’ve stuck with them ever since. Whatever mistakes the Americans have made, one day Iraqis will create a decent society. When that day comes, Canadians should be there to help because their struggle is ours too.

I’ve always believed that Canada should fight for a world in which force is never used except in a just cause.

Many of us have also been waiting to have a leader who will say this:

I’m in politics to speak up for a Canada that takes risks, that stands up for what’s right. A Canada that leads.

We are a serious people.

For a long time, however, we haven’t taken ourselves seriously enough.

We need to ask more of ourselves.

For the first time in history ,we now have a real claim to being able to solve problems that have dogged human life for millennia: hunger, disease and environmental destruction. We have the science. We have the money. What we lack is focus and determination.

Forty years ago, a Canadian Prime Minister set the standard for international citizenship at 0.7 percent of GDP in overseas aid to developing nations. Forty years later, we still have not met Mike Pearson’s targets.

The time for excuses is over. We need to fulfill our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals before 2015. We need to meet this target, but we need to do more. We need to focus development aid to those who can really use it. Let’s stop spending money supporting regimes that abuse their people. Let’s find development partners who govern in the interests of their people. Let’s remember that Canadians are the people of “peace, order and good government.” The single thing the developing world needs most is good government. We should be the country that leads the world in governance, in helping governments in the developing world to govern more justly.


Second, it’s been so entertaining of late to watch the infighting and incompetence of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party. They seem to be self-destructing on a daily basis, burdened by, of all things, the challenge of having the latest in a long series of massive surpluses to spend. I feel kind of sorry for Ralph sometimes, but he should have called it a day well over a year ago. You just had to see this coming. Go Ralph go! No, really! Go Ralph! Go!