Monday, January 31, 2011

Speech! Speech!

So, the holidays are over and the House has returned. But for how long? Increasingly, it seems like the parties are gearing up for a spring election.

As I considered the prospects of a spring trip to the polls this past weekend, I came across an article in the Globe and Mail by Ian Brown entitled "State of the elocution: Obama and the history of political rhetoric." The article discusses the decline of the political speech. It's a good read and worth checking out.

It got me thinking about what I want to hear in the speeches that will be given in the coming weeks, and sadly, what I expect to hear.

I expect to hear a lot about coalitions and hyper-partisanship. I also expect to hear language intended to frighten or scare the voter. This isn't what we need.

So what do I want to hear? I'll start with some of what I would like to see from Mr. Ignatieff in terms of tone and direction...

"Ladies and gentleman, once again Canadians are going to the polls. We are being asked to choose. Not just choose 'who we want to govern Canada.' No, we are being asked to choose what type of society we want to live in. We are being asked to choose what should define the Canada of the 21st century.

This election is an opportunity. It's your opportunity. An opportunity to consider what's important to you and your family. An opportunity to ask yourself whether you see your priorities reflected in our politics; in your democracy.

Over the next month or so, the Liberal Party of Canada wants to engage you in a dialogue about Canada. We want to share with you our vision for a Canada that is productive and competitive; that is fair and compassionate; that is open and democratic. A Canada where differing points of views are celebrated, not marginalized. A Canada where both families and businesses can thrive.

Why? Because you have a choice.

As you consider the choices before you, ask yourself the following:

- Are the things that are important to my family getting the attention they deserve?

- Is my job or my pension safer today than it was 5 years ago?

- Will my children inherit the opportunities they deserve or the problems we weren't brave enough to tackle?

Our position is that the choices the government has made are not your choices. That the priorities of this government do not reflect the priorities of Canadians. That on so many of the defining issues of our day - health care, the environment, competitiveness and democratic reform - the government has chosen to marginalize debate rather than engage Canadians.

What can you expect from a Liberal government?

1. A commitment to investing in Canadians, and not just corporations. Yes, a productive, competitive economy needs business. But business needs you. We believe that social investments are just as important to our economy and prosperity. These are investments we will make - in families, in education and higher-learning, in health.

2. A commitment to a more open and engaged government. Engagement, debate and transparency are democracy's oxygen. Unfortunately, they are in short supply today. We will invest in our democracy so that you have the information you need to engage and to hold us to account.

3. A commitment to developing real solutions to climate change. This is one of the defining challenges of our generation. We need to move the dialogue away from one of fear and loss, and towards real discussion on what needs to be done. This means considering how we use energy. But is also means investing in innovation and in new technologies that can make Canada a green-industry leader.

Like much of the world, Canada is at a cross-roads. We see a world filled with both challenges and opportunities. And we need to act.

If we fail to act, the problems won't go away - they will get worse.

If we fail to act, the opportunities will be lost.

Too often over the past 5 years, Canadians have suffered from the worst of politics at the very time they needed the best of government. Today we have a chance to change that. We have a chance to re-set the discourse in Canada.

A Liberal government will be balanced and innovative. We will not have all the answers, but we are committed to asking the right questions. We are committed to engaging you on the future of your country.

I stand before you today asking you to make a choice. To choose a real, national alternative to the politics of the past 5 years. To choose the Liberal Party of Canada. Thank-you."

So, there it is. In fairness, I will use the next post to put down some thoughts on what Mr. Harper might say. In the meantime...


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