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Ignatieff flaunts flaws to earn western support

by Archives February 17, 2009

SASKATOON (CUP) – Though many have high hopes for fresh-faced frontman Michael Ignatieff, the passionate new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is anything but faultless – and he is the first to admit it.
Despite countless academic achievements, including a PhD from Harvard and teaching positions at Cambridge and Oxford, Ignatieff insists he is not the smartest man in the room.
At a speaking engagement in Saskatoon on Feb. 14, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada told about 400 party supporters he cannot do his job unless he reaches out to the people who are smarter than him, who have more experience, and “who’ve fought in the trenches longer.”
“One of the things I’ve learned in the political life is that I’m absolutely not the smartest person in the room. I cannot do it unless I acknowledge how much I do not know,” he said.
The man recognized for his assertion and strength was also forthcoming being about vulnerable.
Offering up a story about nearly being taken prisoner working as a journalist in Bosnia in the 1990s, Ignatieff says he was saved by a Canadian peacekeeper at the last minute, and has since believed the Canadian Army must solely be used to serve the goals of peace.
The admissions were not only intended to humanize Ignatieff – though the rousing applause after his speech would suggest it worked – rather, they served to punctuate his overwhelming message of inclusion as the Liberal party’s goal to be what he called a “national institution.”
Ignatieff said everyone, including the weak, vulnerable, uneducated, disabled, or generally excluded, must “come to the Liberal table” and participate.
“The great task of the Liberal party is to bring us together,” he said. “The deepest thing that’s separates my party from [Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s] party is that we are uniters, and [the Conservative party members] are dividers.”
The impetus for the recent trip, said Ignatieff, was to send a message to those who know the feeling of exclusion well, particularly in terms of political treatment: the West.
The leader of the official opposition said provinces in the West are constantly suffering from alienation from the rest of the country.
But, judging by the voter support for the federal Liberal party, people in the West have not exactly been knocking on the Liberal party door for their ticket to inclusion and consideration.
In the last federal election, the Liberal party was completely shut out of Alberta, in no small part due to Harper’s roots in Calgary.
In British Columbia, only five Liberals of 36 ridings were elected, and only one Liberal in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan was sent to Parliament.
But Ignatieff insists this is something he wants to change.
“We cannot be a national institution unless we have more representation in the West, and that’s why I’m here,” he said. “I want to be able to stand up on the House of Commons as the Prime minister of Canada and say: ‘I represent every province in this country.'”
Ignatieff spoke to the importance of spreading the Liberal message, ensuring everyone’s voices were heard, and working towards breaking down divides, be they regional, racial, cultural, or ideological.
Though he gave no concrete instructions as to how to do this, he did offer up another confession.
“I can’t do it alone. I’m going to need you to do it. I’m going to need you to get to work,” he said.

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