Published in The Argus, November 1, 2010
It was a Harper-bashin’ good time last Thursday when Michael Ignatieff visited Confederation College for a town hall session. The Liberal leader is conducting a series of “Open Mike” sessions across the country.
Ignatieff took questions alongside local Liberal candidates Yves Fricot and Ken Boschcoff in a very informal manner, taking a very liberal amount of time with his answers. The first thing one would notice of Iggy’s visit? It didn’t seem as rehearsed as most politicians.
Ignatieff introduced himself and made sure to let everyone know that he was doing open-mic sessions and “that other guy” wasn’t. After that, the floor was open to audience members and those attending through the internet live-feed.
Ignatieff’s answers left the impression of someone very human, containing many references to the North – making sure everyone knew that he did his homework.
The main topics of discussion were familiar: health care, the census, and student issues. Ignatieff emphasized his intention to redistribute tax dollars to help students pay tuition, saying that “the future is in post-secondary education in Thunder Bay.”
As far as health care is concerned, he states that “access to health care cannot depend on postal codes. That should just be a Canadian value.” He talked of the initiatives he wants to put in place for getting doctors to northern remote locations and keeping them there. He didn’t shy away “waiving their medical school fees”.
Ignatieff said that the biggest problem with medicine in northern communities is the lack of internet. The inability to do simple, basic research over the web is probably the biggest restriction to having good medical care in the North, and Ignatieff said that the Liberals want to change that.
Most of the discussion revolved around what the Conservatives are doing wrong and what the Liberals would (or in the words of Ignatieff, “will”) do right. Every time someone prefaced a question with “should you become Prime Minister” they were swiftly corrected.
“Your question is good, I just have one problem with it,” Ignatieff told one questioner. “You said ‘should you’… Change that to ‘when you.’”
In the media scrum after the event, representatives from CBC news, TB Newswatch, and 91.5 CKPR, among others, surrounded Ignatieff with cameras on their shoulders and mics in their hands. Questions revolved around his political gaffes, things he wanted to do that seemed out of reach, and whether he would keep his promises if elected.
Ignatieff used the time to enforce his point that the Conservative government “vandalised” many things, saying they have “messed up bad”. Ignatieff closed on the theme-du-jour: why he’s a superior alternative to Harper.
“I have open mics, I answer questions, and I make myself accessible to the media… Mr. Harper comes in here, he hasn’t answered an unscripted question from a Canadian in four years, and he’s not going to let you guys get as close as this, that’s for sure.”