Last week, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, held a conversation with students about the various issues affecting Canadians. The CCT1080 lecture hall overflowed with students, professors, citizens, reporters, camera crews and photographers, with a group of students watching the lecture live from outside the lecture hall. Attendance was well over capacity, which is 500 occupants.
On his cross-country tour, Ignatieff plans to hold town halls at various universities in attempts to reach out to younger generations and hear the opinions of citizens.
Ignatieff began his lecture with a statement regarding Harpers decision to prorogue Parliament. My adversary doesnt want you to show up, he doesnt want you to come out. He gambled when he prorogued Parliament that you wouldnt care. He gambled on your cynicism, he gambled on your dissolution, he gambled on your detachment, and interestingly, he gambled wrong, said Ignatieff.
When we have parliamentary committees that are getting close to figuring out what happened on the Afghan detainee scandal, he shuts the committee down, Ignatieff said. The statement was followed by murmurs from the crowd and Ignatieff announced that the Liberal Party would be going back to work on January 25.
Ignatieff went on to discuss the poor performance in voter turnout and the immediate need to raise the quality of education in the nation with respect to providing opportunities to Aboriginal citizens, ensuring that all Canadians have a secondary school diploma at minimum and raising literacy rates.
Concerning the growing student debt, Ignatieff said that great expenses are both necessary and to be expected in order to obtain a world class education. However, the government should work with the provinces to increase grants, spread out payment periods, lower interest rates and boost youth employment. I believe passionately that if you get the grades, you get to go, added Ignatieff.
The majority of the lecture was spent in discussion as line-ups on either side reached to the back of the lecture hall, with attendees eager for answers. Topics ranged from issues of youth involvement, climate change and Haiti to electoral reform.
A student from Erindale Secondary School stepped up to the microphone and explained that while many of his friends and other teens his age want to get involved and do care about politics, they feel that their concerns are not attended to because of their age. Ignatieff told the crowd that he first began involving himself in politics when he was in high school.
VP external Henry Ssali brought up the sudden devastation that had occurred in Haiti the night before and asked the party leader how Canada plans to act. Ignatieff said charities should allocate donations towards relief efforts, adding that the government needs to match the contributions of Canadian citizens dollar per dollar, along with a five million dollar contribution and that immigration needs to be opened up to reunite families.
When asked about the unnecessary allocation of taxes to fund nuclear energy plants, Ignatieff disagreed, stating that nuclear solutions are essential if climate change is to be adequately addressed on the agenda. He described Canadas performance at Copenhagen as an embarrassment.
We have this weird thing going on in which Canada is waiting for the United States to act. Conservatives think that you can either have an economy, or you can have an environment. I think you cant have an economy unless you have climate change, said Ignatieff.
One attendee asked Ignatieff to explain the ways in which he holds a greater passion and higher values for Canadian citizens than Harper. Ignatieff responded that he is passionate about freedom through equality of opportunity and believes in education as a means to reach that goal.
The UTM Liberals president Deep Paul presented the leader of the Liberal Party with a University of Toronto sweater. The U of T alumnus donned his sweater while he continued to answer individual questions and take pictures with students before leaving for another discussion at McMaster University. The tour will culminate with a non-partisan conference in Montreal from March 26 to the 28. Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge will be a forum to discuss the goals of 2017, marking 150 years of Canadian independence.