Dear Michael Ignatieff, here’s the “coalition” speech you should have given

For the record: I’m not a Liberal, medicine not a Conservative, pharm not Green, website NDP, or Marxist Leninist or anything. So what’s my political affiliation? Ottawa Centre – because that’s where I believe parliamentary democracy really lives: at the riding level. 

Because of that, I was annoyed when Stephen Harper opened campaign season by raising the spectre of a hypothetical coalition and even more dismayed when Michael Ignatieff took the bait and promised he would never, ever, ever even consider such a thing and how dare Harper suggest it (which Canadians didn’t believe anyway)?

Basically Harper handed him a brush, pointed to a corner, and Iggy happily painted himself into it.

But as branding guy, I saw Harper making two clear plays: 1) a clear move to reposition all of his opponents using a scary C word and 2) a moon shot for majority-or-bust by positioning himself as less scary. So I wondered: how would I have advised Michael Ignatieff to counter-position Harper?

So I humbly suggest: the speech Ignatieff should’ve given.


Canadian voters – yeah, I mean all of you,

Our exalted Minority Leader Stephen Harper has thrown down a bold gauntlet in the early days of this election. And I’m here to tell you we are going to leave that dirty gauntlet on the ground.

Because the challenge Minority Leader Harper has issued is no progressive idea, not an innovative policy, and it’s not a pledge to stop wasting your money on expensive American-style megajails or vastly overpriced stealth fighter planes – because by golly, Minority Leader Harper still wants to spend your multiple billions of tax dollars on his Super Prisons and vanity planes.

Also, sadly, I can’t report that Minority Leader Harper has bravely decided to apologize for, or heaven forbid clean up, his party’s corrupt fundraising practices. Minority Leader Harper also won’t bother to fix the core problems at the heart of his government that led to last week’s ruling of contempt of parliament. Even worse, despite the fact that his minority government fell because they had lost the confidence of the democratically elected House of Commons, he has made no move to restore that confidence.

So today, the big C in “Conservative” is tainted by three other C’s: Corrupt fundraising, Contempt for Canada’s Parliament, and the non-Confidence of those who represent a large majority of voters across this country. (Take note Iggy – these are handy talking points for future speeches too!) 

But rather than fix those three C’s, Minority Leader Stephen Harper is instead trying to insult your intelligence with one more great big scary C: “COALITION SCAREMONGERING!” (Note to Iggy: this is where you do your best SCTV / Count Floyd impression.) “Ooooh Scary stuff kiddies!” 

In other words, our exalted Minority Leader wants you to be afraid of the one thing that scares the beejeezus out of him: Canadian parliamentary democracy.  (Iggy: feel free to hit the podium here. I would)

That’s why he prorogues the house at the drop of a hat. That’s why he refuses to abide by parliamentary rulings. That’s why his right hand men play fast and loose with campaign funding laws. And that’s why he uses basic democratic concepts as bugbears to scare Canadians.

But as Minority Leader Harper would have learned in grade 9 – if he had cared to listen – Canada is not a two party republic like our neighbours to the South, nor are we a one-party dictatorship like those that are falling like dominoes around the world. Canada is a parliamentary democracy. And that means the choices we make are not going to be simple. And it means we will have to shun simplistic answers while embracing scary, messy, and very Canadian values like diversity and community, cooperation and honest public dialogue.

(Iggy: this next bit gets a bit more partisan than I’d feel comfortable with, but your crowd will eat this stuff up)

Now, let me be clear: the Liberal party is not now in a coalition, nor do we believe a coalition is the best option for Canadians. We think that stable, Liberal majority is the best choice for our future. That’s why we are running our campaign to BEAT AND REPLACE Minority Leader Harper and his party – the Contemptuous, Corrupt Conservatives who have lost our Confidence. 

Let me also be clear that we will not enter into any governing agreement – including a coalition – that would compromise any of the core Canadian democratic principals our party, and the country, were founded on. 

But on May 2, if a majority of Canadians again vote strongly against Minority Leader Stephen Harper’s party – which has never received even 38% of Canadian votes – you have my promise that we won’t ignore the will of Canadians as Minority Leader Harper would obviously prefer. Instead, we’ll work with Canadians across the country to govern for them and with their democratically elected representatives.

(Pay attention Iggy: this next bit is the branding part.)  

Oh and in case you are wondering why I’ve started calling our exalted opponent “Minority Leader Stephen Harper”, it’s because I have the sad suspicion the term “Prime Minister” has gone to his head. And if Minority Leader Harper forgets to remind himself every day that he only governs by permission of Canadians and the parliament they elected, well then I guess that’s my job isn’t it?

And because it’s a parliamentary democracy, dear voters, it’s your job too. 

Please, get out and vote on May 2, 2011.

One reply on “Dear Michael Ignatieff, here’s the “coalition” speech you should have given”

Great post! If only Iggy’s advisers could actually think like this! It’s shocking how good at mud-slinging the Conservatives are. What’s more shocking is that the Liberals buy into it and counter. This election is going to get pretty nasty!

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