I went to see Michael Ignatieff and Martha Hall Findlay last night and have been mulling over the remarks they made. It was a fundraiser so neither of them made terribly long speeches but I was struck by a couple of things.
If the two of them exemplify how the party has come together, then indeed Ignatieff and others tasked with this responsibility have done well. It may be true that some in the party differ on what strategy to take, but I got the sense that the messaging and the direction were firm.
I should also mention that I saw some of the Ted Kennedy funeral today and while there are no comparisons to be drawn between the people at these two events, both events evoked similar sentiments...hope, in me.
I don't recall who said this at Kennedy's funeral but this really struck me.
'...a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots'.
Both of our countries seem to have walked away from that given and we are poorer for it, in my view. From calling people who oppose war, or who care about how prisoners are treated, unpatriotic or terrorist supporters is beyond the pale in my view, but we've allowed that to enter our discourse. To refer to a citizen who has lived and worked outside this country as, less Canadian, misses completely, what it is to be a citizen of this country.
That said, I do not think Stephen Harper is less Canadian than me. I think the image he has for this country is vastly different than mine, but that does not diminish his patriotism.
That brings me back to last night. Both Martha and Michael spoke of their ideals and potential of the country and while those terms sound lofty, they spoke to specifics concerning the economy and matters such as isotope production. Areas where we could excel. Ignatieff was careful to keep this in context. He spoke to existing and untapped potential, rather than magnanimous offerings to the rest of the world.
He and Martha, contrasted that with Harper's view and they both called on Dryden's expression of, 'a pinched view of Canada'. It's an apt description really, isn't it?
Harper believes that federal intervention should exist only to enforce Foreign Policy direction and to oversee the military. Well, to be fair, it's a bit more complex than than, but not much.
I suppose it's a legitimate view to have, but it's not one that the majority of Canadians share. That is just a fact. In that respect, patriotism becomes fuzzy. Are we patriotic to our traditional ideals or those that we wish were in place?
There is no getting away from who we are as a nation, or rather how the bricks were stacked to build this country. It is true however, that some are not keen on how that foundation looks and are chipping away at the mortar that holds them together.
That is how I see Harper and I think that is how Ignatieff sees his lean as well. He articulated, far better than I can, how the conversation in this country has been reduced to small matters.
I guess it's some of what I have tried to write about here, over time. The focus of this nation, it's dialogue, has been strategically reduced through Harper's incumbency. I am guilty of partaking in this discourse too...as are many of our major sources of news. This to me is a tragedy and one that need not continue.
My sense last night was the Liberals are not interested in keeping the conversation narrow. Indeed their intent is to expand it, push it out to it's natural breathing space and push it out yet again from there. More oxygen.
This will not be easy, because as we have witnessed in the US, once 'petty' takes hold, for some sad reason, it holds a large embrace. That theoretical hug in this country is still restricted to small numbers though, but they have loud voices. Voices, in the isolation of parties really at this point don't hold a stronger voice, though they are united in their overall view.
Given that, we do have a chance and choice to change the message. We have a chance to bring it back to what we believe this country is capable of. New citizens came here to realise that very thing and we who are here by accident of birth have depended on it.
Expectations grounded in history and reality, seemed to be the theme last night.
Done right, I'm oh so okay with that.