How to win the next Canadian federal election

Dear Honourable Michael Ignatieff MP,

I recently read a CBC article where you made public a video of Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in less than a positive light. The article, including references to the video and a few comments from yourself, aimed to effectively attack Rt. Hon. Harper‘s character and credibility. While this action may very well be justified in terms of raising awareness to the Canadian public, I (and likely many other Canadians) see this only as a prelude to what will likely be the fourth federal election in as many years.

What you have before you is a problem, Hon. Ignatieff: you might be right, but Canadians are going to hate you for it. We’re going to hate you for doing exactly what every other politician running for a major office has done for the last quarter of a century: make the election personal.

Canadians pride themselves on multiculturalism. We happily point to the different patches of our country that identify themselves as being distinct and unique. These are not faults, but are facets of a jewel that would not shine any other way. Along with those facets come — as an absolute requirement — differing perspectives, attitudes, and personalities. In effect, it ensures that no two people will approach the same scenario in the same manner.

You must remove personalities from the equation. All that mudslinging achieves is to showcase pettiness and desperation. If all you have to bring up is someone else’s poor judgement, it makes us all wonder what you can bring to the table. It does not matter what Rt. Hon. Harper has personally said, regardless of how inflamatory those comments may be. Your position should be a higher one, not of a tattle-tale elementary schoolyard child, but of the correcting teacher who directs a class to overcome a poor decision.

The Conservatives have something in their favour that the Liberals do not: since coming into power in 2006, the Conservatives have not made any serious mistakes — things that would normally cause Canadians to vote differently. That is a level of inertia that the Liberals — and you, as their leader — need to overcome.

You have another inertia to overcome as well: Canadian political apathy. As you may recall, the 2008 federal election had the lowest turnout in Canadian history. If you wish to turn the tide, you have to encourage everyone not just to perform their civic duty, but be engaged in the direction of their country. That is a task that no Canadian political leader is willing to, at the risk of being attacked by the others. However, this is a risk you’ll need to take.

And you need to take that risk to the west. I’m sure you saw the electoral map from the previous election — the west is a sea of blue, and your party acquired only seven seats. Alberta, in particular, love their Conservatives — attacking Harper will only lend sympathy rather than turning a tide. You need to appeal to the Western Canadian, and have them feel that Western Canada is as important to Canada as Quebec has been in previous elections.

So, how? I don’t presume to preach to a politician, author, professor, and journalist. Instead, I would like to talk to you as a fellow Canadian. You don’t need to tell us what’s wrong with other politicians — you need to tell us what’s wrong with us, with our nation, with the things that we hold as dear and true to our identities as toques, beavers, hockey, and the maple leaf. And then inspire us to help repair those things, so that we become part of the solution, so we don’t just hand our problems to our government and expect everything to be fixed.

We do not need promises or assurances. We need truths, no matter how hard they might be to hear. We need to be told — plainly — what has to happen. We need to be told that even the difficult is possible, and that hope isn’t just a word. We need to believe. We need to want.

Ignore Rt. Hon. Harper. Ignore Hons. Duceppe, Layton, and May. Rise above them. Rise above the petty bickering. Make your message speak for itself, and speak to Canadians. Make us believe that you have a vision that means something more than merely acquiring office. If we are to go to the polls again, we have to know it’s for a good reason, and not because of a political spitting match. If you can bring faith back into Canadian politics, you may also bring greater enthusiasm and support.

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