National Post reports,
TORONTO — Michael Ignatieff fired back at accusations of a divided Liberal party Monday night, calling it a large “quarrelsome, argumentative” family — not without its characters — but adding that divisions in the party don’t change the Liberals’ position as “progressive centre of Canada.”
Speaking at the annual Liberal Leader’s Dinner, Ignatieff entered the room of 980 guests to a standing ovation.
In his speech, the leader of the Opposition didn’t address the prospect of a coalition government, choosing to focus instead on his vision of a 21st century Canada.
“There’s a freight train coming after this country. And we’ve got to wake up and see it coming,” Ignatieff said, adding that the combination of an aging population, rising household debt, soaring health-care costs and skilled-labour shortages mean the country is now more than ever in need of a Liberal government.
The Liberal party wants to focus on education, child care and restoring Canada’s reputation on the international stage, he said.
Ignatieff said the party wants to make post-secondary education accessible to any Canadian with the abilities.
“A simple pledge: you get the grades, you get to go.”
He also proposed investing money in adult-language classes and skills training for the labour force.
He would also see compassionate care leave extended to make an aging population more comfortable.
“We’re one of the richest countries in the world and if we can’t stand with Canadians shouldering the burden of care, what are we doing as a country?”
Citing the success of the Canada 150 Thinkers’ Conference in Montreal last March, Ignatieff said embracing the country’s diversity and allowing Canadians to spend time outside the country to learn is key to establishing an internationally renowned reputation both as peacekeepers and innovators.
He referred to opponent attacks on his time living outside of Canada as provincialism.
“They say it makes me less of a Canadian. It makes me more of a Canadian,” he said.
Deriding the Harper government for its stance on abortion, cuts to gay-pride funding in Toronto and Montreal, gun control and the country’s $54-billion deficit, Ignatieff encouraged the party’s donors to stay unified and prepare for an upcoming election.
“It is the core of our beliefs that our country is more than the sum of our parts,” he said. “That has been the vision of our party since Laurier. It is the vision I carry with me.”