An open letter to Michael Ignatieff

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You have a choice to make. As new Liberal leader, does your party vote with the Harper Conservatives, as in the past; or do you work with the coalition, as agreed with the NDP, defeat the Conservatives at the first occasion and become prime minister?

There are those within your party, your friends and allies, the same ones that helped you claim the leadership, that oppose the coalition. It does not take your PhD in history to know you will be judged by history, not them. Economic problems are severe and world wide. People who counsel inaction, or let the Conservatives wear it, have it wrong. This is a time for a leader who wants to act boldly on behalf of Canada, not just hold office. Do you want to be that leader?

Stephen Harper has created a situation without precedent. As prime minister, he has betrayed the constitution a member of parliament is elected to defend. The government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons. Rather than face a confidence vote, the prime minister suspended parliament, in the midst of an economic crisis. This is an act of political cowardice. It is time parliament was asked: do Canadians want a coward leading the country?

Ask your caucus: do Canadians need a coward as leader of opposition, as well as prime minister? Every week that Harper clings to power gives him more leverage with the Governor General to call an election, rather than have her ask you, and the NDP to take power, and govern in this time of economic emergency.

If you let the Conservatives get away with lies about the state of the economy, and delay meeting an international commitment to stimulate domestic demand, and then allow Harper to call an election at a time of his choosing, be prepared for a propaganda onslaught you will never be able to counter. Elections are won between campaigns. Yours will be lost, and your leadership tarnished. Luckily for your party, your friend Bob Rae will be willing to carry on in your place.

Should you meet the upcoming Speech from the throne with a reply that details all the reasons Harper is not fit to lead Canada, and the Conservative not fit to govern, move a motion of non-confidence and, with help from the NDP and the Bloc, defeat the government, there is every reason to believe you will be called upon to form a government.

Doubters object the Governor General might allow the prime minister to call an election. This is not likely, read Eugene Forsey about prime ministers who try to brow beat the nation by threatening elections, but it is possible. Ready yourself with a dramatic back-up plan. Work out arrangements with the other parties so should a snap election be allowed, you each put up only one candidate against a Conservative incumbent, the one who finished second in the last election. Tell the doubters, this is an emergency, you want to deal with it as prime minister, it is why you wanted the leadership of your party. Ask them why are they are in politics, if they do not want to form a government to put the economy right again.

Many in Canada want action. There are those that see the economic crisis emerging from the collapse of American investment banks, and recognize it is time to make serious structural changes. For example, our autoworkers need to be building railway cars, subways cars and urban transit vehicles. In the 1930s we built a crown corporation, Canadian National Railways, out of failed companies. Today with the Detroit Three failing we need a government prepared to create a Canadian transportation and automobile company.

The weakening of the global financial system is causing serious distress to be transmitted from country to country. Canada can no longer wait for a currency devaluation to see us through, we need to be part of an international coalition prepared to replace the dollar based world monetary order.

As people mobilize for change, if they sense you are part of the past, and want to continue the old ways, your reputation will sour, and your name will be sullied. You will be rejected by a new generation. Instead of being a Trudeau-like leader, opposed by the business elite, but embraced by citizens from all parts of society as offering a new departure when it has never been more needed, you will be treated as just another failed politician who did not get it.

The real risk lies in not opposing a prime minister who has misled the public about how our constitution works, pretending his high office is derived from universal suffrage, and not the House of Commons. Harper wanted to erect a firewall around Alberta, now he says members from Quebec pledged to defend its interest have no legitimacy. Harper would not be prime minister if the Bloc had not exposed the sponsorship scandal. He owes his office, and the longevity of his government to Bloc support. Now, angered that Liberals and New Democrats brought the Bloc to show Quebec interests are the same as Canadian interests, he uses parliament and his office to spread lies everywhere saying the Bloc are part of a coalition they have not joined.

Please stand up and say as loud, and clearly as possible, so that every Canadian, in every corner of this land can hear you: you may have suspended this House, but you cannot adjourn democracy. Go from the place, and rid us of a prime minister who has sullied the office by running and hiding when an economic emergency faces our people. Let it be known, a government that will take your place pledged to act immediately in defence of Canada, and the world.

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