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article imageOp-Ed: Michael Ignatieff woos BC immigrants

By Gibril Koroma     Mar 30, 2011 in Politics
Vancouver - Canada's next election scheduled for May 2, 2011 is not going to be a joy ride for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the incumbent leader of the country, if one takes into consideration the fighting spirit demonstrated by the main opposition leaders.
Here in British Columbia we have been visited by Harper and two very feisty and well informed opposition leaders: Jack Layton of the NDP and and Michael Ignatieff of the Liberals. The Bloc Quebecois' Gilles Duceppe has not shown up yet. Some say he will never come; but you never know. As for the Green Party's Elizabeth May, people hardly talk about her. She is however back in the news today over the refusal of some people to include her in a national debate with other political leaders.
When he breezed into town Harper made it clear he wanted a majority this time to push through parliament the economic and social programs put together by his Conservative Party, programs that were hampered in the past by an opposition with a different ideology and a different world view.
Harper is an Economist and he never fails to talk about the economy in his public appearances. In his latest visit to BC he carefully talked about how his government had been able to stabilize the economy and generally protect Canadians from the ravages of the current global recession. He made it clear he was the only saviour among the lot.
The opposition disagrees. They say the Conservatives have done serious damage to the economy and have plunged the middle class and the working into a well of distress. That was essentially the NDP''s Jack Layton's message when he addressed supporters in Surrey, BC, a couple of days ago. And that was the Liberals' Michael Ignatieff's message when he spoke in various locations in the Lower Mainland yesterday and today accompanied by his wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar.
Ignatieff had something to say to everybody: immigrants (he promised to make their lives better and to wipe their tears), young students (he promised them fabulous grants and scholarships), hard working Canadians (he assured them wasteful spending will be a thing of the past and there will be jobs). He even had something to say to struggling families and anxious seniors worrying about retirement and medical bills.
In short Ignatieff, like Layton, is attacking and hitting at one of Harper's recurring themes on the campaign trail: the economy. The other is the coalition scare. Ignatieff and Layton are saying destroy those two and Harper will have nothing to say and down he goes. And this strategy seems to be working well, if one looks at the size of the crowds that have been turning out for both opposition leaders.
But it will be a mistake to think Harper has little support in BC. The Federal Conservative party is not well known among the immigrant community here although immigrant minister Jason Kenney has been showing up at citizenship ceremonies and ethnic festivals here for some time. Most immigrants, especially new immigrants in BC, tend to be either NDP or Liberals supporters simply because those are the parties they know or whose local leaders they know. Many immigrants do not even know what the Conservative party stands for.
But there are nevertheless many British Columbians that support Harper because they want stricter control on immigration (which will mean less competition from highly educated and skilled immigrants), less social assistance programs and less taxation. Harper is perceived by many here as representing the hard working Canadian that pays his taxes, expects no freebies from the government and does not want to be bothered about saving the human race. Ignatieff and Layton might want to think about that.
On the other hand Ignatieff was right on track when he told his listeners (many of the them new immigrants) that his will be a government that will ensure equality of all Canadians, will support and expand family reunification and so on. Those are some of the things the so-called ethnic voters are always talking about and yearning for.
Harper says he wants to have a debate with Ignatieff. I would advise him to read an excellent profile of the Liberal leader by Globe and Mail journalist Michael Valpy. It willnot be an easy thing to defeat Ignatieff in a debate, I can hear Valpy say.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Canada, Election, 2011, Canada Election 2011, Ignatieff
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