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At the editorial board

Michael Ignatieff, on the record Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, visited The Globe and Mail editorial board on Sunday, April 24. Selections of that meeting are below. For the complete transcript, click here.

I go into the final week with a sense of ... serene optimism. Serenity in the sense that what I've seen on the ground has been an energized, full rooms - people understanding how important the election is to them. I think the issue that we started with had to do with democracy; a sense of deep skepticism about this Prime Minister's respect for our institutions.

I mean, we had this election because this Prime Minister was found in contempt of Parliament, and that is never done. Were you to endorse this man again for Prime Ministership. you are endorsing a man found for the first time in contempt of our basic institutions.

And when I go across the country, I'm very struck about how angry Canadians are about that issue. So one of the fundamental issues is simply restoring a common faith and trust in our institutions. You don't have Prime Ministers who prorogue Parliament twice, who withhold crucial data from Parliament.

So that democracy issue, which has been floating around there, seems to be a very important one.

But the other thing that has made me optimistic is the sense that after a lot of work, two and a half years on the road, we have a platform that actually speaks to Canadians in a very direct way.

It's a massive statement about what a government should be doing to create the conditions for economic success in the future. In our view, what we've been saying from the beginning in the platform is: What has made this country go has been equality of opportunity.

John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief: Thank you for taking the time to see us. We've got a lot of questions, including some from readers, but let me kick off by talking about the NDP, and the apparent movement of support from, perhaps many parties, to the NDP. What's your sense of why so many Canadians are drifting or shifting to that party?

Mr. Ignatieff: I think what's happening is that Canadians want a change; they want to replace the government. 60 per cent of the population doesn't want to go on with the Harper government. They're figuring out, "Who can get us there?" - that's what's happening. What we're saying is, we've been there. We've governed the country. We have a team. I've got a finance minister. I've got a brace of provincial premiers. I've got people who know how to get a deficit under control. Who know how to say "No" as well as "Yes." Who know how to make promises they can keep, who don't make promises they can't keep.

And I think as we get down to the final week, people are going to say "We want to get rid of Harper, because we know we don't trust him on democracy, on health care. What's the better option? What's a government here?" A government has to be able to say "No," to say "Yes," to get a deficit under control.

And positively, people are going to say, "I want child care spaces. I want my kids to get a college and university education." I can't get people coming to the Liberal Party unless I've got something positive, and that's why I think the Family Pack is positive.

John Ibbitson, Ottawa Bureau Chief: As Prime Minister, would you be prepared to consider the idea of revisiting the question of apportioning seats and to consider proportional representation as an alternative?

Mr. Ignatieff: I get asked this question a lot, and my answer is always the same. I know what first past the post is. It has all defects that everyone's coming to recognize; I don't know what the hell we're talking about the minute we're not talking about first past the post.

Therefore, the only responsible way for a Prime Minister is to initiate a national conversation in which we begin to narrow down what is the actual, workable alternative for Canada, as an alternative to first past the post. Let's have a conversation, let's get all the experts in, the editorialists, the people, and figure [this]out.

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