The big think

An open letter, received just now, from Michael Ignatieff.

I am pleased to announce today that the Liberal Party of Canada will host a special conference in Montreal, March 26 to 28, 2010, “Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge”.

Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge

The three-day conference, in the tradition of the 1960 Kingston Conference and the 1991 Aylmer Conference, will invite progressive thinkers and activists from a broad swath of Canadian society to discuss the fundamental challenges facing Canada in a new era of uncertainty and global economic upheaval.  The conference will be a key step in the development of the Liberal Party’s platform for the next general election.

In just a few short years, we’ll be celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary.  But the fundamental question is what kind of country will we be – and can we be?  How can we ensure that – in a rapidly changing global economy – we have the industries and jobs we need?  How can we ensure that social safety net that Canadians need and want is strong and secure?  How can we narrow the growing gap between the wealthiest few and all the rest of us?  What kind of careers, what kind of lives can our kids expect?

In short, not just what kind of Canada do we want in 2017, but what do we need to do today and tomorrow to get there?

The Harper government, with its resolute and cynical focus on short-term politics, has shown it doesn’t have a horizon further than tonight’s newscast.  And Canadian families are suffering because of it.  They’re worried about their jobs, about their retirements, about a future for their kids and care for their aging parents.

If we Liberals want to earn the support and trust of all those millions of Canadians who want an alternative to the Harper Conservatives, we need to address those concerns.  We need to do it in a spirit of openness to the best ideas and brightest minds not just in Canada, but around the world.  And not just from Big “L” Liberals, but from progressive thinkers and experts who don’t belong – or want to belong – to any political party.   That’s what the Montreal Conference is all about.

The Road to Montreal

From now through to the end of March, we’ll be very busy preparing for the Conference – by reaching out to Canadians.

Early in the new year, a Conference website will invite Canadians to participate by giving us their own thoughts and ideas.

I’ll be hitting the road in January, crossing the country in a series of town hall sessions to hear first hand from Canadians.

The very first Canadians I’ll be meeting with in the new year are young Canadians – in high schools, community colleges and universities across Canada.  After all, the world of 2017 will be their world.  Their futures, their hopes and dreams are at the core of what we’ll be focusing on in Montreal and beyond.

I’m asking Liberal MPs, Senators, candidates and riding presidents to also hold round tables and town halls in their communities.

In fact, the very first round table – on trade –  will be hosted by my colleague Scott Brison,  on Parliament Hill on December 7th.

An important step on the road to Montreal will be a special meeting of the National Caucus on January 19 and 20 in Ottawa.  Together, we’ll preview some of the big issues to be discussed in Montreal.  It will be an important opportunity for our Caucus to help frame the discussion that will take place in Montreal.

Throughout the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing details about the Conference, its agenda and its guests.

Hope vs. Fear

It’s no big secret that I’m someone who gets very excited about ideas.  Not for their own sake.  But for their ability to change our world and – most important of all – to improve people’s lives in a tangible, concrete way.

Canadians are yearning for an alternative that understands the transformational power of new ideas and innovative thinking.  And they want to look to the future with hope and confidence rather than fear and anxiety.

The Montreal Conference will be a very important step along that road.


Michael Ignatieff

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