Friday, January 22, 2010

Video: Ignatieff promises "concrete and specific" policy proposals on youth unemployment

As promised, here are the highlights of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s speech last night to Liberal Victory Fund members in Toronto, which included the tantalizing promise of actual real, non-vague Liberal policy during next week’s “back to work” policy forums in Ottawa.

He covered a range of topics, including what he heard from Canadians during his campus tour about their anger over prorogation. He said people told him it was undemocratic for Stephen Harper to prorogue while he was facing tough questions on the Afghan detainee torture file, and he promised to defend the integrity of Canadian democracy. He also spoke about the return to work policy forums, and the policy renewal process leading-up to the Montreal conference.

It was a decent speech, not a barn-burner by any means, not a stump speech at all but more a speech for Liberal supporters designed to tell them we have real work to do if we’re going to re-earn the trust of Canadians, that it will be long and hard, but that we need to do the work and win based on our ideas and our vision for the future.

The strongest part of the speech for me, and the one with the first hint of addressing the call for actual, honest-to-god Liberal policy, was when he segued from talking about his campus tours to talk about youth unemployment. The unemployment rate for young Canadians out of college, he noted, is 17 per cent. That’s double the national average.

He continued (it’s at about 3:00 in the video):

“Yes, this is Canada (in 2010). Don’t let anybody tell you we’re out of the woods economically. To have a country where the best and brightest go to an unemployment rate double the national average tells you something serious.

Young people want action on unemployment, and next week we will have concrete and specific proposals that will make a difference.

Canadians are looking to us to lead on unemployment. I think this is the key domestic issue in 2010. You can’t have an economy firing on all cylinders when the best and brightest can’t get a darned job. So we have to say that.

We have to say it clearly. We have to lead. We will lead. We will not let these people down.”

The promise is out there now, so he needs to deliver on this. I know I’ll be watching. As I’ve said before we need to deliver real and meaningful policy alternatives, not just identify the problems.

That’s what people want. That’s what will make these forums and the rest of the process on the road to Montreal substantive, meaningful and effective. So I look forward to hearing our ideas on this, and hopefully in other areas beginning next week.

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