News | Rae rallies students around Grits

Liberal MP visits Shatner, talks up party’s hopes in next election

Liberal MP and current foreign affairs critic Bob Rae visited the Shatner building Friday morning to lay out the Liberal Party’s policy planks to students.

Rae used the event, hosted by Liberal McGill — the official arm of the Liberal Party of Canada on campus — to tackle a wide range of issues, such as post-secondary education, Arctic sovereignty, responsible industry, and the case for federalism.

Rae was also Premier of Ontario between 1990 and 1995 when he was the leader of the provincial NDP.

“I want you to be angrier,” he told the audience, which was packed into Shatner B-29. “I want youth to be telling us more about what we should be doing, about what the issues are, and to help us define the policies and ideas of the next generation.”

“A democratic country requires a democratic party,” Rae continued. “It requires a party that wants the participation and the ideas and the thoughts and contributions of its members. It’s very important that our universities and our student clubs become a base for that.”

Opening with a presentation of about 20 minutes, Rae acknowledged public suspicions that a federal election could be brewing, and made a pitch for why the Liberals should form Canada’s next government.

“We’ve entered an interesting stage in the parliamentary life of the country,” Rae said. “We’re at a point when people are going to have to decide the kind of government they want to have, the sort of approach they want to take.”

Rae’s visit comes as Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff finishes a cross-country bus tour designed to build up the Liberal support base. Rae remarked that public perception is what he views as the Liberal Party’s main challenge: “It’s not ‘Why should we defeat the Conservatives,’” he said, “but ‘Why vote for the Liberals?’”

He cited recent polls, which suggest that the Conservatives would claim about 30 per cent of the popular vote in an election. Rae interprets this to mean that over two-thirds of Canadians do not want Stephen Harper as their leader.

Commenting on a recent visit to Canada by speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Rae said, “She told us America was waiting for Canadian leadership on climate change. I told her, with this government, you’ll wait a long time.”

After his speech, Rae and Liberal McGill President Kathleen Klein led a question-and-answer session with students.

Reacting to Rae’s appeal for youth engagement, Klein said, “He didn’t talk the general talk about getting youth involved. He talked to us as adults, as job-seekers. Innovation was a huge part of his chat today, and that’s something we’re all interested in, whether we know it or not.”

Klein herself would like to see more student involvement in the political scene at McGill. “My biggest concern is getting people involved and enabling them to make informed decisions for themselves.”

Jess Weiser, president of Conservative McGill, indicated that he was generally “impressed” by student engagement in federal politics, but added “the more the better.”