I like to make up my own mind on things.
I also like in Politics, as much as possible, to go direct to the source, and gather my own information, and thereby form my own opinions.
In past federal elections, I have gone to speak with each of the candidates, to find their views on various topics.
I do this, because I believe the person in the local Riding represents me, and my interests in Ottawa.
My method is to vote for the candidate who I would like to represent me, first… and consider the Leader of the Party, or the Party that person runs for, second.
Using this method of assessment, in my voting life, I have voted for members of the Conservative Party, Liberal Party, NDP and Reform Party.
I have always enjoyed having the opportunity to assess the Candidates personally, and their Party Leaders by watching televised debates.
I hadn’t ever heard Michael Ignatieff speak in person. The snippets I’ve caught on the news were edited sound bytes, and insufficient to judge from.
When I heard he was on a cross Canada bus tour, and would be stopping in nearby Abbotsford, I thought I would take the opportunity to “check him out”.
So it was, that I found myself on a cool and windy Sunday afternoon at the Bakerview Eco-Dairy.
At first, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place.
I found out it is a learning centre, where city folks like me can go to learn about the innovations in farming, and at the same time shop for fresh produce, let the kids visit the petting zoo, all while enjoying Chester’s Honkin’ Goose Ice Cream or if you don’t want farm flavour… a Starbucks.
Far in the back was a small sign, announcing that Michael Ignatieff would be making his Fraser Valley visit there.
A few minutes after 3:00, the sunshine burst through the clouds, and the growing gathering started to fill up the place.
The diverse crowd had a smattering of red shirts or jackets, quite a few Canadian flags, and one keener mom, with a baby in tow, was sporting a Michael Ignatieff emblazoned T-Shirt.
Just before 3:30, a crew swept in with a portable P.A. system, Liberal banners and several photographers in tow.
A few minutes later, to a burst of applause, Michael Ignatieff walked to where we were gathered, and walked through the crowd, thanking folks for coming out to see him.
Then, as the gathered folks grew quiet, a local dignitary welcomed him, made several welcoming remarks, and, apparently nervous, concluded with a comment about being delighted to have such an “extinguished” guest.
To laughter, Mr. Ignatieff took the microphone, thanked the speaker and crowd for their welcome, and said he hoped he wasn’t extinguished, quite yet.
One of the things I’ve heard said, was that Michael Ignatieff was the Canadian version of Al Gore… an intellectual who could talk circles around the average man, but without the “common touch” of being able to have a “real” conversation with folks.
For me, that was laid to rest.
Mr. Ignatieff had a talk, and bantered with the crowd, on topics ranging from the goats on the roof, the census kerfuffle, how important a national policy on food is, to the petting zoo out front. He talked about things that were obviously talking points of the Liberal platform. He also talked about his adventures of the last few days, his visit to the PNE, and the worthiness of mini-donuts. The he let us in on how his great-grandfather was one of the first folks to travel from Atlantic to Pacific, back in 1872, and how he was looking forward to his visit to the town of Yale, to see where his ancestor had made a camp.
He wasn’t lecturing or speaking from “on high”… he was just talking to a bunch of folk. He was funny, engaging, curious and interested when talking to the people. He was “present” and remarked on several different local situations.
He wound up by joking that although his bus tour had been a wonderful journey, his “Team” was now enticing him with promises at each stop. At this particular event, he was looking forward to his visit to the petting zoo !
A lot of the things that had been said about him by others, were disproven.
But I think the thing that convinced me completely that he is just the same as you or I, wasn’t anything he said… but the singular action common to most husbands… he won me over when he stole a taste of his wife’s ice cream cone.