Metro spoke to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff from his campaign bus near Kitchener, Ontario on Friday evening.
Why should Metro readers vote Liberal?
"Vote Liberal for a moderate, centre-of-the-road government that respects the public service of Canada, respects what public servants do, won't raise your taxes, will get the deficit under control, will curb the waste and mismanagement of the Harper government, and do the one thing that we absolutely have to do, which is invest in the education of our young people from early learning and childcare through the learning passport for people wanting to go to college and university. That's the short version -- basically a government that focuses on the priorities of the Canadian family."
Sounds like those are priorities people can find appealing, but you mention the deficit, getting that under control. How do you balance those two things?
"Well, you peg corporate tax at 18 per cent, (which) saves you $6 billion, and you can make targeted investments in learning and care that mean you don't have to raise the taxes on Canadian families. It's a proven plan that allows us also to get the deficit under control.
"The problem with Mr. Harper is he wants to buy the prisons, he wants to buy the jets and he wants corporate tax giveaways for companies that are doing just fine. You can't do it all and sustain investments in learning and care for Canadian families."
Are you saying you wouldn't invest in the military or prisons? There are rust out issues.
"Look, I know we have to replace the CF 18s, but you don't do it by spending $30 billion on an F-35 without a competitive bid. We just think they've made the wrong priorities. They've put jets, jails and corporate tax cuts ahead of the needs of Canadian families. (Those needs) are a pension you can count on, health care when you need it and help to get your kids through college and university, which is what the learning passport we're offering can do."
The Conservatives are focusing on the fact that you've been outside of Canada for a number of years and they say you shouldn't be trusted. Why should Canadians trust Michael Ignatieff as Prime Minister?
"I think the fact that I've lived outside the country is a reason to trust me more. I've got international experience. (Stephen Harper) is a Prime Minister who lost our seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. This is the Prime Minister who presided over the decline in our international prestige. And what is he saying here? The only good Canadian is the Canadian who's never left the country. That doesn't sound right to me. A Canadian is a Canadian. I'm proud of what I did overseas and I'm proud I've come back to serve."
You've said during the campaign that the Liberals represent the only option to beat the Conservatives, to stop them from having a majority. But, your party has gone down in the polls. With the level you're at, how do you expect voters to continue see the Liberals as that option, and not the NDP?
"Well, I just think on Monday, Canadians have got to choose a government. They've got to choose someone who's actually been in government, actually done this. The NDP has never formed a federal government in the history of Canada. We've got a choice between a Liberal platform that's costed and makes sense, with a Liberal team that has experience, versus basically more years of Harper, which is debt, deficit and mismanagement. I think these choices are becoming clear to Canadians. I don't think that people regard
the NDP as a serious party of government."
What do you say to voters who might have been inclined to vote for you before they saw these polling numbers?
"I think you vote for what you want. I think you should vote for the kind of government you want, which is moderate, middle-of-the-road, fiscally responsible, doesn't raise your taxes, gets the job done. Vote for what you actually want here.
"My stance is on May 2, we're actually extremely confident that we're going to win and we're going to win because the Liberals are going to vote. I've had a fantastic reception right across the country throughout the campaign. Money is pouring through the doors, the campaign's been extremely successful in our capacity to mobilize our base. We feel very, very confident in the outcome. But, you know, put the polls away and decide for yourself, readers of Metro, what kind of government do you actually want for your family? That's the question to ask. Forget about the polls."
Will you stay on if we end up with the same result, or if you finish behind the NDP?
"I came into Canadian politics to do pubic service and I'm not going anywhere. I'm confident that we can win on the 2nd of May."
What happens to Canada if we have the same result we had before the election, the same minority situation?
"Well, you know, our job is to make parliament work and we'll try to make Parliament work, but I believe if the people give us a Liberal mandate we can make Parliament work in ways that Mr. Harper hasn't even tried and we can have good, positive, centre-of-the-road government that serves Canadians well."
If you do come in third, in terms of seats, with the NDP second in a minority situation, will you support an agreement to form a government with Jack Layton at the helm?
"Folks, we are a couple of days from an election and it's the people that are going to choose. And when the people have made their choice, I'm going to act. I've been clear right throughout about coalition, about what I think the rules of our constitution are. I will respect those to the letter. Why don't we let the people decide here, the people reading your newspaper are the people who are the boss. They're the people who are going to make the choice and I'll be happy to accept and work with whatever they decide."
You've spoken a lot about respect for democracy in this campaign. To respect democracy, voters do deserve to know what they're getting when they cast their ballot.
"Sure. And that's why I've said when you vote Liberal, you're voting for the Liberal family pack of policies, which are fully costed. You're voting for Liberal government with Liberal members of Parliament. I'm the one that's been 100 per cent clear on that issue."
To ask again, what you will do if you do have fewer seats than the Conservatives and the NDP. Would you form an agreement to back Jack Layton as the Prime Minister?
"I repeat, I'm running to form a Liberal government composed of Liberal members of Parliament acting on the Liberal platform. That's my responsibility to the voters and I've been clear, and I'm going to be clear
right through to the election."
Young people have been very vocal in this campaign, saying their vote should count. There have been vote mobs, the young woman who was kicked out of a Conservative rally over a Facebook photo. They seem engaged in a way they haven't before, but at the same time we're hearing cynicism, confusion, apathy all rolled into one. Can you tell us why young people should vote for you and the Liberals, and why they should exercise their franchise?
"For one reason. I don't throw people out of my meetings if I see something on their Facebook that I don't like. Mr. Harper's done that, he's barred people from public meetings, which I think is a disgrace. I think it's
undemocratic. All of my meetings have been open, I've had the place absolutely packed out with young people from the beginning. They ask me any kind of question they want and if they don't like the answer to the question, they go somewhere else. That's democracy.
"We're the campaign that's practiced democracy throughout. I'm the one doing open mic town halls where I take questions from everybody in the room. People have seen that, I think they've responded well to it and I think young people particularly like that style of politics. We've tried to do it differently and I think we've had a great reception."
Young people have been engaged in this election on the Internet, but we haven't heard a lot of talk about copyfight, bandwidth caps.
"We're the party that has stood most clearly to oppose bandwidth caps and in favour of an open Internet. We've been very clear in that. I think we've led the way and I think we've had a lot of support as a result."
What will you promise?
"We've been very clear in our support for an open Internet in which the guys who control the pipe aren't able to restrict freedom of access to other competitors and other distributors. A free Internet is at the core of what
we're saying and we also want to make sure that remote, rural and Northern Canada has access to 100 per cent high-speed broadband, because we don't want to have a two-speed Canada. We want to have a one-speed, high-speed Canada."
This campaign has seen a lot of interesting citizen-led social media involvement and most recently, Facebook has been turning orange with young people turning their profile pictures orange to support Jack Layton and the NDP. We haven't seen an equivalent level of support for your campaign on the social networking sites. Why is that?
"We've had huge involvement in social media. I did a Facebook town hall in Montreal last week. We've had huge amounts of Facebook traffic, Twitter feed traffic. We've had a fantastic social media campaign and we've doing it for a year and a half. When we launched our platform, we did a live webcast of the whole platform and that was the first time it was ever done in Canada. So, we've got a very, very active social media presence."
How would you say social media has changed this campaign?
"What I notice is the Twitter feed all day long and I think that's great. We've been using social media, for at least since I became leader, in a very, very active way with town halls, Q & A sessions. When we get into
government we want to have a peoples' question period, online town halls. The government has to step up and answer questions, unfiltered and unscripted from Canadians. We think all the social media can made a huge contribution to our democracy."
Back to the issue of respect for democracy, what kind of concrete changes will you push for to make sure that the respect for democracy and Parliament increases next time around?
"Well, one of the things is we will have peoples' question period every week. I think it's very important for Prime Ministers to take unscripted questions from Canadians. Harper hasn't taken an unscripted question from Canadians in five years. I've been doing town halls for two-and-a-half years. I think it's very important for the Prime Minister to open up access to the media, the media have a job to do. The government should have an obligation to be transparent to the media.
"I think we've also got to put a huge amount of the government data that's available online. We have an open
government philosophy that would transform the way governments relate and deliver information to citizens. All access to information requests should be posted online so people know where they are in the queue, so government has an obligation to answer a citizen's access to information request."
What about the Parliamentary Budget Officer?
"We're strong defenders and believers in the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We think he's done a terrific job and the government has starved him of funds. We think we need to strengthen his role and his office when we get into government. I'm happy to work with other parties on that, too."
You mentioned the public service and strengthening their independence. How would a government of yours would do that?
"You may remember (former diplomat) Richard Colvin, a public servant who stood up and said something was wrong with the way the government was handling the detainee issue in Afghanistan. He got publicly trashed in the House of Commons and that sent a chill signal through the whole public service of Canada. I just think we have to have much more respect for whistle blowers, much more respect for the rights of public servants to do their jobs properly without fear of that kind of public reprisal.
"This is personal to me. You know my dad was a public servant with the Government of Canada for 30 years. I grew up in a family of public servants living in Ottawa, so I know how important it is to respect what the public service does and I also think, you know, as we get to getting this deficit under control, we have to do it without doing so on the backs of the public service."
Does it take legislation, or is it simply a matter of doing things differently?
"It's partly a matter of doing things differently. Instead of treating the public service as an enemy, treat them as public servants who want to serve the public. Attitude matters a lot, but I think also as we get the
government waste and we get government mismanagement under control after Harper, I just want to make it clear that we don't do this on the back of the public service."