The Ignatieffalump in the room

by Colby Cosh

Did you know a vote for the Liberal Party of Canada is also a vote for the leader of that party? It’s true! I learned it from this helpful 30-second informational video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL2lDgvHDqI

I don’t mind that this commercial looks like a sketch-comedy parody of negative ads, but it’s a little annoying that it looks specifically like a parody from the 1990s. It’s embarrassing for our country, surely, that even the most impressive of its election war rooms is still full of creatives telling each other, “Hey, this game isn’t difficult. Distorted black-and-white photo of the opponent, ominous brown note on the synthesizer—bam, you’ve got your ad.” Negative ads are always criticized for their negativity, as if running for office didn’t mean, inherently, that you think you belong there and the other individuals on the ballot don’t. Yes, I’m negative toward negativity toward negative ads! But I dislike unimaginative, tacky, lazy content in any medium, from the phone book to the opera.

What really struck me about this commercial, so sterile and clumsy it could literally have been produced by a computer algorithm, is the part where it calls Michael Ignatieff an OPPORTUNIST “who only came back to be prime minister”. This echoes the Tories’ earlier “He Didn’t Come Back For You” spot—an ad similar in form, but subtler and more intelligent. There is no good answer to the point that ad makes, and on the appeal-to-the-subconscious level, its blending of a slightly East European-sounding piano melody with a deep red Stars & Stripes is clearly the work of an inspired maniac.

Either way, these charming little vignettes do what they were made to do: they force us to analyze our reactions to Ignatieff’s biography. And when I did that I found myself thinking how odd the commercials really are. On being confronted with the accusation that Ignatieff’s an opportunist, inveigled back to Canada by a cabal of desperate Liberals, I think “But is that incompatible with him being a good Prime Minister?” The answer is “Obviously not.” Why, after all, couldn’t the same accusation be hurled at Stephen Harper? He left electoral politics at one point, and, like Ignatieff, he was recruited by a desperate opposition party because he was thought to possess intellectual virtues desirable to the cause. Really, now: Mr. Unite The Right is going to brand somebody else an opportunist?

The Conservative attacks actually leap beyond the real problem with Ignatieff’s history: it’s not the manner of his coming back, it’s the quarter-century of Canadian history he sat out. Liberals don’t like it mentioned that Ignatieff had virtually no experience of post-Charter Canada until he was dragged back over the border; when it is mentioned, their reaction is a childlike feigned shock. It’s as if it has never occurred to them that Ignatieff’s long wanderings might be regarded as a problem. And if this is so, surely we non-Liberals must take part of the blame.

You tell me: aren’t most Liberal responses to the Ignatieff truancy problem dumber than a bucket of rotten beans? “Do you think he loves Canada any less just because he spent his whole adult life elsewhere?” Yeah, I do think that: ever heard of “revealed preference”? “Are you questioning his patriotism?” If saying that his “patriotism” has self-evidently taken second place to his career means “questioning” it, then you’d be a fool not to. “What’s wrong with going abroad, gaining experience of the world, succeeding on wider stages, broadening one’s horizon?” Nothing’s wrong with any of that, and please stop acting like we’re talking about a post-doc at Johns Hopkins or a vacation time-share in Oahu. The man left the country before Joe Clark was Prime Minister and came back after Chrétien. He took a seat pretty goddamn far into this movie.

And yes, it’s a problem. I am tempted to wonder if the people who deny this are actually those who travel even less often than I do: when I go to London for a week, as I did at the end of February, it takes me an agonizingly long time to re-enter the flow of Canadian news. That’s the whole reason travel is thought to be good for the character, to be broadening. This will sound suspiciously like a tautology, but being elsewhere is being elsewhere.

Even in the era of the internet, you just don’t wake up in Knightsbridge every day, turn on your Canadian radio, grab your Canadian paper, listen to Canadians talking about Canada on the subway, and have those little “So did you see where…” conversations about Canadian news with your Canadian colleagues and cronies. You don’t have a Canadian environment flooding your sensorium when you walk out the front door; you aren’t aware of the million little obstacles and infelicities and moods that characterize a place, the tiny political eddies that blow citizens about. Inevitably, if you live someplace, you must devote at least some of your attention to the debates and events that affect your gas bill, your commute, and your paycheque.

And, yeah, maybe this could be dismissed as idle nonsense if the quarter-century in question had been a quiet one when it came to constitutional matters—if the prodigal son had missed out mostly on clean, abstract policy arguments, as opposed to claws-and-fangs pit-brawling over the nature of the federation. To me, it’s bizarre to imagine that one could understand Canada well enough to govern it after experiencing 1978-2004 as a series of newspaper op-eds. It’s even more bizarre that the Conservatives are essentially accepting this premise by turning the motives behind Ignatieff’s return into the central issue into a personal attack. Sorry, but I’d have significant trouble voting for the Mid-Atlantic Man even if he did come back for me.




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The Ignatieffalump in the room

  1. I notice Ignatieff's 2000 Massey lectures don't fit into your little hatchet-job narrative. Quelle surprise.

    • Cogent argument.

  2. You do realize that MOST people in this country experience that constiutional/federation stuff as a series of newspaper op-eds, don't you? That aside from these boards, most Canadians don't talk politics, and some will get angry if you try to make them? And that the stuff that affects your commute and paycheque are not the nature of federation?

    I mean, hell, I lived through all of that myself and I can hardly remember most of it.

    And even if we assume your premise that living through it somehow automatically grants some sort of knowledge, we run into the problem that Canada is not a small country. Your experience of all of this stuff living in the backwoods of Drayton Valley is going to be a hell of a lot different from your experience of it if you were living in Fredericton, neither of which will have much in common with your experience had you been living in Quebec City.

    So tell us, Colby, which of these is the "correct" experience that qualifies a person for a leadership position in our government?

    Here's a thought. Perhaps the experience isn't as important as being able to read and understand a history book when it's put in front of you.

    So, tell you what, when you get a Governor General's award for a work of non-fiction about Canada, then you can rightly criticize the man for what he may or may not know of Canadian history.

    • "Most Canadians" aren't running for prime minister. BUT BUT BUT HE WON AN AWARD

      • Aww.. poor Colby.. sounds like you need some of your namesake to go with that whine. Don't worry, I'm sure if you keep practicing, one day something you write may be worth acclaim as well. One day.

        Care to answer even one of my questions? Here, I'll narrow it down to make it easy "Which is the 'correct' Canadian experience he'd have had to have had in order to qualify as your somehow real Canadian?"

        • You're not the first to confuse the standard for citizenship with the standard for leadership. This requires a LOT of confusion, but you pulled it off.

          • Sure, whatever. Care to answer the question?

          • Im very much enjoying your current schooling at the hands of the mighty Colby. Please continue.

          • I explained why it's a stupid question, so no. But here's another reason it's a stupid question: we can recognize a frog and a tadpole, and tell them apart, even though we can't define the exact moment a particular tadpole becomes a frog, or establish a universal rule for the distinction that is anything but arbitrary. Reasonable people can agree than 25 or 26 years is too long to be away from the country without deciding on some fixed lower boundary, if they agree that any appropriate boundary would certainly be much lower. (Is 50 years too much? Three or four generations of family?)

          • (And, more to the point, this kind of pompous "How dare you challenge anyone's Canadian-ness" talk isn't going to change any voter's mind. Reservations about the truancy issue should have been addressed forthrightly instead of submerged.)

          • Keep going with that thesis. When the liar you've chosen to back has a scheme of attack that depends greatly upon a perceived ignorance of newer Canadians and the age-old anger of long-time Canadians, telling people that their out-of-Canada experience is of less importance than someone who stayed home, lived in mom and dad's basement, went through the motions until someone prodded them to do something.
            Can I CC the definition of sycophant to you?

          • Please feel free to do so, dazzlingly accomplished internet commentator "burlivespipe".

          • I'm going to now put that 'dazzlingly accomplished internet commentator' accolade on my headstone. Unfortunately, I don't doubt that you stole it from a John Howard speech…

          • I didn't ask for a lower boundary. Try reading. You'll find it goes well with writing.

            I asked, specifically, what is the "correct" Canadian experience, with the understanding that, given the size of the country your experience may differ dramatically. I mean, you obviously have some sort of "correct" definition in mind of what would qualify the man for a leadership position. Had he lived in the backwoods of Drayton Valley, would that have been sufficient? Because that experience is worlds away from what he would have had had he lived in Quebec City. But maybe Fredericton or Victoria is a better place to have that "experience" you so laud.. even though the experience you would have had in any of them is nothing like the other, and in any event is only a small part of the total experience of Canada.

            So. I ask again. Which is the "correct" locale of experience that a person who wants to lead Canada should have?

          • I'm a little confused by the question; on maps, there is a convenient line to help you tell the inside of a jurisdiction apart from its outside. As a large country, we do surrender the expectation that a leader will have deep experience of the geographic whole–but we certainly prefer one to have some experience of much of it; and a person who lived in a cabin in the Kootenays, talking to nobody but bears and trees for 25 years, would rightly be considered an unsuitable prime minister. I don't think any of this is as hard as you're trying to make it.

          • It's not hard at all. You're just trying desperately to avoid it.

            To spell it out directly, however. The point is that, as this country is so large, and has such a variety of people and cultures, there really isn't any single correct or "Canadian" life experience. So to suggest that he's somehow missed that is simply folly. They've *all* missed it, as nobody could possibly have it all.

            Given that, the fact that he has demonstrated an ability to examine and think critically about our history and thus about what Canada is and means, is actually a far better indication that he understands Canada better than a person who's just happened to live here.

            Hell, it can be easily argued that having lived outside while looking in gives him a much clearer perspective than had he been embroiled with the situation on one side or the other. The only way it couldn't be is if you prefer we were lead by guts rather than brains.

          • You're doing a much better job of forcing this "What is Canada?" musing to its absurd logical conclusion–yes, why would a Prime Minister need any direct experience of the country at all?–than I possibly could.

          • True story: There isn't a single example in world history of someone who became his country's democratically elected Head of Government after choosing to live abroad as long as Ignatieff did.

          • Which is less time than Ignatieff, away from 1978 to 2005. But al-Maliki is in the ballpark. Of course, he was in exile, and liable to be killed if he went back to Iraq for much of that period.

            Ignatieff *chose* to be away, of his own free will.

          • 1. He didn't choose to live abroad, which is what I said. He fled a death sentence and was living in exile. He wasn't living outside Iraq by choice.

            2. Ignatieff chose to spend 34 years of adult life living abroad before running for PM. Nouri al-Maliki was exiled for 24 years.

          • I've always agreed with you on your point about Ignatieff's being away from Canada for a long period as a relevant issue to raise (and in the minds of some, disqualify him from being Prime Minister).

            However your logic does break down a little – whether you chose or not to be away is irrelevant in terms of your actual qualifications to lead.

            So just to clarify – is your criticism of Ignatieff's time abroad his choice? Or is it his time away from Canada? Which is the dominant issue that in your mind disqualifies him from leading Canada?

          • whether you chose or not to be away is irrelevant in terms of your actual qualifications to lead.

            Sure it's relevant, becomes it comes down to a question of fairness. If a candidate for high office in a democracy lacks direct experience of his or her own country because he or she was exiled by a tyrannical regime, it would be incredibly unfair to say that the candidate is less qualified because of the time spent in exile.

            Which is the dominant issue that in your mind disqualifies him from leading Canada?

            None of this disqualifies Ignatieff from leading Canada. It's just one factor (out of many) that is a relevant consideration for voters.

          • How?

          • If Harvard or Cambridge were only in Canada…

          • So the problem is not the he went to work abroad, the problem is that he chose to go work abroad?

          • But that was before Thwin got on the case as to why it just doesn't matter. I personally don't think anyone should be prime minister who has ever lived here.

          • Didn't Gandhi spent around that much time away from India?

        • "Which is the 'correct' Canadian experience…?"

          How about, you know, an actual Canadian one? Rather than a whole bunch of somewhere else? Ignatieff stepping off the plane and running for high office frankly makes me bilious. He spent most of his adult life preferring to stay far away, so no, I don't think he understands this country as well as those of us who have experienced it. I consider myself a fairly young guy, but I have experienced MUCH more of this country than Michael Ignatieff has, and many more years here.

          It doesn't disqualify him, and it's not a question of being a "real Canadian" or not, that's silly. But it's a significant hit at the man's qualifications – which aren't that strong to begin with. Look, I have all kinds of reasons to dislike Ignatieff; his sorry-I'm-late-where's-the-beer act is probably halfway down the list.

          • How is any Canadian experience correct, Tybalt?

            Any Canadian experience a person has will only be a tiny portion of the whole, and will likely be directly contradicted by the experience somewhere else in Canada. As such, anybody who bases their decisions on such experience is going to be wrong at least somewhere.

            Given that, there is no "correct" Canadian experience, and blaming someone for not having it is simply asinine.

          • Given that there is no "correct" definition of the virtuous life, blaming someone for not living virtuously is simply asinine?

          • Learn the difference between "definition" and "experience".

          • Yes, well, I would suggest that your logical fallacy is much broader than you think.

            Try this one on for size: Given that there is no "correct" colour for apples, blaming someone for calling an orange an apple is simply asinine.

            I could keep going…

      • Cosh sounds like he answered the Craig's list ad.

        • "Cosh sounds like he answered the Craig's list ad."

          They were advertising for someone steeped in Canadian parochialism? I must have missed that one.

      • Neil Young just won a bunch of awards. Canadian ones. But he's Canadian as maple pie, right? Not that he's running for office, of course, but Canadians do seem to embrace his 'thorough Canadian-ness'. And he's been gone lo these 46-odd years. If Neil decided to return to Winnipeg or wherever, it's unlikely anyone would quibble with the Canadian-ness of this 'National Treasure'.

        Nobody'd be saying, 'He's going back to California if he doesn't win that Juno". Alan Thicke is another matter entirely.

        • We're shopping for a prime minister, not a National Treasure.

          • It's amazing how many people don't seem to grasp the distinction. We're talking about Canada's Head of Government, folks… you know, the guy who wields executive power.

          • Right. Which is why where he's lived isn't nearly as important as how he thinks.

            Now, if you want to get into an argument that he has thoughts which don't match up to the Canadian experience, we can talk. I can think of a few, such as his opinion on Canadian peace-keeping. That's certainly a valid point to bring up.

            But where he lived? It strikes as just petulant.

          • Well he can't be less democratic than what we've been riding with, or tight-lipped.

          • So when people pointed out Harper had never had a real job in his chosen profession — one that is listed in his title as an accomplishment — what did you think of that? It was fair to bring it forward but I didn't hear or see any economists' organizations taking out attack ads on this faux poseur.
            The premise behind the CON attack ads raise a legitimate question, certainly; however, the main purpose that they are promoting is in their assinuation — that because he's lived abroad and only visited on occasion during a period of 20 some years, he's out of touch and only came back to be PM. That its purely selfish interest. Could one aspire to a position of power for a nation that is part of their essence for something other than 'power'? Harper continues and so does this Cosh person, if he truly exists, to underline this premise, when in fact its an assinuation.
            Cont'd…

          • … So the return 'assinuation' that Harper doesn't respect international experience, doesn't believe Canadians are Canadians are Canadians (remember the attacks on Lebanon, and how the debate became somewhat on how some of those asking to be rescued were 'Canadians by passports only'?) seems to be fair play in a world where so-called leaders don't debate policy but attack someone's dead grandparents.

          • Definition: Assinuation
            i) character assassination as performed by sumo wrestlers;
            ii) a too-late blog rambler's mispelling of 'insinuation'
            iii) music album put out by 'The Assman'

          • I'd say that Mr. Harper's resume would not qualify him to be the chief economist for a major bank. His over two decades of direct experience in Canadian politics is important to the job he actually has.

          • "We're shopping for a prime minister…. "

            Iggy is running for only job in Canada that makes me care that he lived abroad. I lived abroad for decade after university so understand desire to travel – and Iggy's time away would not be issue with me if he was going to just be part of Cabinet (Foreign Affairs/Finance …etc) – but Iggy's time in UK/US really bugs me.

            I don't want to be led by someone who prefers to live elsewhere.

            And I bet Canada is about the only country in the world where someone with Iggy's time abroad would consider running for leader – most countries are very nationalistic, someone with background similar to Iggy's would have no chance anywhere else in world.

          • Iggy is running for only job in Canada that makes me care that he lived abroad.

            Bingo. I couldn't care less where some entertainer lived, or anyone else for that matter. The only time I care about something like that is when I'm assessing the experience of those who seek to hold the highest office in the land.

            And I bet Canada is about the only country in the world where someone with Iggy's time abroad would consider running for leader – most countries are very nationalistic, someone with background similar to Iggy's would have no chance anywhere else in world.

            I completely agree. I can't think of any other country that is as tolerant as Canada in this regard. For instance, an you imagine any other G20 country where a guy who lived as an expat for 34 years could come back and have a realistic shot at becoming Head of Government?

          • can't think of any other country that is as tolerant as Canada in this regard. For instance, an you imagine any other G20 country where a guy who lived as an expat for 34 years could come back and have a realistic shot at becoming Head of Government

            Interesting that you and bergkamp appear to view this as a negative.

          • The other alternative for Ignatieff, of course, would be to openly conduct a campaign as a post-nationalistic, rational man with significant loyalties to several countries, rather go running for the job of Capt. Canada. That would have been consistent with his many writings on the very subject of nationalism; might have underlined his intellectual credibility.
            In other words, he could have declined to wrap himself in the flag and just present himself as he is. It's not to his discredit that he's cosmopolitan; it's to his discredit, though, that he pretends not to be.

          • But did his adoption of patriotic symbolism predate the con ads or was he merely defending himself? Honest question, anyone?

          • Nice thought. But the CPC would reduce that well-considered opinion to "Elitist Traitor".

            What the heck's 'cosmopolitan' anyway? A fancy drink? An esteemed purveyor of XX-identified journalism founded by Helen Gurley Brown? Or the status of being 'free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world. '.

            None of which are necessarily bad,

          • This is why I'm good with his time abroad. I guess this drives Conservatives crazy, but there's something almost futuristicly modern about Canada being comfortable with such a leader in an increasingly connected world. Cosh is quite right to examine whether Iggy's time abroad disqualifies him for the job, but the conclusion is incorrect. In some respects it's a plus that Iggy has clean hands having missed all the constitutional wrangles. It doesn't mean he doesn't understand what happened or takes those matters lightly.

          • You, at least, have provided some kind of reasoning why you believe a contender's 'Canadian-ness' should matter in this particular exercise. It's a lot more than the CPC have done, however. THAT specific effort can be reduced to "He's a furrener. A carpetbagger. NOT a real Canadian". That's the single-minded message. And, one assumes, the hope of those commissioning the message is that it will stick with smaller minds than yours.

            And either way, we will get no 'National Treasure' out of this particular election.

          • Did you have as much of a problem when we elected someone who, instead of having a surfeit of international experience, was sadly bereft of any?

    • It looks to me like Colby doesn't understand his own article.

      Either that or he's one of Harper's paid hacks that was advertised for on Monday to post right-wing comments and blogs. Either way, he misses by a long shot.

  3. And we now have a prime minister of Canada who'd hardly, if ever, spent any time outside of the country before becoming PM and who lectured us and foreigners on Canada's second-rate status. Maybe one loves Canada more when one lives abroad for a while!

    And you know, Harvard is closer to Ottawa than Edmonton is.

    • Is it an official Liberal Party position that Harvard is really, if you think about it, a lot more Canadian than Edmonton? If it is, this position should be made explicit.

      • I certainly can't speak for the LPC but I know how to read a map. Harvard is closer to Ottawa than Edmonton is. Who knows, Ignatieff may have read more Canadian news than our prime minister who has claimed to never watch Canadian news!

        • You can't…..never mind.

        • Do you realize that 98% of the United States is closer to Ottawa than Edmonton is? Are they all legitimate Canadians in your eyes too?

          • That, is a galactically stupid statement, when one thinks about it for a while.

      • WO W!

        Colby Cosh attacks 60% of Canadians and calls us all Liberals ;0)

        Cowsh is having a meltdown, Cosh is having a meltdown … What's the matter? Conservative 'leader' running a poor campaign?

    • Agreed with you until the Harvard/Edmonton comment. Really really dumb.

      • Type this on Google map:

        Massachusetts Hall
        Cambridge, MA 02138

        It's dumb to state facts, but that's all it's meant to be! To claim that Mr. Ignatieff couldn't know about what was happening in Canada because he was living near Boston is very dumb.

    • Right.
      Because geographic proximity to to Ottawa is what makes one a Canadian.
      If you care to look at a map, Loraine, virtually the entire continental US is closer to Ottawa than I am, living in the third-largest metropolis in the country. I can only suppose that you consider the residents of -say- Denver or Houston to be "proper" Canadians, since they live closer to Ottawa than I. Calling that a despicable attitude somehow doesn't go far enough – I suppose that I can only say that although I am proud to be a Canadian, I am ashamed that a shallow-thinking little twit like you should make the same claim.

  4. Well, I give credit at least for a conservative supporter at least outlining WHY he feels spending so much time out of Canada is a bad thing.

  5. Oh puleeze….if you're that lost after a week away, just think what would happen if you were away for a whole MONTH.

    Why you'd be wandering the streets for ages screaming …Where am I? Who am I? What country is this?

    Hillary Clinton has been in 80 countries in the last 2 years, and yet has managed to remember her nationality and keep up with things.

    • "when I go to London for a week, as I did at the end of February, it takes me an agonizingly long time to re-enter the flow of Canadian news."

      I see, the author was being serious. Thought it was a joke.

      • It IS a joke.

    • So, you see, living somewhere else for two and a half decades is pretty much exactly like being Secretary of State for half a presidential term. Anybody else hear beans rattling?

      • How do our diplomats represent us when they're out of the country so much? Better close those embassies, we wouldn't that foreign influence polluting their brains.

        • Yes, every Canadian who lives abroad is as well informed as a diplomat. Yeeeeesh!

    • Ye Gods, OE1, can you be serious?

      • Ahem….you are discussing Canadian politics while LIVING outside Canada….so you've killed your own argument….such as it was.

  6. Yes we better end the practice of sending foreign correspondents overseas because they will lose touch with Canadian values. MPs should stay home in Calgary and Chicoutimi lest they lose touch with their constituents.

    And those selfish astronauts? Hooboy, they're just in it for the re-entry.

    • I don't think we usually send astronauts into space for *27 years at a time*.

    • Ye Gods, toby, etc, can you be serious?

    • Whereas Conservatives prefer in-and-out.

  7. The briefing note for the years he missed is summarized thusly: Don't mention the constitution, just don't.

  8. I lived outside Canada for 11 of my adult years another 4 or 5 if you add up my 3 months here, 6 months there, as well. Yet, I know I am more involved than many and care as much as anyone. I can understand your point, and understand you might not want someone like me either (not that I'd ever enter public service) but I don't feel that way. I listen to what Ignatieff says, watch what he does, and imagine what kind of leader he would be for the future. Looking back, I'm only interested in the broader issues of how he has applied himself, what values he conveyed, what talents he might have.

    Personally, I could vote for a fairly recent immigrant, who wasn't even born here, if that person had the intelligence, values and talents I thought were needed. So we are quite different in our perspectives.

    • Good post — so by Cosh's view, no immigrant would qualify as leader material. So I guess they're not as good Canadians as those of us who never lived abroad. No matter what they do in public service, no matter how patriotic they are, no matter if they consider Canada their chosen land.

  9. I'd have more sympathy for your argument if Iggy had won the Leadership in 2006 and immediately went into an election.

    Now, not so much.

  10. It's certainly not insignificant that Iggy spent his entire adult life outside of Canada. I doubt he understands the subtleties of our recent political history as other politicians who have been in Canada during this time.

    But I would forgive that in a heartbeat if I felt he would be the right PM for this country.

    My main beef with the guy is that he is well known to have held unpopular but correct positions on controversial issues such as the Iraq war and torture. As a human rights expert at Harvard, he was particularly well positioned to think deeply about such things, and he courageously came out against the zeitgeist. That is a difficult thing, even for an academic, maybe particularly so for an academic.

    But as soon as he runs for office, he changes his mind on all of those and veers the Liberal party hard to the left. What gives? Is he really such a craven opportunist? What does he really believe? And to me that's the worst possible flaw a politician can have: adopting a position because it's the popular one.

    • So, every PM in recent (and not so recent) memory has had this worst possible flaw?

      If you want to lead the country, it involves at least a modicum of giving the people what they want. I seriously doubt Stephen Harper circa 1995 or 1997 would have favoured a GST cut as a use of ~$12 billion in revenues. He made the calculation that it was necessary to promise this, despite his training as an economist. I have yet to meet a single economist who favours a GST cut over the alternatives, after all.

      • Yes I realized after posting that my formulation of this flaw was perhaps a bit too broad.

        Anyhow, there is a distinction between making a policy decision because that's what the voters want, which in some cases may be the right thing to do, and changing your mind on a hot button issue just to woo members of your party.

        Also, there is a distinction between taking a position on what is a preferred policy option and a less preferred policy option and a complete reversal. Im sure a part of Harper agrees with you re: the GST cut. But it's not like a GST cut is diametrically opposed to an income tax cut.

        • He offered the gst policy not because people were clamouring for it, but because he knew it would be an easy sell. No need to tell them what it would cost. Same with Cosh's theory that people who venture off Canadian soil to learn, work and thrive are not worthy of leadership at home.
          Nevermind you don't like Ignatieff or that he's been abroad for a lot of time. Compare the teams behind the men. Tell me which team has better, more accomplished 'made-in-Canada skills' for the job of running a government — not just as a sideline of being the financial source for selling a product. Oh, you may have to deduct points for Garneau's wild foray into space…

          • my beef with Iggy is discussed above.

            besides, Liberals are the party of identity politics, of no principles except seeking power, of thieves, … they represent everything i despise.

            i have considered the team behind the men. and the team behind Iggy makes me want to vomit.

          • Well, then we're just into preference then. Logic and rational thought need not apply. But you are free to vomit whenever you wish…

      • no, not joking at all.

        i would not hesitate to torture a scumbag if it could save many innocent lives. of course I hope im never in that position, but i think it's plain stupid to not consider torture if it could save many innocent lives.

        as for Iraq, I believe Saddam's ouster will benefit Iraqis for generations to come. I have no qualms whatsoever to state my support for this war despite the pathetic, lame, and facile cries of 'peace' by the hippy hordes.

        if you want to see what messing up the mideast looks like, just look at where Libya will 5 years from now compared to where Iraq will be 5 years from now. Libya will still be controlled by Ghaddafi (unless Obama grows a pair, and takes him out), the rebel "army" will have been wiped out (they are currently being wiped out, despite this silly "no fly zone"), and Ghadaffi will be taking his revenge in various and creative ways against the countries currently involved there.

        • "i would not hesitate to torture a scumbag if it could save many innocent lives"

          Interesting words from a person who only yesterday was pummelling another commentator about nefarious deeds done for "the greater good."

          • Yeah well, "the greater good" is not usually used to refer to the saving of innocent lives. It is usually a reference to something much more sinister. Which is why I just found it so hilarious that that poster yesterday used that exact phrase to refer to his passion for defeating Harper.

            Thankfully, there are much more eloquent articulations of utilitarianism than "the greater good".

          • Wow you follow my comments that closely do you? God, another stalker.

            all i said yesterday was that the 'greater good' is the excuse used for every major atrocity. of course the genius lefties took it for meaning that if anything was done for the greater good, it meant that it was a major atrocity. unfortunately this forum doesnt allow me to draw a ven diagram explaining this.

            so, is there no situation at all where you would consider torture to be appropriate?

        • Blah, blah, blah, three cheers for torture and the paradise that war is transforming Iraq into, etc.
          You're avoiding my real point. As I posted above, your claim that support for the Iraq war and torture were unpopular positions w you're dodginghen Ignatieff took them is unadultered BS.
          And all but the most fanatical and delusional nuts now recognize that war for being a fraudulently-waged disaster.
          The evolution of Ingatieff's position has mirrored the public's.

          • no, not really. i was and still am in favour of that war and I remember distinctly that the war was very unpopular. there were hordes of dirty hippies taking to the streets and every two-bit faux-sophisticate were trying to one-up each other expressing their disdain for Bush in ever more disgusting terms.

            now, beyond calling me a fanatical and delusional nut, what argument can you muster in favour of Saddam Hussein? Im curious to know if you have any original thoughts or if you can just repeat a mish-mash of every idiotic cliche that was floating around at the time.

            ignatieff's position did not evolve. he did a full 180 exactly when required for his political ambitions.

          • I don't think there is much of an argument to be made for Saddam Hussein, but then I don't think there is much of an argument to be made for numerous dictators and what not in that region.

            Jon Stewart makes the point quite well: http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/the-daily-show-w

            Skip ahead to 8:10 for the pertinent bit, but the entire clip is worth watching as well.

          • well, if his point is that the US is being hypocritical in not freeing the entire world at the same time of dictators, i would say that's ridiculous, but at least he doesnt seem opposed to the idea of removing dictators in the first place.

            The US pulls about 100x its weight in terms of fighting against tyranny. More than all of the other "allied" nations combined anyways.

          • "I remember distinctly that the war was very unpopular."

            You remember wrong, as any polling from the period including those I posted above, make clear.

            "what argument can you muster in favour of Saddam Hussein? "

            Fail

  11. Was he not, in fact, regarded as an expert on Canada during all these years abroad? The man the foremost news agency in the world, the BBC, went to when they wanted analysis of Canadian issues?

    • Is this even remotely true? Or was he the Mike Bullard of Britian?

  12. Allow me to indulge in some childlike feigned shock and disingenuous rejoinders:

    1. Are you saying that Ignatieff isn't a REAL Canadian? How dare you, sir!!! You don't get to decide that!

    2. Canada's current head of government didn't travel outside Canada very much before he became PM, so that's EVEN WORSE than a potential head of government who most of his adult life living outside the country!!

    3. Why do you hate immigrants? Are you saying that a student who studies in a different country is less Canadian than the rest of us? Are you saying that Conservatives get to dictate who is and who isn't allowed to become PM? Why are Conservative operatives like you suspicious of anyone who has ever set foot outside the country?

    4. Ignatieff lectured! At elite universities! Clearly you're just dabbling in embarrassing nativism, anti-intellectualism and tall poppy syndrome!

    5. Blah, blah, blah.

    • I bet you all that time away from Canada means that Ignatieff doesn't even eat kittens for breakfast!

      I DEMAND that my PM devour kittens every morning at sun up!

  13. The Conservative attacks actually leap beyond the real problem with Ignatieff's history: it's not the manner of his coming back, it's the quarter-century of Canadian history he sat out.

    Serious question: how does that make Ignatieff unfit to be prime minister? I'm not being snarky here. How, specifically, does that disqualify him from office, given that he is a Canadian citizen and was born here?

    • Would you like me to write a thousand-word column about it and get back to you?

      • Heh. Fair enough :-) Next question: how long can a person be allowed to live out of the country before he or she is disqualified? I assume that a three-week vacation is okay, and presumably a year out of the country for work-study is okay too, provided that the potential candidate spends plenty of time deprogramming themselves by drinking plenty of Timmies and watching Hockey Night In Canada. But, I gather, at some point, one's essential Canadianness disappears, never to return, thus rendering the hapless expatriate unfit for Canadian office. When is that? (Question: has Neil Young reached that point? Discuss.)

        One thing that occurred to me: Canada is not a monolithic entity, despite what some commentators would have you believe. If you live in Toronto, your perspective is not the same as if you live in Vancouver; ditto if you live in Montreal, Calgary, Yellowknife, Halifax, etc., etc. Any person running for public office would have a learning curve ahead of him or her in order to understand the experiences of all Canadians, not just those in their own part of the country.

        By the way, I also believe that the Tories are only condemning Ignatieff for having lived out of the country because their focus groups told them that this was a potential wedge issue. I don't think Harper really gives an <unprintable> about this.

    • It doesn't disqualify Ignatieff from office in any way. Cosh didn't say that it did. Cosh is just saying that Ignatieff's ultra-long absence from the country he seeks to govern causes Cosh to have "significant trouble" voting for Ignatieff.

      • The fact that he's a conservative probably gives him more trouble.

    • The practical problem is that it seems to have made his foreign policy views very American/Thatcherite. Pity the CPC can't use that a criticism, though!

  14. Colby: thanks a bunch. From the reaction of the Liberal commentators here, it's pretty clear that this line of attack is a fruitful one, in that the Liberals dont have a decent reply, and it drives them to say extremely dumb things.

    • I think the Liberal response will prove to be just as effective as Harper's dodgy attack; forget facing off against policies, let's shake down a guy and see what falls out of his pockets. Pearson may have not qualified under Harper's rule, and would certainly have faced a different attack. Face it, when the focus group came up with his eyebrows and maybe his being out of the country for a few decades (altho no one mentions he regularly came back, and was in regular contact with family members — and that his job was to know what was happening) this lame line of attack seemed to be too obvious. Now that it's getting some blowback it looks good on you.
      Of course you would be applaudin in support of whatever attack ads Harper would have tossed at Laurier, King, st Laurent, Trudeau and Chretien (silly face, anyone?) so you can't be believed. That's what fear and hatred get you.

      • i have no fear or hatred. if you want to see fear and hatred, look at the liberal partisans speaking of harper.

  15. Colby, in my (biased) opinion, you're missing the point. Is it valid to questions Ignatieff's qualifications to be PM? Of course. Is it valid to make one of those criteria his patriotism? Yes. Should we question his patriotism today? Probably not – the man has been an MP since 2006 having won his seat twice like some of the 307 others in the House. To echo Anon above, had he immediately won a seat and gone to the polls seeking to be PM, this might be valid.

    The ad that you used at the top of the article came on last night when I was watching television – initially I thought that the LPC war room was doing a send up of an attack ad because the ad almost does seem to be saying "Michael Ignatieff is a strong leader" – but then it was clear the the LSoT put it out, probably quite quickly and with little to no originality.

    I think the better question, in the end, is: "Which person is going to make the best leader?" not "Which person is most qualified based on these arbitrary set of conditions?".

    • Being an MP is not the same thing as being PM.

  16. Reading the comments to this point, I'm kinda struck by the defensiveness of folks about this issue. Ignatieff's long absence from Canada does matter. Not because he wasn't doing anything worthwhile in that time, but because he wasn't putting in the time learning the political trade in the way that young Mr. Trudeau is doing. People don't care for a carpetbagger and Mr. Ignatieff – when he came back to Canada, walked into a "gimme" Liberal riding, and was subsequently acclaimed as the Leader of that party – is the very definition of a carpetbagger. He's gained a position that, in the view of many honest people, he has not earned.

    That was certainly part of my objection to the man over the past handful of years. But, fair is fair, he has now been here as a full-time political leader for five years, he's certainly taken some lumps but in recent days he is acquitting himself respectably. He is – in these early days – running a professional and positive campaign. As far as I am concerned his negatives (while I haven't forgetten them) are vastly outweighed by the negatives of Mr. Harper. By a huge margin.

    So I am ready to consider a vote for Mr. Ignatieff. I don't think he's perfect, I just think he is superior to Mr. Harper in a dozen different ways. And if he turns out to be unfit for the job then we'll be rid of both Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff in a few short years. That's what I'm telling my conservative friends, who I am urging to either vote Liberal or stay home. I still consider myself a Conservative but Mr. Harper's brand of government is not conservative, it's not honest, and it's not honourable.

    I may have to hold my nose to cast a vote for a Liberal, but I'll still be able to hold my head up while I do it. I don't know how an honest Conservative voter can say the same about a vote for the Harper government.

    • Often luminaries in other fields don't get the lifetime in politics lifetime pols like Harper have. It's the trade-off.

      • Much as I loathe our dear Prime Monster, this is a good point. He's been doing politics most of his life, which is a pretty useful background for a politician.

        Iggy's learning fast, though.

    • Might I suggest, possibly to my own detriment, that rather than not voting CPC because of Harper, you take the time to examine the candidates, and vote for the one that best seems to represent you specifically?

      Failing that, vote for whoever is most likely to unseat the incumbent.

      Failing *that*, then sure, an anti-harper vote is as good as any. :)

    • Bravo! Well said lgarvin. i'm a lib and i'll be holding my nose if i vote for MI [ i may have to vote strategically ] He's not my choice either; but he's a hell of alot better than the alternative. And if he's no good i doubt he'll run around hypocritically yelling coalition coup, simply in order to save his skin.

      • A relevant question, for Liberal supporters and perhaps even for anti-Liberals, is whether he was better than the Liberal alternatives. At least it was a relevant question at one point–the die's been cast now, as the old Romans said–and it's hard for me to be confident that it was thrashed out fully.

        • Isn't that a bit of a moot point at this stage? Oh, i guess you already said that…sorry. If you're just after an opinion on whether he was the best candidate, IMO, then no. I thought Manley as the obvious go to guy, but he didn't agree with me. Given the state of the liberal party since then i'd say i was right. If you're alluding to the crowning of Ignatieff, well there were extenuating circumstances. But i can't think for the life of me how he managed to elbow Rae aside, again a better choice, although not without burdens of his own. That was a great pity. If someone were to ask me my honest opinion who would make the best PM, out of all the candidates in the house i would have said Rae by quite a wide margin.

    • I believe in voting for values, and Liberal values are not good ones. When you claim Harper has negatives, you must be thinking about the pocketed communion wafer (which never actually happened) while I assume you are ignoring the strong economy, the strong foreign policy, and all the things that really matter.

      Not to mention, over the last 20 years we've had 7 years of Conservative rule and 13 years of Liberal rule (3 years of Conservative majorities and 11 years of Liberal majorities), so I don't think you're much of a conservative if you're turning back to the Liberals at this point in time. You should just call yourself a Liberal. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

      You claim Harper's not much of a conservative, and I disagree with you, but even if you disagree, you must be able to see that he's the closest thing to a conservative out of all the leaders, by a country mile.

      • And just think of all those great years of deficits that conservativism brought us~! (cue the 'outrage at Chretien/Martin for beating down that deficit)…

  17. "when I go to London for a week, as I did at the end of February, it takes me an agonizingly long time to re-enter the flow of Canadian news" If that's the case, you must be an incredible dullard. Although it's been over 50 years since I came to Canada from England, I still keep up with the political goings on over there. BTW, who the H*ll is Colby Cosh? Never heard of him.

    • I keep up with British politics too. Have written about them in this space. I'm British by ancestry, language, and habit. And if you think either of us would be an appropriate candidate for high office in 2011 Britain, you are insane.

      • YOu may want to rethink this comparison as anything resembling apt.

        • People are setting the bar pretty low in this thread. I wonder if they need a Lib Dem in Dumfries and Galloway?

          • What if you were born there, grew up there, followed the country and its politics in your absence, and had been living there for 5 years?

          • I'd still expect them to say "Away wi' ye".

          • But because they'd say that to you in Britain doesn't mean it has to apply to Canada as well. Canadians can be sentimental about our history with the best of them, but we don't have to apply rigid old-fashioned tribalism in selecting our political leadership.

  18. A vote for the LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA / A VOTE FOR IGGY is a guaranteed vote for the bunch of well known THIEVES.

    • see the company you keep, Mr. Cosh?

      • Super point. Just look how hard it is to find irrelevant personal abuse from the NON-Conservatives in the thread.

        • It is hard to find it. Oh, that's not what you meant to imply, is it?

  19. From now on, the definition of "barely coherent rant" will use this Colby Cosh blog entry as an example.

    • After controlling the impulse behind my comment, might I remove the "barely coherent" from the "barely coherent rant" phrase. It is my opinion that Mr. Cosh writes well and coherently. Why Mr. Ignatieff's absence is such a sore point with Mr. Cosh eludes me, in spite of his lengthy explanation — hence, it still seems like a rant to me.

  20. Thank you for reminding me why I no longer subcribe to Macleans. Although, to be fair, if there were a legitimate discussion to be had, it would be about whether being abroad was an advantage, a disadvantage, or a little of both, and WHY.

    In any event, it's odd for a "journalist" to criticize a wildly inaccurate ad hominem attack by suggesting a different ad hominem attack. Odd, or simply yellow.

    • You really showed them by canceling your subscription because of stuff like this, and then returning to read the stuff anyway.

  21. This article is almost like an attack ad. There is no discussion of the issues.
    If one were to examine Harper’s record both in and out of office, he has been working mainly for multinational corporations and selling off our resources at very cheaply. He will leave us with nothing and it will be up to the NDP to pick up the pieces and set the country straight. Best to get rid of Harper now, save our resources and live a sustainable life with Layton as Prime Minister.

  22. I lived in Japan for a full year, during which I followed Canadian politics and current events through online newspapers and correspondence with friends and family. When I returned to Canada, I definitely felt a sense of being out of step with current events, just as Mr. Cosh was when he returned from London. Canada had evolved without me, and it was disorienting to return. You don't feel like you have a real pulse on what's going on, what people are thinking, what the issues are. So I know exactly what Mr. Cosh is talking about.

    It took me THREE WHOLE DAYS to feel like a normal Canadian again.

  23. I would say that every time you reduce the size of government, you're doing a wonderful thing for the country and the economy. So, you may consider it boneheaded to choose one option over the other, but what's even more boneheaded is not doing any of the options.

    And, sorry, but GST cuts and income tax cuts are categorically not diametrically opposed. If you need help with the meaning of words, ask, dont be shy. I will kindly respond with an informative answer. It is impossible to be in favour of, and against the Iraq war at the same time. But it is perfectly possible to be in favour of a GST cut and an income tax cut – I know, because Im in favour of both.

    "once you accept size of government as given"

    Why on earth would anyone do such an idiotic thing? There is no need to so, for any reason whatsoever, except to support your terribly flawed argument.

    • I see the main left/right debate to be about size of government. Once we arrive at a given size of government, we should be able to agree how to fund it. I see reducing GST as a 'reduce efficiency of tax' move and reducing income tax as an 'increasing efficiency of tax' policy. You cannot consistently be in favour of both, for a given size of government. I recognize that some people are masters of cognitive dissonance.

      Largely, left and right should be able to agree about the how of collecting revenues, if not the how much.

      • we're never going to arrive at "a given size of government". that will change constantly.

        you may see a GST reduction as inefficient, but since the GST is a tax paid by all regardless of how wealthy, reducing the GST helps the very poor, while reducing income taxes does not as they usually dont pay any.

        i am in favour of both, based on the current size of goverment. your idea that government is a fixed size is pointless and wrong. if the government shrinks significantly, i maybe in favour of one more than the other. at this point, any shrinkage ("I was in the pool!!!!") of government is good thing. that is not cognitive dissonance, that is being pragmatic.

        Why should left and right have to agree about anything? Since the left is characterized by emotional claptrap and economic ignorance, it would be very sad if they did.

        • You're not reading what I write particularly carefully. The size of government is not fixed over time. But once we agree on a target size of government (and we agree on that, collectively, each time we elect a new parliament)

          Both the ideological right and left believe many things that are demonstrably false through empirical analysis. There is a 'right way' to fund a government, even if the size of government is more of an ethical concern.

          If you can't admit that the right is very, very wrong about many things as well, including about some facets of fiscal and economic policy, I'm not sure we can have a real discussion here. I'm more of a fiscal conservative, but I'm pretty pragmatic. Implementing bad policy, which is what the GST cut definitively was, is the worst sin for me. Same with CPC arguing for a command-and-control cap and trade system rather than a simpler, more efficient carbon tax. I know it's an article of faith among many conservatives that climate change is a communist plot. That's just willful blindness towards the mountain of evidence supporting it. Same goes for the whole organic/anti-GMO movement on the left. There is scant evidence to support these fears.

          • —should read—

            But once we agree on a target size of government, we should be able to agree about the most economically efficient way of funding it. I hope you're not a zero-government type. Those people (ie, anarchists) have no real positive contribution to make to mainstream political discussion.

          • and we agree on that, collectively, each time we elect a new parliament

            eh,… no. that would be each time a budget is passed. and even when that happens, not everybody agrees.


            If you can't admit that the right is very, very wrong about many things as well, including about some facets of fiscal and economic policy, I'm not sure we can have a real discussion here.

            Im not saying its impossible, but generally speaking the right is correct on economic policy, and the left is dead wrong. But if you want to expand on your thoughts, please do.

            Implementing bad policy, which is what the GST cut definitively was, is the worst sin for me.
            Wow, you must really hate the Liberals. Anyhow, you're free to hate the conservatives for the gst cut i guess.

            That's just willful blindness towards the mountain of evidence supporting it.

            Hahaha. That's a good one. I've heard alot of people speak of this moutain of evidence, I've never actually heard anyone say what it is, and trust me, i've actively sought it. If you want to debate that, Im more than willing.

  24. I actually don't agree that any amount of time is too long. The real question is: does Ignatieff think of himself as Canadian? My impression is that he does.

    And I wish people wouldn't recast this as a "Canadianness" issue; we're talking about being qualified to lead Canada

    Ignatieff seems smart enough to be Prime Minister, hard working enough, and accomplished enough. He also seems to be genuinely interested in public service (i.e., he's "not in it for himself"). This doesn't make him necessarily the best possible PM candidate out there, but I don't see anything in his record that disqualifies him – other than, according to your claim, that he has spent too long out of the country to be a true Canadian.

    • Ignatieff's claim to "think of himself as Canadian" is contested, of course; that's the point of "He Didn't Come Back For You". But if there were no evidence on the issue, just taking his word would still seem like a fairly impractical heuristic. Is it necessary to have lived in Canada at all, if the claim to feel Canadian will do the trick?

      • Is it necessary to have lived in Canada at all, if the claim to feel Canadian will do the trick?

        Straw man. Ignatieff has lived in Canada.

        • Straw man? You did say "I actually don't agree that any amount of time [out of the country] is too long." The query was in the nature of "Do you mean what you just said literally"?

      • Your premise requires no actual belief structure – interesting. So now begins my ad campaign "Harper is a hermaphrodite!"

  25. Not a history buff, but in the HISTORY OF WORLD, is there any examples of someone running for the Head of Government, who was away as long as Ignaitieff.

    I heard this is a problem for Mohamed ElBaradei as well.

    • That's not a valid counterexample, of course. Mohamed ElBaradei has never held elected office in Egypt. He's a career diplomat who recently announced his candidacy for president.

  26. I was going to say, um, You Know Who as he was born in Austria and wasn't even German. Does that count? More importantly, did I violate Godwin's Law?

    • Assuming we give Mr. You-Know-Who his first 18 years, when he presumably did not _choose_ to live in Austria, he lived outside Germany only 11 years, and four of those he spent in France in the German Army.

      • A HA! Four years in France! And the German people had the nerve to vote for him. What on EARTH was he doing gallivanting around the French countrysid….

        Oh, nevermind.

    • No, that doesn't count. Yes, you violated Godwin's Law! ;-)

  27. I'm going to be reasonable.
    In making this decision on a leader you would look at a lot of factors and weigh them according to your notions of what is more or less significant to you. For example, he writes books; Harper doesn't. Maybe there are 10 to 20 factors. To use a currently popular cliche: To me this time away is not a game changer.

    • That's a great answer. There is no one overriding factor.

  28. *caveman voice* "You say Ignatieff have bad life experience?!? I tell you it is Harper who have bad life experience!!! Argh argh argh"

    • lol

    • Harper's only life experience is being a bully. Like a typical bully he does nasty name calling, attack ads, throws out challenges like one on one debates. Then when his challenge is taken up he runs and hides. If we Canadians think this is leadership we are in deep trouble.

    • If you really knew 'caveman' – so, yes, the charge is scholarly illegitimacy – you would have said "*Ignatieff have bad life experience?!? (Insert aargh and gratuitous club swing), Harper have bad life experience!!!"

      It's the original 1-on-1 debate. (BTW, The rest of the "Argh argh argh" is anthropologically accurate.)

  29. I think this is entirely fair, and if we can somehow put Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper in the penitentiary for 27 years, they both may begin to acquire a bit of the character they needs to do the job properly. Let's get moving, folks, there's little time.

  30. I think Colby has raised a reasonable point. Perhaps it was raised in a not-so-reasonable way, but it's a valid point nonetheless.

    While pundits will run one way or the next on this character attribute it will undoubtedly be incorporated into the calculus of the voter. The real question is whether or not it will swing an election. I'll stick my neck out and say "No". Or, at the very least, it will be overshadowed by other events.

  31. I don't even know what that means….is this a side-effect of the kool-aid?

  32. Colby Cosh is doing an excellent job of supporting Mr. Ignatieff, leave him alone. Please add more comments Mr. Cosh, your remarks are having the intended effect on most readers. The opposition parties could use a person like you on every website, giving average Canadians a taste of "Harper" and his contempt for parliamentarians, average Canadians and even the media.

  33. Mandela was a political prisoner within his own country. He wasn't "sitting out" South Africa's history–quite the contrary. He was making South African history throughout his imprisonment.

    Mandela was at the very centre of the South African experience during those 27 years in prison, which is a far cry from the the way one experiences one's country as an expat.

    • Of course I agree that he was making South African history. But he was making history precisely because his imprisonment removed him from South African politics and daily life. I think an argument could be made that living on a prison island with very restrictive communications alienates one from the mainstream of one's society much more than living abroad.

      Look at Mr. Cosh's last two paragraphs. Apparently Ignatieff makes Mr. Cosh uncomfortable because for 25 years he couldn't "turn on a Canadian radio, grab a Canadian paper, listen to Canadians talking about Canada on the subway, and have those little 'So did you see where…' conversations about Canadian news with his Canadian colleagues and cronies." Mandela didn't have those luxuries either.

      • First, I'm pretty sure Mandela had many discussions about South Africa with his fellow inmates, etc. during those 18 years on Robben island. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known as the most significant black leader in South Africa. There's a huge difference between being the most significant political prisoner/leader in one's own country and being an expat who removes oneself from direct experience of one's country for three decades.

        Few would argue that Mandela didn't understand South Africa upon his release from prison, yet it's perfectly legitimate to argue that when Ignatieff came back, he didn't understand Canada in the same way that he would have if he hadn't lived abroad for all those decades.

        • "I'm pretty sure Mandela has many discussions about South Africa with his fellow inmates"

          I'm sure he did. I'm sure Ignatieff also spoke with friends and family living in Canada. Ignatieff also had many other avenues to keep current on mainstream Canadian culture that Mandela could not access.

          "There's a huge difference between being the most significant political prisoner/leader in one's own country and being an expat who voluntary removes oneself from this sort of daily experience."

          Yes there is a huge difference. But not in terms of the things that apparently make Mr. Cosh uncomfortable about Michael Ignatieff.

          • Yes there is a huge difference. But not in terms of the things that apparently make Mr. Cosh uncomfortable about Michael Ignatieff.

            You'll have to ask Cosh for his opinion about that. I can't speak for Cosh.

          • I didn't think it would be easy either, but i give that one to Zesty. You do make an awful lot of assumptions[ as does CC] about what MI did or did not do to keep up and current with the Canadian scene. It was a not inconsiderable absence, [and not ideal ] but not an insurmountble one.

  34. Ignatieff is 63. He moved to the UK at the age of 31, well into adulthood. Cosh, are you seriously trying to pretend that he then never even visited Canada for 27 years?

    He has lived and worked in various parts of the world and in various parts of Canada. This tends to broaden the mind, unlike parochial little dweebs who never have a real job or a real life outside of politics. Ignatieff has much better education and experience than Harper. Get over it, small minds.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ignatieff#Ea

    • I'm not even a particular fan of Ignatieff or the Liberals. But as a lifelong Albertan, I know the sound of whiney immature rightwingers very well. Grow up and get a life, ya whiners!

  35. Mahatma Ghandi
    Lived in from in South Africa from 1894 – 1914.
    Chose to live in South Africa, educated in London.
    Developed many of his sensibilities while living in South Africa.

    • Not a real Indian! Couldn't understand India!

    • Another bad counterexample.

      Gandhi was never Head of Government (I don't believe he even held elected office), and he lived abroad for much less than 34 years.

      • Not a bad parallel though. I don't have time to Google Gandhi's life but regardless, I'm going to stop here before I get flamed by Conservative partisans and/or Mr. Cosh for comparing Ignatieff to Gandhi.

        ps- You're right, I am VERY sorry about violating Godwin's law in the previous post. Please forgive me.

        • Duh- maybe next time I'll read other posts (see: 'David' above) before adding my 2 cents

        • Gandhi may have been elected to something in South Africa (dim memories of the movie); but he was definitely a leader, not just a policy wonk.

          It is a good parallel.

  36. alfanerd, you should stop telling lies about Ignatieff. That's pretty hateful behaviour, even if you are getting paid to do it.

    • saying that Iggy spent his adult life in Harvard is hateful?

      calling Harper a mean and petty dictator is enlightened?

      welcome to upside-down world. Holly will be your waitress for today.

      • "saying that Iggy spent his adult life in Harvard" is another lie. I believe he was there for 5 years.

        "calling Harper a mean and petty dictator" is accurate.

  37. i was paid one million dollars. you see, the CPC has cold hard cash, meanwhile, the Libs are scrambling for pennies. sucks to be you I guess.

    and, let me rephrase it for you, you pathetic little fool:

    "Iggy spent most of his adult life outside of Canada."

    • Liar. Typical Conservative, can't count.

      • i see that whatever topic you're discussing, your only trick seems to be to call your opponents liars. that's extremely erudite of you. i only wish i had the brain power required to call you a liar.

        • You don't. Stop whining.

          • You must be one of 'em smart people i keep hearing about, reading books and all that fancy stuff.

            PS: I usually dont waste my time with commenters who are dumber than a sack of bricks, but since making fun of you is such good fun, I make an exception.

          • You are neither witty nor intelligent. You are a prime example of the stupid, small-minded, unimaaginitive rightwinger who will always vote for the meanest minded candidate he can find.

          • this is not about me Holly, it's about your inability to anything else then call your opponents liars. If you were 5 years old, i would get it, but really if you're 5 years old, you need to ask your mother before you get on the internet.

          • No, actually, that was about you.

  38. You know ALL this thumbs up will make Ignatieff win the election, you are so NAIVE jonatwitan : )

  39. You do realize that every parallel offered to you so far has been a bad one?
    Mr. Ghandi went to university so he was actually out of India for 26 years (1888 – 1914), are we good now?

    Mr. Ignatieff is a Canadian, while in university he roomed with Bob Rae, the only way he could have been more Canadian would have been if he roomed with Sheila Copps.
    I am not sure I could room with Bob Rae but I know I wouldn't room with Mr. Harper.
    Iggy or Jack would be much more pleasant as a room mate 10 out of 10 times.
    Ghandi would be the coolest room mate by a country mile.

    I see your point about Ghandi not being elected though, that was well thought out. <smile>
    Who are you going to vote for?

    • I see your point about Ghandi not being elected though, that was well thought out.

      I'm glad you understand the difference. Nobody has been able to offer a valid counterexample so far. I think that demonstrates my point.

      I'll say it again: In the history of the world, nobody has ever become his country's democratically elected Head of Government after choosing to live abroad as long as Ignatieff did.

      For those of you who still don't grasp what a "counterexample" is: If you're trying to rebut what I said by offering an example of someone who wasn't a democratically elected head of government, you're missing the point.

      • So CR.. how long does Iggy have to live in Canada now that he's moved back before he's fit to govern Canada, in your mind? DOes he have to be back for 21 more years (- the 5 he has been back) before he's eligible to run for PM?

        • Yeesh. I can't tell you how many times I've heard some variation of this response. It's not about eligibility. Ignatieff is perfectly eligible to run for PM.

          I'm just saying that when someone tries to become Canada's head of government despite spending most of his life living abroad as an expat –a historically unprecedented 34 years outside his own country–it's worth considering.

      • No counterexample here, but the question.. "So what?"

        I mean, if we only contain ourselves to things already done, we're not going to get anywhere. Then again, I suppose that's what we wind up with when we pull the "Progressive" out of the "Conservative"

        • Sigh. I'm just presenting it as a fact worth considering.

          As you've surely noticed, Liberals have been trying to gloss over Ignatieff's world-record-breaking lack of time spent in the country he seeks to govern.

          • It's not actually a fact worth considering. It is not significant of anything much.

          • Uhhh.. yeah. That's kind of why I asked the question "So what?"

            Have you thought that maybe the reason it's being glossed over is that it's not worth considering? I certainly don't think it is, at any rate.

      • "For those of you who still don't grasp what a "counterexample" is: If you're trying to rebut what I said by offering an example of someone who wasn't a democratically elected head of government, you're missing the point. "

        Maybe you're missing the point? There have been lots of examples of people away for similar periods of time for various reasons, some within their control, some not. Many had no wish to hold office. Why don't you give some examples of people in similar situation to MI who have failed to get elected to office for the reasons you cite?
        I don't believe i'm asking you to prove a negative.

    • "Mr. Ignatieff is a Canadian, while in university he roomed with Bob Rae, the only way he could have been more Canadian would have been if he roomed with Sheila Copps."

      LOL..Ouch…pass the ear plugs…or Farley Mowat…or Pierre Berton…or…this has potential to keep getting CC some more hits.

  40. I'm going to suggest Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She was out of Liberia for various reasons for over 32 year between 1961 and 2005 when she was elected as president. I suspect the "by choice" aspect of the above question will be used to dismiss her as well. From my reading of her Wikipedia entry (not a scholarly source!), it is unclear which years after 1980 were by her choice rather than by the choice of the government of the day. She was also politically active when in-country as an adult. Nevertheless – out of the country for over 30 years as an adult and democratically elected. Appears to be considered a good leader on the international stage.

    • Yeah, okay but you know, she was, um, well, ya know, AFRICAN, ya know, not white, and um, a woman so ah, er, it um, doesn't count.

      • That's pretty offensive.

        • It would be if he was not satiriziing the expected response.

          • Expected reponse by who? Me? I sure hope that SanDiegoDave wasn't implying that I'm sexist or racist.

        • Trust me, sir, tongue was firmly in cheek.

          I can offer you no proof, mind you. I'll leave it up to you to make up your own mind. Perhaps I can offer my comment history? I believe I'm on the record of opposing narrow-minded, passion-over-reason stupidity everywhere by politicians (and commenters) of every stripe.

    • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wasn't out of the country for over thirty years as far as I can tell. She left in 1961, she came back and lived in Liberia between 1972 and 1981, and she ran for president in 1997. She was banished by Charles Taylor afterwards. She came back at some point and won the election in 2005.

      Also, as you rightly point out, some of the years she spent outside her civil war-torn country were due to forced exile.

      • I believe she left in 1981 then returned in 1985 to run for office. She then left in late 1986 and returned to run for president against Charles Taylor 1997. She left the country shortly after the election. Another source found indicates she returned in 2003 rather than 2005. She did not live in Liberia from 1997 until the present but returned when Charles Taylor left in 2003. My error was with the 2003 and 2005 dates – the original election was in 2003 but there was then a runoff that was finalized in 2005 – it looks like she was in the country during that time.

        • Sorry – the above is something of a mess. In summary: it appears she was out of the country and active in other fields (mainly banking and as a UN representative) for over 30 years and although the Charles Taylor years were under exile (1997-2003) I think an argument can be made that over 20 years were spent out of the country by choice. I say an argument as the political situation was obviously unstable and I suspect Ms. Sirleaf was wise to stay away.

          I'm no expert on her life but I think she is an interesting case regardless of any Ignatieff parallels.

          • Thanks for your example. It's the best attempt at a counterexample that I've seen so far. However, as we both acknowledge, it's not a valid counterexample because a) she spent fewer years abroad than Ignatieff and b) some of her time abroad was due to political exile.

            Still, she's an interesting case, as you point out. She's an elected head of government and she did choose to spend at least 20 years abroad in various diplomatic, educational and banking roles.

            Thanks again for bringing this up.

  41. Fun memes live a life beyond truth or falsity. Let that one go. :)

  42. Holy Jumpin's! Looks like when I fell asleep last night I magically traveled back in time to 2006!

    I should go out an invest heavily in 3D film technology!!

  43. What's the litmus test then? Only those who lived in Canada at least since 1995 (the end of the Constitutional Troubles that are so crucial to understanding Canada that one MUST have lived through in Canada) are eligible to become Prime Minister?

    Somehow I suspect that if the leader of the CPC had immigrated to Canada in 1997 we would not be having this discussion.

    • Well Richard, you know and I know that if Ignatieff was a Conservative, this would be a non-issue. Mind you, I have NO doubt whatsoever that the Grits would make it an issue.

      • I'm not so sure about that – I think the new Canadian vote is far too crucial for the Liberals for them to ever play the "he's not Canadian enough" card.

  44. How about Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga of Latvia. Fled Soviets age 7 in 1944, returned to become President 54 years later. May be out by virtue of the "choosing to live abroad" requirement.

    • May be out by virtue of the "choosing to live abroad" requirement.

      Yup. She was exiled by the Communists.

      Also, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga was not head of government. She was president, and thus head of state, but in Latvia the prime minister is head of government, with executive power. The role of their president is analogous to our governor-general.

  45. Does anyone find it odd that right-wingers (who are in it EXCLUSIVELY for themselves- see Rand, Ayn) are complaining that Mr. Ignatieff is "in it for himself"?

    • Who's Stephen Harper in it for?

      • Not us, that's for sure.

  46. Three examples come to mind:
    1. Napoleon III lived abroad (Switzerland and England) after his uncle's defeat in 1815. He returned to France in 1848 and won the election.
    2. Prime Minister Malaki spent 24 years in exile before being elected in Iraq.
    3. As best I can tell Arafat had lived in Egypt for the vast majority of his life, before leading the Palestinian authority.

    • Oh and I forgot about the Israelis…
      Menachim Begin lived outside Israel from 1913-1941, so that'd be 28 years.

      Another notable case would be Golda Meir. The first 23 years of her life she lived in Russia/the US. In 1934 she went back to the US for a number of years.

      • And you can make a case for Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.

        Born and partly schooled in Ireland, 1769-1781
        Served as a soldier in Ireland, 1786-1793
        Served in Netherlands, 1793-1795
        Served in India, 1796-1804
        Napoleonic wars 1805-1815 (except 1806)

        That's 36 years abroad, all by choice!

        • Chiang Kai Shek was elected President of the Republic of China in 1954, which by that time consisted exclusively of Taiwan. However, he had only lived there for 5 years (having lived 67 abroad).

          • He fled to Taiwan after being pushed out of mainland China by Communist troops. I don't think that qualifies as a valid counterexample, especially since Chiang still considered himself the rightful leader of mainland China.

          • Problems for each of these…
            -Napoleon III: some of those years were result of exile (though he probably could have returned to France at some point, and he may have spent some time in Holland, after his parents were King/Queen by Napoleon)
            -Malaki was exiled
            -Arafar was probably not able to return to Palestine for a lot of the period in question
            -Begin/Meir are definitely not exiles, but spent less time abroad.
            -half of the Iron Duke's time abroad was in Ireland, which probably counts as being part of the UK at the time
            -Chiang Kai Shek was elected by an assembly that probably doesn't qualify as democratic

          • Thanks. Have you found any valid counterexamples???

        • Hmmm. Longstanding military service is an interesting loophole, but I'm not sure that your counterexample adds up. Was he really "living abroad" for nine years during the Napoleonic wars? Didn't he have a home in England? Also, if one is a leading military figure fighting wars in foreign lands in devoted service to one's king and country, is one really "choosing" to live abroad? He did so out of loyal duty, more so than "choice".

          • 1. Wellesley chose to be a leading military figure. After his service in India he was elected as an MP (around 1804-1806ish), and had a civilian job in Ireland. However, he chose a military life, just like Ignatieff chose to be a public intellectual.
            2. His home was in Ireland, not England, for most of the years in question.

            The bigger hole in the Iron Duke example is that Ireland was part of the UK at the time in question, so it may not count as being foreign.

          • Thanks. I'll be interested if you can find any examples that don't involve the following:

            1) People who were exiled or fled their country involuntarily

            2) Heads of government who didn't take power democratically

            3) Heads of government who had longstanding military experience serving within an Empire, rather than a single country.

    • 1. Napoleon III lived abroad (Switzerland and England) after his uncle's defeat in 1815. He returned to France in 1848 and won the election.

      I'm guessing he fled France to save his own neck after his uncle was defeated in battle. That doesn't meet the "voluntary" requirement.

      2. Prime Minister Malaki spent 24 years in exile before being elected in Iraq.

      Again, he didn't choose to be exiled. He was sentenced to death by Saddam and he fled for his life.

      3. As best I can tell Arafat had lived in Egypt for the vast majority of his life, before leading the Palestinian authority.

      Once again, involuntarily leaving one's country (exile, etc.) doesn't count.

  47. Some fun facts about Canadian Prime Ministers:

    Sir John A. MacDonald, Alexander Mackenzie, John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell, Charles Tupper, Wilfrid Laurier, Robert Borden, Arthur Meighen, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and RB Bennett weren't even Canadian citizens when they served as Prime Minister!!

    Not only that, but Sir John A MacDonald, Alexander Mackenzie, John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell, Charles Tupper, Wilfrid Laurier, and Robert Borden weren't even born in Canada!

    And if that wasn't bad enough, Sir John A MacDonald, Alexander Mackenzie, and Mackenzie Bowell weren't even born on the continent!!

    Shocking stuff, I know!

    • Well done, but it's Sir John A. Macdonald. No relation to Ronald.

      • ooph!

        *hangs history teacher head in shame*
        :)

        • Never mind, I realized afterwards that it's Ronald McDonald. :o

    • No, not shocking at all, you would expect that for the first 60 years of a country's existence, the elected leaders (who are often older than 60) would not be born in the country.

    • Great point. Now that you mention it, where were all these Fox News hypocrites demanding that George Washington disclose his birth certificate???

  48. I don't care if Ignatieff lived abroad for 50 years.

    He wants the job and he's qualified. I lived abroad for most of my childhood/teenage years and I know and understand a lot more about Canada then a lot of my friends who have lived here their whole lives.

    Knowledge is earned, it isn't given.

    • Too true … Bravo, Olivier!

  49. it doesn't matter if Cosh's piece is accurate or not, the fact is that Liberals would vote for anyone who was inserted as their leader, no matter who that person was or whether they were even Canadian. Liberal followers and their comrades on the extreme left operate under the theory of " the reason of unreason". It's important to remember that Liberal/Separatists are not concerned about anything other then power, and if that means voting for an American interloper or a pair of Pierre Trudeaus old underpants then thats what they'll do.

      • Yeah, I'm aware of you're anti-British bigotry.

  50. In this ad, Ignatieff uses his dead mother as a political prop ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwg9xQgqzy8 ), also implying that he was involved in caring for her. In fact, he didn't live in Canada at the time, and left the job of caring for his ailing mom to his brother Andrew. He wrote an autobiographical book about it – Scar Tissue – in which he honestly portrayed himself as the absent brother.

    This does not make Ignatieff unqualified to be Prime Minister – indeed he is eminently qualified. Despite his long absence, I have no doubt that he is well-versed in the issues he will address if he becomes PM. But it does reveal something about his priorities, and his character when he won't return to Canada to care for his ailing mother, but will return as soon as a fast-track to the PM's office is on the table. It also strikes me as pretty disingenuous to use his mother's death in a campaign ad, given those circumstances.

    • Speaking as someone who went through precisely the same thing in my family, I can tell you that he seems 100% genuine and honest in that advertisement – and I tend to think I have a finely tuned BS meter when it comes to this sort of thing.

    • Having spent almost a year looking after my dying mother, I find his use of the circumstances discgusting especially having not been there himself to do the caregiving. Disingenuous….absolutely. Another term for it, at least in my opinion…..morally reprehensible! MI literally make sme nauseous!

  51. so frigging what?

  52. Unlike most, however, he has also spent a good portion of his adult life critically thinking and examining what it is to be Canadian. That's also an odd background for a Canadian political leader these days, and better than we see from most.

    • It is not unlike what our former Prime Minister did but unlike him Ignatieff didn't come to the conclusion that we are all idiots.

  53. With all due respect (and I mean that), unless you've been in a similar situation you should keep your suspicions to yourself.

    • I've had relatives deteriorate slowly (my grandmother from Alzheimer's), and I'm pretty sure I would never use them in an ad, and certainly not a political ad (maybe if it was aimed at raising money for Alzheimer's sufferers). I would also not portray myself as the caregiver of said person, when in fact it was my brother who did the caregiving. Alzheimer's robs people of their dignity – I'm not sure that parading them around on television reverses that.

      • "My mother died of Alzheimer's Disease. Caring for her was the toughest thing that ever hit our family".

        Sorry, he's not portraying himself as you say he is. As you should know, caregiving for a person dying of dementia takes a toll on everyone, not just the primary caregiver. As for your unfounded assertion that his family will likely be upset – could it not be equally as likely that they're happy that he's using his platform as a political leader to help people in the very same situation? I know I would be perfectly content with my father's image being used for such a thing (even if I wouldn't have when he was ill…cause opinions and feelings change with the passing of time)

        Stop trying to score cheap partisan points, you're better than that.

          • (see page 12)

          • Without even thinking about it, that ad with MI's mother made me feel empathy. Now I feel jerked around! As someone who took 8 months leave of absence to look after my mother at the end, this is morally reprehensible.

            Michael Ignatief = disingenuous

            - giving a false appearance of simple frankness
            - not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating

          • In 1994. Feelings change. Your assertion has no more validity than mine.

            (am I talking to h2h or cats here? ;)

  54. "In the history of the world, nobody has ever become his country's democratically elected Head of Government after choosing to live abroad as long as Ignatieff did."

    How about Vaira Vike-Freiberga, whose family left Latvia to live in Canada in 1954. She lived here until 1998. After an outstanding career in academia (mostly at the University of Montreal), she returned to her native land in 1998 and was elected president of Latvia in 1999. She served until 2007.

    • I already answered this above. This counterexample fails for two reasons:

      1. She was forcibly exiled by a Stalinist regime.

      2. She wasn't head of government.

      • 1) That doesn't diminish her example as someone who chose to return to her native land to pursue a career in public service as did Ignatieff, whose prolonged absence seems to rankle Cosh so much. And forced exile doesn't explain the length of her absence. There was no reason she couldn't have returned many years earlier.

        2) She was, however, elected as head of state. To quibble about head of government vs. head of state is hair-splitting, IMO, since both are democratically elected positions in Latvia.

        • 1) I was looking for counterexamples that excluded forced exile, for obvious reasons. Changing the goalposts doesn't make your example any more valid.

          Also, you claim: "forced exile doesn't explain the length of her absence. There was no reason she couldn't have returned many years earlier. "

          Latvia regained its independence in 1991. Vike-Freiberga returned in 1998.

          2) To quibble about head of government vs. head of state is hair-splitting, IMO, since both are democratically elected positions in Latvia.

          The head of government is the important one because that's where the executive power lies. In many countries, like Latvia, the president has largely symbolic power, rather than actual executive power. In countries where the president has executive power, like the United States, the president is both head of government and head of state.

          That's why I was careful to specify head of government rather than head of state. Many countries, like Canada, have a head of state who has never been a resident.

          • OK, since its your quiz, I guess you get to determine the selection criteria. However, I maintain that, in all its salient features, Vike-Freiberga's career (in choosing to return to her native land to pursue a career in public life after many years' absence) is a valid comparator to Ignatieff's.

            I wonder how many of the good citizens of Latvia got into a parochial snit about her "away-ness".

          • I maintain that, in all its salient features, Vike-Freiberga's career (in choosing to return to her native land to pursue a career in public life after many years' absence) is a valid comparator to Ignatieff's.

            Vike-Freiberga and her family fled a tyrannical Soviet dictatorship that would have imprisoned them or murdered them if they had stayed behind. Ignatieff fled nothing.

            Vike-Freiberga returned to her country once freedom and democracy had been restored. When Ignatieff returned to Canada to try become PM after spending three and a half decades outside the country in pursuit of his career as a lecturer/writer/academic, Canada had already been a free and democratic country for 138 years.

          • None of which makes her demonstrably more suited for public life in her native land than Ignatieff in his, IMO. We're talking about suitability for office after prolonged absence and, ultimately, circumstances surrounding original exit (i.e., chosen or forced) shouldn't make one's prolonged absence OK, while the other's is not.

            They are both distinguished academics, absent from their respective native lands for decades before returning home to public office. The finer distinctions between their respective biographies, in my view, are circumstantial and irrelevant, in terms of their ability to serve. Isn't that what matters here?

            But, as I said, it's your quiz so you get to be the judge.

          • So it's choice that's really bugging CR. Had Ignatieff not spent the last 5 years [ he did get a gimme riding, but that's hardly an anomaly] slugging it out in a weakened liberal party, and under almost constant personal attack [ odd that doesn't bother CR as much] i would say MI's critics might have had a point? As it is, they have nothing.

  55. You are misinformed. [ as you so often are] AW used to interact – he was good too – but probably tired of the abuse. Wells did it alot. It was great. But a few jerks and whiners drove him away. Coyne and Potter regularly participated too. My feeling is macleans now has an informal policy of no or low fraternization – that or their too busy. It's a great shame. Colby is the sole exception. i like him and frequently disagree with him. I sincerely hope he doesn't let some of this get to him and pull back.

    • so what you're saying is that im correct, but still misinformed. interesting. why arent you using your intensedebate account TimesArrow?

      Or is there another commenter with a fascination for entropy?

      • Busted. At work…bad, bad boy. No matter, i'm laid off today.Time to go work for myself again.

        No particular fascination with entropy. I can't find a wonderful link that argues that chemisty may play a vital factor in delaying this inevitability. The author went on to argue this a kind of God given wake up and smell the roses thing, as your life [ and the universe] whizzes to its inevitable conclusion…it prevents everything ending all at once…i find this an immensely consoling thought.

  56. This discussion certainly underscores the irrelevance of this particular attack ad, I think in fact it may be the most irrelevant attack ad in the "history of the world".
    There are many good examples given here of leaders who have bought their experience abroad to political office at home and Mr. Ignatieff may be another, one thing is certain, he is far more Canadian in his style of politics than Mr. Harper.
    Critical reasoning would leads me to believe that Mr. Harper thinks he has an advantage over Mr. Ignatieff on the "I am Canadian" front. I think he is mistaken and this ad and others like it aren't having the expected effect, they are simply underlining Mr. Harper's contempt for Canadian ways.

  57. Lester Pearson was away for close the same length of time.

    From 1927 to 1948 he was a career diplomat and rarely in the country. And before that of course he was away alot during WW1.

    • Not even close to the same length of time. Also, the whole time Mike Pearson was gone, he was intimately connected to his country because he was serving Canada, representing Canada, and making Canadian history on the world stage. The contrast between Pearson and career expats, like Ignatieff, is pretty stark.

  58. In a way, I wonder whether his living abroad from Canada is more or less damaging than living abroad from his own kids (who were not yet grown up). Theo was born in 1984, Sophie in 1987. They were respectively 16 and 13 when he moved to Harvard in 2000 (leaving them back in the UK with their mother).

    • Cheap…if Harper were an alcoholic would it be a relevant topic of converation here. He may well be a jerk. It doesn't necessarily disqualify him from running the country.

      • Nothing "disqualifies" him. The man certainly put his career well ahead of his children. People are allowed to think less of him, and weigh that into their decision. An argument could also be made in his favour, that while we may prefer that men be devoted to their families, for jobs of a certain magnitude we want someone who can devote 100% of his focus without any outside distractions.

  59. Here's to it being a long campaign for the two of you…

  60. “Do you think he loves Canada any less just because he spent his whole adult life elsewhere?” Yeah, I do think that: ever heard of “revealed preference”? “Are you questioning his patriotism?” If saying that his “patriotism” has self-evidently taken second place to his career means “questioning” it, then you'd be a fool not to. '

    That's a crock CC and you should know it. You may a good case for his missing a quarter centuary of our political scene as being unable to understand Canada well enough to govern it. Although you make a lot of assumptions about just how much effort he made to keep up – the man was in your profession, a writer no less. Most of us, as as you allude, experinced those years via newspaper op eds – i certainly wasn't invited to the signing of the charter – were you? Perhaps he phoned Trudeau occasionally to find out how it was going. If he did, that would likely have given him a leg up on most of us, including you.

    • What any of this has to do with questioning his patriotism is baffling – did he become a UK or American citizen? [ actually i don't know] I've lived abroad for short periods and known expats who had no intention of returning to their native land – they became more patriotic if anything.
      You're living in the past CC so's Harper and it's starting to show. The guy's come back, paid his dues, suffered for his so called sin of absence. No one but con partisans cares anymore.

  61. " It's even more bizarre that the Conservatives are essentially accepting this premise by turning the motives behind Ignatieff's return into the central issue into a personal attack. Sorry, but I'd have significant trouble voting for the Mid-Atlantic Man even if he did come back for me."

    That's a prettty astute observation CC. The CPC chose not to highlight the fact that his absence has disqualified him on the grounds that his undestanding of the country may be inadequate, but rather that it's all about him. In other words impugn the motive. Make it personal. Make it a lack of character, not experience or qualifications It's all personal, all the time.. Really, it says a lot more about them , then it does about him .All you need to know about them really.

  62. I suppose this would be the time to bring up the first thing Mark Steyn remembered about Ignateiff when he became leader or at least a serious contender. Steyn was at some kind of ex-pat party in the UK and Ignateiff didn’t want to talk about Canada because it was parochial.

    • mmm, i wouldn't shoot a rabid dog purely on the recollection and say so of MS.

      • He's been kind of annoying me for a few years and I don't read his columns anymore but I do trust him on that one :p

        • Any particular reason why…bear in mind i'm no particular fan of MI either…i just hate to see deliberate distorting of the truth, and stupid bullying.

          Steyn is kinda economical with the truth at times…most of the time, in fact.

          • It was so early that you really couldn't have a serious partisan bias against him by that point, I don't even know if it was clear he would be leader. As well, Mark seemed to find it sort of offhandedly amusing so again, no negative investment. (as if Steyn would care much about a Canadian politician anyhow) I don't know of any particular examples of Steyn's poor accuracy myself. Bullying? He's too funny and flip to be any kind of bully, really it's something I still love about him.

  63. 292 comments! You're smoking on this one Cosh!

  64. It really is hard to imagine this sort of thing happening anywhere else.

    It makes you think – if a person has chosen to live elsewhere for 34 years, why would they want to lead a country they've left for so long? What's the motivation? Power? He's obviously not there to improve the country for his own benefit, since he's obviously got no interest in living in it.

  65. What really burns my britches about this is how sneeringly conservatives portray being a writer, visiting professor at 3 ivy league universities, diplomat, and Canadian at the same time as somehow suspect. Or disqualifies him in some strange way.

    • CC does a good job in this piece of making a similar point. Those who are mad at CC for this piece might want to remember he trashes the ad, and the idiocy of the CPC of not simply sticking to the point: Being away 30 odd years leaves you with some explaining to do.
      The whole thing is pathetic really. In 2011 we are still impugning motive, just because it's so easy to do so.

  66. Waw, Colby, great writing. I like your style.

    Anyways, I have always thought of Ignatieff's presence out of country as being that: being out of country. That indeed is the problem with his sudden rise to power within the Liberal party.

    In a sense, Ignatieff's time and my time overlap in reverse: I came to Canada almost the same time as he left, and I remember since that Canada has discussed national unity in one way or another, and you had to be here to really get a sense of what was and is still going on. It's a flow of things. Thing flowing into each other.

    The first few years after having emigrated, when going back to the old country, was like fitting in almost immediately. Yet, as time wore on, so much could definitely no longer be said. I've had to grow into Canada and grow out of my mother country. It is sooo true.

    • Oh, and I have never liked them black and white commercials. Indeed, much too negative. A bit of colour would have gone a long way. Plus a more engaging pictured message besides.

  67. I think we need to stop debating such trivial issues as to whether a candidate visited the country he wishes to lead for 20-30 years, and focus on important topics such as: is the individual too mean? Why is he such a meanie

    • Colbert PAC ad has a short Chewbacca clip near the end – that's the closest thing to creativity you will ever see in the political advertisement genre (hahahaha) .

    • Yes, but did SH choose to become a meanie?…you'd best ask CR about that.

      • No, I am asking you – from your above comments, I am interested in your concern about meanies, as opposed to someone who did not live in his own country for at least a generation, and only returned when he saw a chance to lead this country after being absent for 30 odd years.

        • I believe that's a logical fallacy…drawing your conclusion from your premise with nothing other then unsupported supposition as your premise.

  68. If Obama had lived in Austrialia and Britain for 15 years prior to running within presidential elections, would the citizens of the United States still have voted him in as President?

    Or,

    Would he have won the democratic nomination?

  69. How do we compare apples to oranges? The Iggy man is by far more educated, capable and travelled then whats his name again oh yes Harper. I would rather hear facts from a person who has been there and done that then a guy that says what I heard or read was! Really if I leave the country as I do for months even left for years and return I still consider myself as Canadian as my Friends. What kind of tom foolery is this?????

  70. He left this country for three decades, he paid absolutely zero into our social programs yet he'll get a fat pension and healthcare benifits most of us would literally die for after working less than eight years. So excuse me if I think someone who's given absolutely nothing back to this nation wants to waltz in and take control of said nation. He also has zero experience in management and leadership and he's been an abysmal Leader of the Official Opposition and a utter failure as Leader of the Liberal Party. His only perk is he use to be a journalist in the US thus that explains why Liberal Media is so far up his behind I can see CTv's logo when he bends over.

  71. Should anyone who lived outside of Canada for 30 odd consecutive years, even be "eligible" to run for MP, let alone Prime Minister. As I understand it, Ignatieff returned some time in 2005, and ran in the 2006 election. This, after over 30 years not even being a resident of Canada. An MP makes $160,000 a year plus perqs and benefits. To me, it's outrageous that the rules – if we have any, even allowed Ignatieff to run for federal politics. We need a regulation that states one must have been a resident of Canada for at least 4 of the last 5 years or something, to be even eligible to run for office. More, in the case of the Prime Minister – i.e. 7 out of 10 last years.

  72. Why is there not a drop down menu on the Macleans Blogs link? There used to be one and I could check for a new entry for Colby or Paul. Now I have to scroll through a bunch of AW posts and if I have to do that anymore I'll stop checking.

    biaced

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