Signs of life for Michael Ignatieff

Prorogation allowed Ignatieff to see through the fog of his foibles and find his vision

Signs of life for Michael IgnatieffSo where were we? Ah yes. “It being 8:03 p.m.,” acting speaker Barry Devolin told the Commons on Dec. 10, “pursuant to an order made earlier today, the House stands adjourned until Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

Devolin believed that to be true when he spoke. But 20 days later the Governor General prorogued the second session of the 40th Parliament, so your MPs are going to try it all over again when they return for the third session on March 3.

A lot has happened since then. It’s been a while since I threw a bunch of polling numbers at you, so maybe you’ll indulge me today. Before Christmas I interviewed one of Michael Ignatieff’s new helpers who had moved into the Office of the Leader of the Opposition along with the Liberal boss’s new chief of staff, Peter Donolo. This person said the Liberals’ immediate goal was to move to within a point or two of the Conservatives by spring. I nodded politely. Good luck with that.

The then-latest Ekos poll showed the Liberals 9.2 points behind the Conservatives. As I write this, the latest Ekos shows that lead has shrunk to 1.2 points. Asked whether the Harper government is on the right track, Canadians now respond “no” by 48 per cent to 41 per cent. In December they were saying “yes” by 45 per cent to 44.

This turnaround is entirely due to Michael Ignatieff’s bold and inspiring leadership. Just kidding. No, the news from that other popular Ottawa pollster, Nik Nanos, is less than encouraging for the Liberal leader: while Harper lost 2.8 points as “best Prime Minister” from November to February, falling to 32 per cent, Ignatieff fell 1.6 points in the same period to a dismal 16.1. That’s now fully two points behind the NDP’s Jack Layton.

And yet. Unappreciated and, one suspects, unnoticed by most Canadians, the Liberal leader has begun to move smartly to make himself and his party more relevant and more responsive to Canadian voters. Ignatieff spent 2009 looking rattled, uncertain, by turns timid and reckless. His recent behaviour suggests he surrounded himself well when he reached out to Donolo and crew last October.

Don’t take any of this as an endorsement of Ignatieff or a prediction of success for him. This corner’s crystal ball remains prorogued. But it is beginning to look as though the Conservatives can no longer depend on Ignatieff to do quite so much of their work for them.

First came the Liberal response to the prorogation itself. At first they seemed caught flat-footed by Harper’s decision. Protest came from outside Parliament and outside institutional politics, with a Facebook group and some modestly successful street protests leading the way. But the Liberals did respond, beginning in late January, with a series of round-table discussions on Parliament Hill on issues like jobs, veterans and health care. Under the rubric “Liberals Are Working,” they allowed Liberal MPs to catch up, for real, on some complex issues, and to show the country footage of themselves with brows furrowed, neckties loosened, hard at work.

Then, twice in February, Ignatieff took the initiative. Not with the sort of brinkmanship that was his predecessor Stéphane Dion’s stock in trade (the coalition, the Green Shift) or that used to be his own (last September’s “your time is up” attempt to force an election), but with a couple of modest, pragmatic forward steps.

First Ignatieff wrote to Harper with an agenda for the new parliamentary session. The seven-page letter contained proposals under 12 subject headings, including job creation, climate change, pension reform and support for veterans. This wasn’t an election manifesto, and Ignatieff was quick to say it wasn’t an ultimatum either. The Liberals are in no mood to force an election if Harper rejects any of their to-do list. Probably he’ll reject some of it and poach the rest for himself. That’s the life of an opposition leader. But at least it will be harder now to say Ignatieff has no ideas and nothing to propose.

Ignatieff’s next move came four days later, after Lucien Bouchard told a Montreal conference he didn’t expect Quebec to secede in his lifetime. This prompted an open letter to Quebecers over Ignatieff’s signature. “Mr. Bouchard had the courage to say what many have been thinking deep down. Instead of passively waiting for a so-called ‘historic night,’ it is crucial that Quebecers actively participate in the changes happening within Canada,” Ignatieff wrote. “They must get involved in shaping the Canada of tomorrow.”

The Harper Conservatives earned themselves an audience with Quebecers when Harper delivered a major, substantive speech in Laval on Dec. 18, 2005. I waited for Stéphane Dion to do something similar and was amazed when he never did. Ignatieff’s letter is thin. He wants Canada to be “the best educated country in the world,” “the most educated,” and “the most energy efficient.” Details will come after his “thinkers’ conference” in Montreal in March, an event that holds both promise and danger for the Liberals.

None of this is magic and, again, most of it appears to have escaped Canadians’ attention. Ignatieff spent a year frittering away Canadians’ benefit of the doubt. He can’t be sure he will win it back. But he did better work during this forced break than at any time since he became leader.

Signs of life for Michael Ignatieff

  1. ". . . an event that holds both promise and danger for the Liberals."

    Indeed. They'd better figure out how to get the hobbit to Mordor or it's game over.

    • But we should use the ring,no?

    • Now that's funny

  2. Paul,

    the honeymoon ended when he refused to offer alternatives to the present government. The Reform Party under Manning participated with the Liberals in making the spending cuts in 1990's. The opposition to date refuse to hold an adult converstion demanding the government scale back the spending and growth, instead we get photo ops publicity stunts from all parties being enabled by our media.
    The opposition have held a majority of the seats for the last four years not a single Bill would have had Royal Assent without at least one party supporting the CPC agenda. The opposition need to challenge and offer alternatves INSIDE the parliament to the CPC agenda.
    Just calling the PM a bully won't cut it.

    • So, the opposition should have triggered an election sooner? Harper sensed weakness, and exploited it. I don’t think it would have mattered what the opposition did, every vote was going to be a vote of confidence.

  3. Nobody cares about this crap, it only serves to get him better media spin. Like this column.

    The best thing about having no parliament is that instead of bitching about how/why/when the opposition is attacking the Conservatives record, the media is forced to, you know, look at the Conservatives record. (Hellooo! Right's & Democracy!)

  4. Actually CanadianSense, the opposition cannot work with the government because they think the majority of what they do is wrong and the Conservatives do not compromise at all. Thats evident from he shutting down of the House of Commons, the peoples house, so he can do things like levy a new tax without being stopped by the opposition. If they do compromise, they go before camera's and deny it while beating the opposition over the head with a lead pipe. For instance the truth in sentencing law was passed quickly with liberal support. The conservatives decide to have the bill come into effect at the end of March but had previously accused the liberals of stalling it at a photo-op while bringing up a convict who had just been released after serving his time, mostly in custody. Blatant lies by the CPC/PMO. You cannot work with this government and as a result nothing is getting done except political gamemanship for a majority that will NEVER materialize at a cost of 56 billion dollars and counting.

    • Well, Jay, what's been stopping the two versions of the nutty professor from bringing down and replacing the "Evil Harper", all these years? Oh, I see there are just far too many stupid Canadians out there who need to be reminded that the Liberals have a divine right to be perpetually in power…forever…weather they have any alternative policies or not. Like someone else who posted here earlier, I too am a person who supported the Liberals in the nineties for the same reason I support the Conservatives now. Show me a reasonable alternative and I will gladly consider it. Cheers.

  5. Your evaluation of Ignatieff and the Liberal Party are dead on, but I wonder if you've analyzed your polling numbers quite close enough. Up to the Olympics and since prorogation the Cons polling numbers have dropped consistently. As many Cons were hoping, the Olympics have provided them with a slight recovery but I wonder if this will continue after the Games in Vancouver are over and the games in Ottawa begin?

  6. Really? When was this shown to be the case?

  7. Just as a rule of thumb, I expect the polls to jump around for a while to come. And the challenge for Liberals no matter how they poll between elections will be to figure out how to avoid the Election Blue Bonus, which sees the Conservatives rise sharply in polling support every time an election seems likely (autumn 2008, coalition crisis (sort of), September 2009).

  8. I would have said the opposite – they are at their best when they have no credible opposition, i.e. they can do what they please, relatively unchallenged and, whenever they want, they can always get everyone to focus on the incompetencies of the opposition and say 'they're worse' – but we don't really know, because they've never really faced any credible opposition. It will be very interesting to see how Harper and the Conservatives react. So far, the signs are not good.

  9. I meant "best for the country", not "best for their political fortunes". I couldn't care less about the CPC's political fortunes. I could care a lot less about the country's political future.

  10. "Don't take any of this as an endorsement of Ignatieff or a prediction of success for him. This corner's crystal ball remains prorogued"

    I think i tend to side with Salutin on this…i don't fully agree with the doing nothing part…but at least he's pacing himself now.

    "As for Michael Ignatieff, I think doing nothing is working. Let Stephen Harper be Stephen Harper. His historic mission is simply to deny a Conservative majority in the next election, after which both leaders might move on, allowing us yet another shot at the elusive goal of a more truly democratic politics"

    • I could see Harper move on after another minority win, but would Iggy do so as well? A Harper-less Tory minority seems like an easy beast to defeat in another election.

      • i doubt Harper will move on after another minority [ check out the Wells incremental thesis] but he could get pushed out.

        • Gawd, another "Let Bartlett be Bartlett" type of comment. I loved the West Wing, but too many people watched it, and now everyone thinks they're Josh Lyman.

          Blergh.

  11. I suspect that bonus is tightly tied to the leadership bpm numbers you referred to. There is an interesting dynamic there since most Canadians now have a pretty good sense of Harper, whereas Ignatieff is still pretty much a thin, blank slate.

  12. Doesn't this have more to do with Canadian's indicating their preference for parliament to be working? Albeit with cons running the place, until something else coherent comes along. If so, this new direction from the Donnolo boys should help when the hammer really falls – if the libs can keep it up, and maybe avoid the tiresome scandal a day malarky.

  13. The pattern has been firmly established now. As long as Iggy keeps being invisible, hiding in plain sight and avoid opening his mouth thus placing both feet in. His numbers improve – then – invariably he will open his big mouth and his numbers will plummet – thus it has been and thus it shall be – what we have here is a leader of the oppostion party who has now been basically neutered and re-defining ineffective – the real players the next while will be Stevie and Jack – becuase when you get right down to it – who cares what Iggy thinks the voter certainly doesn't – right now most voters either prefer Jack as a leader or Harper – Iggy is sort of a sideshow at present!

  14. "Actually CanadianSense, the opposition cannot work with the government because they think the majority of what they do is wrong."

    Yet, the Conservatives keep maintaining the confidence of the House. That's truly incredible if what you say is actually true. Which, of course, it's not.

  15. True.

    By "at their best" I was being more pedestrian, in fact, and referring to their basic performance, not results, i.e. the way they can stay on message and focused, get their message across, control the agenda, get the good headlines, have the opposition on the defensive, keep the spotlight on the opposition instead of them, etc.

    Whenever they have had some solid opposition, get solidly challenged – a few times briefly under Dion, a few times more so far and slightly more sustained under Ignatieff so far – instead of rising to the challenge, they seem to crumble in a lot of basic performance areas, mixed and inconsistent messages, weak sniping, painfully obvious attempts to distract, juvenile attacks and insults, etc.

  16. I thought Iggy's best move to date was to quickly exploit the opening that Bouchard presented to federalists.

    I'm still rather stunned that such a comment from Bouchard would be greeted by silence from the Prime Minister of Canada…

    Ah yes… The man is still on vacation.

    • Now wouldn't it be interesting if this Bouchard 'interruption' was actually given a silent push by the Conservatives?
      Any degradation of the Bloc vote would normally go Conservative, would it not? Majority terriTORY!

  17. They don't have the confidence. The CPC/PMO have the best shills and propagandists out there ensuring the public thinks the opposite of what is going on. The oppositions hands are tied unless they want to hand a majority over to a liar who'd sell us out to the US in a flash, like with the Buy American deal which helps the US but screws us over royally. They knowjust like the CPC that people have short attention span and for the most part, are apathetic. Harper is abusing the fact that because his job requires honour and honesty, people are assuming he is.

    Which of course, he's not.

    But I'd like to know why you are cool with the CPC when they have behaved the opposite of what they campaigned on multiple times. Spending and taxing like mad and killing their own law and order bills three times in 18 months. You are obviously not part of the grassroots. Harper doused those with pesticide long ago.

  18. Sorry, February, not March.

  19. Lining up star candidates might help too. I'm convinced the outcome of swing ridings in "Battleground Ontario" will be more influenced by ground organization, likability of candidates, and power of incumbency than by the leaders. Come to think of it, I think that's true of any riding and in any election.

    I have a bet with myself. If I can get 10 thumbs down and 3 posters telling me how wrong and stupid I am – I'm going to take off work early and get smashed.

    • Star candidates is a red herring – the LPC needs some actual policies. And they didn't take the opportunity the the Conservatives gave them to do anything.

  20. Projecting much!

  21. I see.

    Well, if that is how they handle opposition, then it's best for the country that they be seen to be doing so.

  22. What star candidates? Can't help with the thumbs down…you're buying, right…nobody should drink alone.

  23. Jeez those best PM numbers are horrible for MI. What can he do to turn them around? Has anyone with numbers like that ever even made it to Premier before…let alone PM? Harper's numbers may continue to trend down, but Iggy needs a boost of some kind…let's see he doen't play hockey or piano…what's left? Well. we know he's written more books than Harper.

  24. To me, an interesting related question is this: would there be that Election Blue Bonus if the Liberals had actually spelled out for us, in some semblance of detail, just exactly what they plan on doing if/when they form a government? Ignatieff, IMO, would be far less of a "thin, blank slate" if Canadians had some idea of what exactly he'd do differently in terms of policy if he were PM. To take just one issue — debt and deficit — the Liberals have been every bit as weaselly and dissembling as the Tories have been on this.

    • seems they're afraid that Harper will poach all their better ideas, sincehe's not all that original in that way himself…i'm not a fan of this sort of timid approach. There have to be some good liberal ideas that he wouldn't touch…even if he does, you get to claim credit for them later, and it's good governance…which is kinda the point for us proles.

    • In theory, it is better for the liberals to stay blurry o policy. Just like Jimmy Carter in 1976, they keep putting down conservative initiatives while spreading a message of change and hope without really presenting much. Now, I'm not a con…far from it, but having an education in political communication, I'm just saying that being blurry for the months leading up to an election has prooved to be a good strategy.

  25. I don't trust the Liberals and I see them as a dangerous party. ignaieff reafirmed to his base the need for women to have unlimited access to abortions. Fine. But the man is totally ignorant of the demographic disease which is eating the Canadian population like some sort of flesh eating disease. Our females for all intents and purposes, which the odd eception, are statistically infertile.

    Canada, as recently confirmed in the G& G imports more imigrants than any other western power. And we immigrate twice as many as the U.S. Quebec has become so old and decrepit that Lusien Bouchard knows well that the votes for separation are not ther, and will never be there-in Quebec there are 40 abortions for every 100 born.

    Only a liberal with it's head shoved so far up it's own asss, can't see the problem,.

  26. How about telling us what he actually plans on doing if he's elected PM? Just a thought.

  27. Just like an election last fall was inevitable. Just like an election last spring was inevitable.

  28. That isn't generally true about Canadian elections. When you poll voters in Canada on the main factors behind their vote – parties, leaders or local candidates – parties come out ahead by a large margin. We look at star candidates more because they are interesting exceptions than because they are the rule. That should make sense because individual MP's [rightfully] have very little power due to our Westminster traditions of strong party discipline.

    In terms of ground organization, that probably is important, but it is both an effect rather than a cause of electoral success. Harper has been successful in part because he has a base of devoted supporters, but he has a base of devoted supporters in part because he has been successful.

    PS: the best way to get thumbs down is to find a way to offend Liberals and Conservatives with contrarian opinions. -10 is very hard to get – I think my record is -4 or so.

    • Just over 1.7 . That's some boom and is still well below replacement. And who do you think is having the kids in good old Quebec? Here's a hint- over 25% of babies had at least one parent who was born outside Canada;

      Quebec continues to lead the nation with the highest abortion rate. For every 100 children who see the light of day, 40 others are sucked out and toseed in the dumpster.

  29. Insightful piece.

    " But it is beginning to look as though the Conservatives can no longer depend on Ignatieff to do quite so much of their work for them."

    About time. The CPC is not at their best when they have no credible opposition.

    • They actually only look good when there is no credible opposition. An

  30. Perhaps someone named McQuack shouldn't be commenting on abortion?

  31. Just to clarify your postscript: Do you mean saying something that offends both at the same time? For example, by saying something like:

    "Stephen Harper governs just like a typical Liberal"

    Is that what you meant? If so, I like it – I'll have to give it a whirl in future discussions.

  32. let me see it's been 4 years now that all of the web forum harper haters have been posting the same thing – yet what do we see … between you and me I doubt that there will be an election this year at all – and who knows next year the troops start coming home and that event will help harper more than these Olympics are!

  33. I think it also helps to criticize Paul Wells at the same time:

    "Stephen Harper governs just like a typical Liberal and Paul Wells won't tell you this because he's a partisan hack who wants a Senate appointment".

  34. Yes, yes – I see your point. Well done.

  35. Wells, you're true to Toronto-centric media form today. That being, harping on the Liberal talking points, and gleaning every little morsel of positive spin for the Liberals. Oh, and the prorogation thing is just a lot of media spin about nothing, since it has only survived with the medias help. And I'm sorry, but letters from Iggy won't cut it if he ever thinks of improving his numbers. Is it the water or the smog in Toronto that makes you people think like you do?

  36. I don't recall saying either of those. Do you have a link ?

  37. Prorogued parliament. Thank you Stephen Harper!
    After witnessing the Olympics in Vancouver first hand I understand why. The games, our athletes and Canada have been absolutely amazing. The last thing we needed was left wing nut politicians grandstanding their position and taking media away from this very successful games.
    Could you imagine if parliament was in session, Jack Layton giving sympathy towards those criminals (i meant protesters), too much money this that blah blah blah.
    Shutting down the mouthpieces of the socialist left was a great decision!

    • Parliament as a mouthpiece of the socialist left…very original…lose points for tautology though.

      • It wasn't the right that was dominating the last session by championing the rights of taliban monsters, while attacking our troops as war criminals.

        As for the mass graves of children recently discovered in Iraq – not even a stich of commentary for them. Not the type of victims favoured by the "progressive left".

        • "It wasn't the right that was dominating the last session by championing the rights of taliban monsters, while attacking our troops as war criminals"

          You're delusional Biff…lost in your own little neo con world.

          Maybe it would help if it hit the news, i haven't seen any reports.

          • His name is "biff"- kind of says it all.

  38. I would have said the opposite – they are at their best when they have no credible opposition, i.e. they can do what they please, relatively unchallenged and, whenever they want, they can always get everyone to focus on the incompetencies of the opposition and say 'they're worse' – but we don't really know, because they've never really faced any credible opposition. It will be very interesting to see how Harper and the Conservatives react. So far, the signs are not good.

  39. Well, according to the Freakonomics guys, the more abortions you have, the more the crime rate goes down. So following McQuack's reasoning, yes, there won't be many of us around who are young, but it will be very safe out there . . .

  40. I didn't say that you said either of those. However, if I recall correctly, you were convinced there'd be an election last fall, and you were also pretty sure there would be an election at the start of 2009 (back when everyone was talking about coalitions). Am I wrong that you felt this way?

    • I don't remember taking either of those positions, but that's why I was hoping you might have a link to remind me. In any case, I really do think we are going to be in an election this spring.

  41. I wouldn't know. I haven't lived in Toronto in my life. But thanks for coming out.

  42. Smashed, eh? Well, not only are you wrong and stupid, but I'd like to know who the hell you're playing to!

    • Dammit, PeteTong dares us all to get him wasted at his expense and nobody thumbs-downs him? And I get thumbs-down'd for trying? What is this, the Temperance League? Who are we playing to, exactly? I'd like to know.

  43. This is more evidence that a spring federal general election is inevitable.

  44. I really wonder about this fear of having ideas poached in any event, and whether it's a misplaced fear. Bear in mind that that's been said about the Reform-Liberals dynamic in the 1990s, e.g, that the Liberals "pached" the idea of fiscal responsibility, focus on debt & defict, etc. from Reform. First of all, Reform never had a hope of forming govt, given the Tory-Reform split at the time. Secondly, the record shows that we as a country became focused on the issue not because the Reform Party was pushing it, but because it was truly becoming a crisis of international proportions (e.g., we were in serious danger of having our debt downgraded and heading towards the third-world spiral).

    Bottom line to me is this is a sign of Liberals being scared of their own shadow. One of the most successful things the Liberals ever did politically in the last 20 years was the Liberal Red Book of 1993. And there was never any fear of poaching that I recall with that.

  45. "I'm convinced the outcome of swing ridings in "Battleground Ontario" will be more influenced by ground organization, likability of candidates, and power of incumbency than by the leaders."

    Battleground Ontario or anywhere for that matter is a myth. As long as the anti-Harper vote continues to split itself three ways, Harper remains safe.

  46. "They don't have the confidence."

    They have the confidence untl they don't and the only way they don't is by losing a confidence vote. That's the way the system works.

    ""You are obviously not part of the grassroots."

    You're right. I'm the person who supported the Liberals in the 90s and is now supporting the Conservatives. Perhaps if the Liberals can figure out why people like me are doing that they might win an election. Until then, enjoy the opposition benches.

    • So you supported the Liberals during Chretien and now support Harper?

      So is being obviously lied to some sort of fetish thing for you?

  47. He must have meant the Toronto that lurks in your heart.

  48. Hell, I'd like to hear what Harper plans on doing now that he actually is elected PM.

    Just to be clear.. by "plans" I mean what he actually intends to do, not what he's just going to tell people he's going to do before doing the exact opposite.

  49. When the House resumes, Conservatives will enjoy a return to domination in the polls because Ignatief is not a leader. He knows how to lecture first year university students, about the only ones who find him credible, and he needs to write letters and books, most of which no one reads. That's his calling. Leave the governing to the professionals, you goof, call a vote of non-confidence and get it over with for yourself!

    • Yea, how'd that work out for 'ya ? Zero is still zero where I come from .

  50. Wells inadvertently forgot to mention that the anti prorogation issue was driven by the media and only when the opposition saw the torqued headlines and the outrageous columns did they react. Lets not forget Layton was in the sunny United States and Iffy was in France.

    As pointed out Iffy has been very busy during the parliamentary break spinning his wheels. Its as if Canadians have made up their minds about him and ignore everything he says.
    Obviously he is a professor. He writes 7 pages. Does he think the PM is going to take the time to read a 7 page treatise on virtually every policy that the Libs want addressed? Not likely.

    Once again the leader of the official opposition writes a letter about Bouchard. Ever the professor. Much easier to write a letter than hold a press conference and have to answer tough questions. Oh I forgot the feckless media would probably simply ask him how he feels about prorogation.

    Anyway Iffy and Donolo should pay attention to Nano’s leadership poll numbers because those are the real indicators of who Canadians think should be running the country.

    • " Much easier to write a letter than hold a press conference and have to answer tough questions"

      That's pretty funny, when you consider that Harper is unable to do either.

    • ROTFLMAO .

  51. This too long for parliament to be shut down.

  52. Toronto is a landscape of the mind… Or was that Alberta? All these stereotypes look alike to me.

  53. HST. He has to go before HST. He might also get a bump from the Olympics if we win gold in men's hockey to add to our win in women's hockey.

  54. Is he paying you to write this drivel? Ignatieff bears an uncanny resemblance to the Muppet Show character, the American Eagle, in both looks and charisma. He comes across as just about as intelligent too. Remarkable that he sound like such an oaf considering his credentials.

    • Can we mark you down as a no?
      liberal party enumerator.

    • Lol, yes he does!!!

  55. Polls that are not close to elections or impending elections fall to general inclinations, historical leanings, rather than voter intention.

    This is why Iggy fell and Harper rose when last fall's election speculation was at its peak and a vote was more to the forefront. And why, when a vote is a distant thought it is now "close".

    This was also why Dion and Harper were "neck and neck" half a year before the election call, and why Dion crashed.

    • Bull shit !

    • The farmer took another load away and I can tell by the smell it ain't hay .

  56. The largly left leaning media very much wants to believe that its active overhyping of this issue or the next attacking Harper has "worked", indeed that's the very purpose of their overhyping.

    But the fundamentals of Harper's government hasn't changed, nor has the state of the country. If anything, the macro picture is better than it was a year a go.

    I realize that whether food may be on the table, and the children's lessons can be paid for, is a petty disruption to what is otherwise far more pressing issues such as… the horrid nature of the 105 prorogation (as compared to the previous benign 104 prorogations), whether Harper ate a wafer, shook his son's hand etc – all things the Ottawa/Toronto/ lefitst media elite view as shocking, shocking events,

    to the rest it just isn't so.

    For these reasons, the next election will not even be close: another very large minority, or majority.

    It's the bread and butter that counts. Always has, always will.

    • Disagree. The poll drop after proroguation is proof that Canadians do care about more than just "bread and butter" issues. It was arguably disparaging comments from Harper about arts and culture that blunted his chances of a majority in the last election. The Canadian electorate may be relatively disengaged, but those examples show you can't predict what will rile them up. I really believe Harper has created great scepticism of himself that was not there before. While I agree that there is still no inspiring alternative, I honestly believe Canadian voters in general will be more likely to believe the worst of him, rather than give him the benefit of the doubt like they have for the past four years. Harper's free ride is over. I just don't see voters buying in so easily to simplistice (and wrongheaded…ie GST cut) bread and butter issues.. As for your assertion that the Canadian media is largely left leaning, I have to disagree with that too. I would characterize the Canadian media as largely progressive, but not necessarily left leaning. Not coincidentally, so are the vast majority of Canadians.

    • Left leaning ? You are insane .Seventy three percent of all media is controlled by ultra right-wing organizations .
      Suggest you do some research .
      Start here .
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji4QSBrsSiQ

  57. Oh to get back to Liberal rule, where prorogation is just some routine procedure, switching parties is a shrewd political move and not the end of representative democracy, and attack ads are par for the course rather than a "new savage form of politics".

    Where a party website suggestive of killing the conservative leader is ignored (as compared to the dastardly pooping puffin), the attire of the nation's leader is returned to the world of the mundane rather than part of some sinister form of public manipulation, agendas are what the government tells us they are, rather than "hidden" far right subterfuge.

    Oh how the media wishes to have Liberals run the country again. Back to the "natural" state of affairs.

    • 'Where a party website suggestive of killing the conservative leader is ignored (as compared to the dastardly pooping puffin…"

      In one case it was put out officially by the party, in the other it was the ravings of a misguided liberal [presumably] and subsequently withdrawn and apologized for. Do you even attempt to avoid misrepresentation at all biff?

    • Back to your sandbox, biffy. You've become tiresome and a bore.

  58. "Signs of life for Michael Ignatieff"

    Sure. He's gone from comatose to lethargic though I agree the past few weeks have been good for Iggy/Libs.

    I will be interested to see if Iggy can change first impression that Canadians have of him – what we've seen from the past year – and believe in this new Iggy 2.0. Am I the only one who wonders who the real Iggy is when he makes it this apparent how much in control his handlers are of him.

    Libs have struggled to get above 30/32% for the past five years, that's the story to focus on. Where have the Lib supporters gone?

  59. Those who suggest "a left leaning media" exists in Canada should stop to consider:

    1. The majority of Canadians are left leaning…just add up the numbers for Liberal, New Democrats and Green party support. If they were united the right leaning Canadians would not stand a chance of even winning a minority government.

    2. The media, therefore, is a natural representation of the political views of our country.

    3. The longer the Harper Conservatives stay in power, the greater the danger that Canada's relatively favourable reputation will disintegrate.

    Too bad we can't get a united left–select the best policies from each and truly move this country forward (I know, I know, wishful thinking on my part) instead of staying with this minority Conservative government which will gradually "Americanize" our nation.

    • That's what the left leaning media would have you believe. Many in the Liberal party are conservative. It was after all the "center" party.

      When Chretien had Martin as Minister of Finance, an argument could be made that they were every bit as conservative as Harper's current government.

    • "The majority of Canadians are left leaning …."

      I agree with that. Even Con Party Of Canada is more Socialist Workers Party than Libertarian/Classic Liberal.

      The rest of what you wrote is wrong, however.

      1) Cons would dance jigs of joy if Liberal party were to disappear and people had to choose between Con and NDP. And NDP supporters would never vote for NDP if they were even less left leaning than they are now.

      2) The media is not meant to represent the political views of the country – they are meant to be advocates for us, the public, against Pols, bureaucrats, big business and the like. And msm does not remotely reflect view of most Canadians – msm is good at covering Liberal internal divisions – Martin/Iggy wing of party (Globe/CTV) and Trudeau/Chreiten/Dion (TorStar/CBC) – but it's not very diverse.

      3) I am not sure what you are talking about. Do you mean favourable reputation abroad? Why should we care what foreigners think of us? We are one of the most tolerant countries in world, why would we care what reactionaries around the world think of us. I don't care all that much what the world's gangsters and murderers think of Canada.

      And I would like to hear more about the Americanization of Canada because that's absurd.

      • I don't think you should jump to the conclusion that what I said was wrong. Journalists are Canadians, just like you and me. As part of the overall general picture then, there are most likely more left leaning journalists, but I don't pretend to have statistics that can prove that. A united left includes a Liberal party, not as you mention, has it disappear. Note I suggest such a party would recognize the value of NDP ideas, as well as the Green. Such a united party would avoid the more extreme policies of each and modify them to make them more palatable for the greatest number of Canadians. There needs to be a role played by all, without representation of the people being skewed totally to the left or right for the best form of government. Thus far, Mr. Harper has modified his actual "true" platform to garner support for his present "Conservative" party, but if his own honest beliefs were made known, his popularity would plunge rapidly. If you google "Harper's Americanization of Canada", you might realize that "absurd" may be too strong a word to use.

        • "If you google "Harper's Americanization of Canada"

          Ohhhh, it's on the internet. Why didn't you say so. It must be true, than.

        • Study after study has shown that journos are not representative of the wider society, but are far more to the left.

          It's not even slightly close. Most honest commentators have recognized this long ago.

          The best defense journos come up with is that they can overlook their leftist tendencies.

    • Those who refer to the left-leaning media (at least with respect to the press) are misinformed. If you go through Canada's newspapers among the partisan commentators there are many more on the right than on the left. For every James Travers there are about two Terence Corcorans (a somewhat scary thought). Of course, not all journalists or columnists are so easy to sort but even when the moderates are included there is still a tendancy to have more comment coming from the right.

      I suspect there are several reasons many on the right feel the press is against them. Fortunately there are very few commentators speaking for the angry racist white man contingent. Also the religious right in the US has been complaining about their press forever. However, probably the most important reason is that those commentators with the most right-wing views in Canada tend to write for the National Post and the Sun chain. So it seems likely that Canadians actually read more left-leaning commentary even though by a substantive margin there is more right-wing commentary written.

    • Those who refer to the left-leaning media (at least with respect to the press) are misinformed. If you go through Canada's newspapers among the partisan commentators there are many more on the right than on the left. For every James Travers there are about two Terence Corcorans (a somewhat scary thought). Of course, not all journalists or columnists are so easy to sort but even when the moderates are included there is still a tendancy to have more comment coming from the right.

      I suspect there are several reasons many on the right feel the press is against them. Fortunately there are very few commentators speaking for the angry racist white man contingent. Also the religious right in the US has been complaining about their press forever. However, probably the most important reason is that those commentators with the most right-wing views in Canada tend to write for the National Post and the Sun chain. So it seems likely that Canadians actually read more left-leaning commentary even though by a substantive margin there is more right-wing commentary written.

      • We'll have to agree to dissagree.

        Also expect a realignment in the media that is similar to what is occuring in the US. Left leaning rags (NYT) are going belly up, why more centrist papers (Wall St. Journal) are thriving.

        The overtly left leaning cable news in the US are now dwarfed by Fox.

        Canada lags such changes, but they'll happen.

        Canary in the coalmine: Kate's SDA is the most read political blog in Canada, by a very wide margin.

        • First of all, the right/left division is tired and pretty unhelpful. Secondly, to describe the Wall Street Journal as centrist is to ignore their rabid neo-conservative editorial pages. The NYT by comparison is more moderate or liberal, sure, but the world-class coverage they provide in their news section makes that worth it.

          By "Kate's SDA" I assume you mean Small Dead Animals, which, though successful, is hardly representative of most Canadians' politics.

          • That thing's a "political" blog? By who's definition?

  60. "The majority of Canadians are left leaning …."

    I agree with that. Even Con Party Of Canada is more Socialist Workers Party than Libertarian/Classic Liberal.

    The rest of what you wrote is wrong, however.

    1) Cons would dance jigs of joy if Liberal party were to disappear and people had to choose between Con and NDP. And NDP supporters would never vote for NDP if they were even less left leaning than they are now.

    2) The media is not meant to represent the political views of the country – they are meant to be advocates for us, the public, against Pols, bureaucrats, big business and the like. And msm does not remotely reflect view of most Canadians – msm is good at covering Martin/Iggy wing of party (Globe/CTV) and Trudeau/Chreiten/Dion (TorStar/CBC) and we are supposed to think this represents the diverse thought of Canadians.

    3) I am not sure what you are talking about. Do you mean favourable reputation abroad? Why should we care what foreigners think of us? We are one of the most tolerant countries in world, why would we care what reactionaries around the world think of us. I don't care all that much what the world's gangsters and murderers think of Canada.

    And I would like to hear more about the Americanization of Canada because that's absurd.

  61. The key event is Ignatieff's admission that under no circumstances will the Liberals force an election in 2010. He had to because if an election was imminent, the ballot question would be: "who do you want to be PM?" and the leadership polling shows Stephen Harper has a wide lead over Michael Ignatieff. Without an election coming, the polls stabilize and attention shifts back to peripheral issues, such as prorogation and Minister Guergis's temper tantrums.

    The key change following prorogation is that Ignatieff can no longer claim to support the Government in the House while using his plurality in the Senate to stymie the Government's legislation. Now if he is against the legislation, he has to resist it in the House. And as he doesn't want an election, this will increase pressure within the Liberal caucus.

    Ignatieff has to convince everyone that the Liberals are committed to a top-to-bottom rebuilding of their party. He could do this by announcing that there will be no elections until 2012 (4 years after last election) and that the March thinker's conference is the first step in the rebuilding, and then do it. He has got to stop the petty and hysterical faux-scandal of the day approach which is failing big time. He has to say there is no quick and easy way back to power for the Liberals – there is only the hard way and it will take time and patience.

    And meanwhile, politically, both Ignatieff and Harper have an interest in cooperating in Quebec. After Lucien Bouchard's outburst, something is going on in Bloc/PQ circles, but what? I like Chantal Hebert's idea of an entente cordiale between Liberals and Conservatives – end federalist vote-splitting by "conceding" the Montreal area to the Liberals, where they are much stronger than the Conservatives, and the rest of Quebec to the Conservatives, where they are stronger than the Liberals and more competitive with the Bloc.

    It is this kind of imaginative cooperation that will do Ignatieff and Harper and Canada some good, if they work together to re-engage francophone Quebeckers into Canadian politics and reduce the Bloc's appeal.

  62. I have to wonder why, if MI was so far down in the polls, why would Harpo resurrected him and in effect increase the Liberal numbers? What shrewed political gamesmanship would allow Harpo to do this? The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that it was just Harpo getting reading for the Olympics out west. You see he must have put back on his leather vest and cowboy hat and then got it wet and it must have squeezed out a brain fart! Note to Harpo….stay with the blue sweater and the piano, the western garb alienates your base and elevates the Liberals (not to mention gives the rest of Canada a good chuckle!!!).

  63. If no one is really paying attention,how could it not be possible for Ignatieff to do better than he has in the past year?Grand empty statements passing as policy visions only mean the public had better watch out for their wallets as once again we will be paying for more experimental social engineering.

  64. Everybody out there- stop & think–with parliament not in session– means– there is more work being done– then when they are sitting– & arguing over -trivial remarks- who made what- by whom—& the never ending shouting— He must resign– or apologize— etc.?
    Iggy– so far has nothing 2 say- that would make me think– he could run a country. @ give everyone a masters degree education–sounds great– but stop & think– if we are all that well educated– ther e would be no jobs–who would do the menial taskes etc.??
    Same goes 4 socialistc thinkers– if we are all taken equal( which we aren't) then we will all be equally poor!!!! So have ur pick–go down the hill– or up. A leader must have convictions–& stand by them– cant be all- 2 all of the people –all the time!!!

    • You must have been in a real hurry to type up that masterpiece. Or rather:

      "U must of bin in a real hurry–dashes–2 type that up!!!"

  65. He'll be PM by June. And an exceptional one.

    • No, he will never be PM!

    • Although I don't share your confidence, I don't think he would be that exceptional. Unless he sweeps Parliament like Chretien did in 93, he will be working within the confines of a minority government. The Conservatives are going to push him right, and the Bloc and NDP will push him left. His policies would be balancing acts, which could still be good legislation, but there would be no room for him to make his mark on the country.

      I say we let a new crop of leaders rise to the top of all the parties… except Gilles Duceppe. He's good to have around for leadership debates.

  66. Claiming that the majority of Canadians are "left leaning" is pure hogwash. The truth is that the majority of Canadians are "centrist" and whoever wins the "centre" wins the election. That is why we never have a federal NDP government. And why we never had a Reform government.

  67. Ignatieff is polling no worse than Chrietian or Harper did as opposition leader. There is a potentiallly big turning point in the next election when the number of voters who are really angry at the governments mismanagement may turn in droves to strategic voting. Economists are distraught at the economic mismanagement of the economy, envirionmentalists dispair at the governments continual refusal to do anything at all on the environment, etc.. This is the most ideological narrow minded government in Canadian history and voters are increasingly seeing this. Look at the way they have catered to narrow interest groups-ie the Rights and Democracy debacle.

  68. Signs of life – hardly.
    Just what does this man stand for and when is he going to tell us ?
    All right, I admit he is persistant in demanding that the few thousand Canadians in Afghanistan take responsiblity for that countries police and judiciary, but name me one other issue on which he has made his position clear.
    Example – I have written him repeatedly to ask for a clear statement of his Liberal parties position on protecting private pension plans in bankruptcy but he continues to dodge this issue and won't even back up statements of Liberal critic Judy Sgro.
    Leadership – not from this guy.

  69. Iggy snuck into his position as leader of the official opposition to start with. Unlimited abortions for women…how typical U.S. Democrat!
    He used their school system to write all his books and now he wants to use Canada. I think he would stand a far better chance in the political realm if he returned to the U.S. and we would all be better off if he did.

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