Dion was an unexpected gift for Conservatives, but Ignatieff was an original Tory prospect


During the Liberal convention in December of 2006, Bob Rae was seen by Conservative strategists as the most fearful prospect that the Liberals had on offer to their delegates. Most messaging that came from the Conservative camp during this time was against Rae and the party did its best to suggest to Liberal delegates that he would deliver economic disaster to Canada like he did for Ontario. The Tories did their best political maneuvering to spike Rae’s bid because focus testing showed that enough time had passed between the sour days of Bob Rae the NDP Premier and the “give-him-a-chance” Bob Rae Liberal leadership candidate. Dedicated Ontario political watchers would remember tough economic times under Rae but apparently the modern dynamic had changed for the typical voter. “He has the chance to be a Canadian Bill Clinton” was how I heard the smooth talking and charming candidate described by a particularly concerned senior Conservative.

Yet, times have changed again and the economic recession is now centre-stage and it doesn’t take a surplus of political sense to acknowledge that a Rae leadership win would have been trouble for the Liberals in the 2006 leadership race, and that in 2009 — if it had occurred. During the 2006 race, as the front-runner, the Conservatives had already constructed a thorough game plan against Ignatieff and believe they had a workable strategy against the American-tenured academic should he become leader of Canada’s natural ruling party. “Ignatieff is awkward and tends to put his foot in his mouth a lot” was the consensus among senior Tory partisans. My sense was that during the 2006 leadership race, while Conservatives were concerned about Rae, they were less so about Ignatieff. And then Dion happened and he became a surprise, a wonderful gift and an unexpected best case scenario for the Conservatives and their Prime Minister.

Today, Michael Ignatieff is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and he’s starting to show strong gaffe potential, a lack of clear policy direction and a generally aloof attitude towards the Canadian electorate. In fairness, I’d say that Ignatieff is much more calm and calculated that his hapless predecessor and instead, we find him focused on the long game. This should help Liberal prospects. Yet, Ignatieff is failing along the predicted lines of the original Conservative assessment. Yesterday, in Cambridge, the good professor mused that “we will have to raise taxes”. As a front-runner-turned-crowned-leader of the Liberal Party, Ignatieff never needed to wedge and never needed to segment in order to differentiate his campaign. It is unclear as to why in a trajectory largely devoid of policy pronouncements that of the rare policy musings he is making, he is offering ideas that are generally seen as unpopular. For example, in an interview with CityTV’s Richard Madan last December, the Liberal leader mused that he’s open to reversing the Conservative’s 2% GST cut.

Few election campaigns have seen bold policy stands by leaders fail so spectacularly. Despite this, we recently saw how the idea of funding non-Catholic faith-based religious schools sunk the PC Party’s prospects during the last Ontario election and for the Liberal Party of Canada, the carbon tax was a federal electoral disaster in 2008. Though Mr. Dion will be scapegoated with the carbon tax and conveniently shelved away, the Liberals will be considering the policy again at their next convention. Though in truth, Mr. Ignatieff was the original proponent of the tax.

Now it seems that Mr. Ignatieff is against such a tax but how can we be so sure given his reversal on this policy that his membership is now proposing? For Mr. Ignatieff, whether we’re taxed on carbon, income, or our purchases, what he’s made clear is that under his leadership our taxes would go up. Though cliché, this paraphrased statement holds:

“A carbon tax if necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

or rather, “a tax is necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

Mr. Rae would have been a wonderful leader for the Conservatives to oppose, unelectable as he would have been though disastrous for Canadians should have assumed residency at 24 Sussex Drive. Mr. Dion would have raised our taxes with a carbon tax. With Mr. Ignatieff, we know that while times are tough, he’d heap on increased government burden. At least with Mr. Dion, we would have known where it was coming from and how to brace ourselves. Terrible Liberal fiscal policy makes for good Conservative electoral prospects. Terrible and ambiguous Liberal fiscal policy makes for great Conservative electoral prospects.

Conservatives are looking forward to a Liberal party led by the professor on loan from Massachusetts. They’re anticipating the Canadian reaction of watching Mr. Ignatieff debate himself on how to best raise our taxes.

Stephen Taylor is a conservative blogger who writes regularly on his blog at stephentaylor.ca

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Dion was an unexpected gift for Conservatives, but Ignatieff was an original Tory prospect

  1. a lack of clear policy direction and a generally aloof attitude towards the Canadian electorate

    Stephen, you lost me somewhere. Which party’s leader are we talking about – the Tweedledees or the Tweedledums?

    Blind partisanship – lol.

    • From the Lib-bot manual:

      1) Do not discuss the points of the article AT ALL
      2) Attack the person, not the content
      3) Complain about balance… “fairness”

      • From the new-around-here-bot manual:

        1) Call oompus a Lib-bot
        2) Wonder why everyone is looking at you funny.

        • my bad. Just wanted to post near the top.

  2. mused that “we will have to raise taxes”

    Reports are that Ignatieff was answering a question. Have you asked Mr. John K. Bell what question he asked and what the full response was? Ignatieff explains that he said we would have to raise taxes if none of the other measures mentioned (reducing costs, reallocating priorites, increased economic activity) got us out of debt.

    • Thanks for putting Mr. Ignatieff’s remarks in context Catherine. Partisan writers never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

      • The fact that Ignatieff can’t state his position clearly enough to NOT require supporters to put it into context should say something.

        • He was very clear, but the context wasn’t reported and then further distorted by pieces like this.

          • He was very clear! He will raise taxes!! He lost my vote!!!

        • mecheng, my point is that Taylor is only using one phrase out of Ignatieff’s response. This is standard CPC and Taylor strategy – pull a few words out of context to mislead.

          • Not only does Taylor pull a quote out of context, he provides a link to a mainstream news article which puts the quote into context!

            Taylor’s a crafty one.

          • Actually the Record reporting on this was weak and incomplete. They didn’t discuss the main part of Ignatieff’s answer, the other things he proposed, and just focussed on a couple sentences at the end.

  3. Wouldn’t it have been just as easy for Macleans to ask the PMO for this week’s talking points? It would’ve cut out the middleman, too!

    • Furthermore, if indeed we are taking Iggy’s words at face value, as Taylor does, what is the Harper plan for dealing with the future situation in which revenues will not meet expenditures? Or does the last man to see the recession coming not have a plan this time, either?

    • Maybe this is a prerequisite to qualify for a federal subsidy from the magazine fund these days.

      • lol!!

      • Meanwhile, the CBC begs for nickels as it shows Avi Lewis reruns.

    • Meanwhile Macleans has a former Liberal PMO staffer (Feschuck) as a regular contributor!

  4. This is such partisan tripe. He’s like a wordy Kory Teneckye.

    • And Scott Feschuck is like a former paid Martin speechwriter who co-owns a business with former Liberal PMO Director of Communications Scott Reid. But darn that Taylor, I disagree with him and he is unworthy of our left-wing love-in.

  5. I should have written “out of deficit” not out of debt.

  6. Here’s the real two part problem:

    1)- This year the government will spend $49.6 billion more than it did in 2005-06 (if they restrain themselves)
    2)- This year the government will only collect $2.7 billion more than it did in 2005-06

    The solution: I unfortunately don’t have one but I am 100% positive that the folks who added 1 and 2 together in order to get us to this point don’t have one either.

  7. … seriously?

    The recession must be hitting Macleans’ hard… this filler provides nothing new and offers an opinion repeated ad infinitum on the interwebs.

  8. I don’t suppose Macleans would think of, you know, adding a Liberal or even a Progressive blogger to their writing roster, just to balance out Stephen’s contributions here?

    I mean, if you’re going to have an admittedly partisan blogger who openly supports the governing party, you might do well to have someone who opposes them as well.

    • Um, go read Wheary and Kady.

      • Nice! Though tone down that authoritarianism a tad. We’re still in blue sweater mode for a few weeks.

    • They already have Kady O’Malley as their progressive blogger. No worry Kady will explain everything once she figures out what the Count actually said.

  9. Scott, Maclean’s doesn’t take it lightly when whiners demand “a right of reply” and “equal time to all points of view”.

  10. Once again, many liberal commentators think they are being clever by not rebutting what Taylor writes but by running around with their hair on fire and getting the vapors because they have to read something written by a Con. It is laughable how these people would describe themselves as ‘smart’ or ‘tolerant’ when we know otherwise.

    I think Taylor is completely overstating the affect Iggy’s tendency to debate himself will have on the electorate. No one cares that Iggy has had to ‘clarify’ his remarks on asbestos and taxes in just the past week or two. Generally speaking, elections are a referendum on the current occupant of 24 Sussex and the oppo leader and his tendency to put foot in mouth is neither here nor there. The only time Iggy’s habit of constantly saying one thing, and then another, will cost him is during election. I imagine Iggy will be up to speed enough by next election to stay on message but we’ll see.

    • Um.. I’m hardly being intolerant about Taylor’s remarks. If Maclean’s thinks that recycled stuff from the PMO makes for great reading, fine. But if you’re going to have 1 avowedly partisan blogger writing attacks on the Liberals and declaring how great Harper is, then what’s wrong with having someone from the other side who is an avowedly anti-Harper blogger presenting the opposing view? Heck, let them take shots at each other’s columns on here.

      • go start your own blog if you don’t like what macleans is doing.

        • Nicely done. Would you like an internship?

        • Obviously, Mecheng, you’ve never clicked on the red highlighted names of people, or you’d see a lot of us do have blogs.

    • Fair enough, jwl, but the above lefty commenters’ reflex to trash Taylor, well, just ’cause look at him, he’s a Tory, STILL scores a direct hit with the accusation that the present government is awash, aimless, rudderless, take your pick.

  11. Leave Stephen Taylor aloooone!

    • About 3 months after fullcomment

      • Taylor has declared his bias in his article. I applaud Macleans for hosting his writing. I disagree with him most (all?) of the time on policy but I think he provides an insider’s view that let’s us into what the Tories are thinking day to day and what they were thinking during the days of Dion vs. Rae vs. Ignatieff. Taylor is present in the Ottawa political culture and his perspective is unique and gives Maclean’s an added view.

        If Macleans readers were interested in the insider view of Toronto basement apartments, I’m sure Macleans would give Jason a call.

        • Thank you “Alex.” The cheque’s in the mail.

          • Look, the OLO is masquerading as the PMO. They’re getting ahead of themselves.


        • An equally effective way of getting this particular insider’s view: cutting and pasting whatever PMO press releases get set to the magazine.

          That’s basically what Taylor does anyway…

    • Oh, for crying out loud, Cherniak. I’m sure you’d have a shot at Maclean’s if you restarted your blog (which I liked and visited regularly, though I probably disagreed with you on most things.)

      • I’m sure Cherniak would jump at the chance if given the same opportunity. Too bad he’d look like a hypocrite if he accepted an offer now.

        • I would actually like to see Maclean’s offer Cherniak a few “guest blogs”. Although the quality of his output has sometimes been inconsistent, I respect him as a talented blogger and I’m sure he would rise to the occasion.

          • I’m not complaining about Taylor in the least. I certainly would take up the offer if it were given. The issue that Macleans has chosen to give Taylor this opportunity but no Liberal (I would think Calgary Grit would be an obvious example).

  12. If Canwest goes bankrupt, Maclean’s could scoop up what’s left of the National Post at a bargain. Maybe, Coyne is auditioning for some — ahem — reporters. Taylor apparently thinks he is one, Janke could be another.

    Either that, or Maclean’s is in bad need of some bailout cash, over and above the 3M or so they get now.

  13. Stephen, maybe you can put in a good word for Maclean’s when the new government ad revenue is allocated?

    • Who says Maclean’s is going right-wing? Look at all of the Liberal bloggers begging for space!

    • What’s wrong SteveV of the Liberal blog? The Walrus not getting enough special tax status for your liking?

  14. So, Macleans lets a very young, impressionable right wing partisan of the Blogging Tories blog here and not bloggers from the other parties? What are you doing there Macleans, sucking up for some funding?

  15. Mr. Whyte….close these comments. That’s an order.

  16. Dear Macleans:

    If I want to read a right-wing shill I’ll go to his web site. I come here for intelligent non-partisan comment.

    • I agree. This has done it for me for MacLeans, I wouldn’t buy the magazine now if it was the last Canadian mag out there – I’d go for an American one.

  17. C’mon folks. It’s exactly for times like this that , on the sixth day , God invented scroll wheels. It works.
    Believe me, I use it a lot.

    • God didn’t invent nuttin, Sis. Haven’t you been paying attention? Scroll wheels evolved.

  18. and this is why I didn’t renew my MACLEANS subscription. *sigh*

  19. I don’t see what’s so offensive about Taylor’s pointing out that Ignatieff fails to be awesome. Iggy isn’t so good, and neither is Harper. They both fail at being awesome.

    It’s also true that Taylor is a big name in blogging circles. Whatever you think of him, there’s no doubt that Maclean’s has every reason to ask him to post.

  20. I’m losing respect for bloggers more and more all the time.

    This one is an example of why — someone who is obviously partisan, and who does not report the facts as the facts happened. It’s been clarified that Ignatieff was answering a hypothetical question in his comments about taxes, and he answered honestly and said any government would have to put all options on the table, but that he would do everything to AVOID raising taxes.

    This has not been reported in this sleazy, Enquirer-style column.

    Waste of space – and the reason why I don’t buy MacLean’s – one of the reasons.

    • I trust you realize this Blog Central space is a supplement to the mag? Your decision to boycott a print publication because of a few pixels afforded a political hack is certainly your privilege. It’s just a little odd.

      • I trust you realize that this blog comes in under the heading ” Mcleans” ?? Yes I’ll boycott a printed publication because of what they allow or pay for under their banner. I have had reason to be annoyed with Mclean’s in the past – enough to write a steamed letter because it affected me personally and I’m sick and tired of their “old boys” network — so this is just icing on the cake. Mcleans is the shits. Not worth it.
        As I see it, from Calgary.

    • Well, thanks at least for taking the time to read it for free online.

  21. So I see where Cherniak and Keller and that Bewitched Lady are rightly perturbed by the writings of Mr. Taylor. I suppose MacLeans are attempting to offset months of Liberal-friendly posts in one fell swoop.

  22. Why is macleans in the business of publishing tory propaganda?

    I will cancel my subscription if this garbage continues.

    • The beauty of Maclean’s is that it publishes a broad range of political opinions. Go read the Toronto Star if you can’t handle views that differ from your own.

        • Not as assine as the piece he did on the PM and Iggy at the hockey game; that was truly pathetic.

        • There is a very fuzzy gray area between “opinion” and “analysis”. I can’t even count the number of the number of analyses I’ve read by respectable columnists and commentators that consisted entirely of poorly disguised opinion.

          • I can’t even count the number of the number of
            Yikes. Time to start proofreading before I hit “submit”.

          • Right you are, but there are varying levels of bona fides, e.g. when one’s own opinion happens to coincide exactly with that of the political party of which one is a paid-up propagandist.

          • A paid-up propagandist? You must be confusing Mr. Taylor with paid political communications consultants like Mr. Kinsella. As far as I know Mr. Taylor has never been paid any money by the Tories.

          • C’mon, the guy is literally as partisan as Kinsella, even if he not as insane. Bias is his raison d’être.

          • Well, maybe not his raison d’etre, but certainly his mode de vie. Personally, I like to judge opinions or analyses on the merits of what is written, as opposed to the extent of the author’s presumed biases.

          • Me too. So we’re fresh out of luck on this post, which consists entirely of gloating at Ignatieff’s gaffe.

          • It is indeed gloating. It is opinionated gloating by an author with an overt partisan agenda. My original point was that there is no reason why Maclean’s should not publish overtly-biased opinions, in addition to covertly-biased opinions.

            The thing is that I don’t have a problem with bias of any sort, particularly when the bias is out in the open. Taylor’s bias as a conservative blogger is visible for all to see, in italics at the end of the post.

  23. Well, well. If Taylor is the best the tories have, and this is his best shot at Ignatieff, i wouldn’t lose any sleep if i were a Liberal stratigist.

    • Looks like you’re losing sleep kc! 1:40am… and doing your best job to post some Liberal pushback!

      • 11,24 BC time actually, toddling off shortly though.

        • It always amazes me how so many inhabitants of the eastern time zones forget that for some Canadians, it’s quite a bit earlier.

  24. Stop censoring my comments.

  25. Stephen Harper has a hidden agenda and I believe he hates his country. I wish Stephen Harper would step down. He’s destroying this country and he’s destroying conservatism.

  26. Although Michael Ignatieff lived outside of Canada, at least he doesn’t hate Canada the way Stephen Harper does. Stephen Harper wants to destroy our country. While he will only partly succeed, he will definitely destroy conservatism in this country. Why must he be such a hateful man?

  27. Pete Tong…..

    You’re a doofus.

    Stop wasting your time an ours.

  28. Beware Pete = evil meanie Stevie might turn his wrathful, balelful gaze on you – be afraid be very afraid. ROFL . Hey back to the topic – this is downright fascinating about the Igster : who would have thought what I find truly amazing is that the party just might be thinking maybe we should actually have a real leadership convention I mean after all were I a Rae supporter I would be complaing loud and clear to the war chiefs .. what with him being remediated and all historically speaking regarding deficits – ROFL – who would have thunk it!

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