Maclean’s Interview: Michael Ignatieff -

Maclean’s Interview: Michael Ignatieff

Ignatieff talks to Kenneth Whyte about how he got to be Liberal leader, the economy, torture, and Machiavelli


Michael Ignatieff

Q: You had a long and successful career as an academic and a public intellectual, you’ve written many books, and you’ve won awards for them. What part of that life do you remember most fondly?

A: Being in the classroom. I come from a long line of teachers: my grandfather was a teacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher—it must be in the genes.

Q: What’s good about teaching?

A: Well, some of it’s being a ham, some of it’s the show. Some of it’s being put under pressure by extremely able, smart young people at Harvard, who just don’t let you take the easy road, and you were testing yourself against people from 85 countries, including lots of Canadians, who were terrific.

Q: You were out of Canada a long time. At some point, in the ’90s, I think, you were invited back, and you said that “you can’t go home again,” and you said another time that the only thing you missed about Canada was Algonquin Park. You seemed distant from the country, emotionally and intellectually. So what changed?

A: I don’t see my story that way at all. You know, I wrote, I made films about Canada. Blood and Belonging was essentially about that.

Q: You did refer to yourself in Blood and Belonging as an alien looking at Canada, an outsider.

A: Well, but a funny kind of alien who’d always been a Canadian. I didn’t feel offshore at all, I felt deeply involved in the country through my adult life, and I don’t think I would have come back at all now, had I not felt this ongoing sense that this is the only place where you can be a participant in public life. I think people have to appreciate how frustrating it became and how lonesome it became, in a curious way, to be always a spectator of other people’s politics and other people’s dramas. No matter how long I lived in Britain or the United States I’d never be a citizen there; I’d never be actively involved. And I also felt, as a Canadian, that I often didn’t understand debates in Britain or the United States. We have a multicultural society in Canada based on the fact that we’re all immigrants. The debates in England, I’d think, “Where are these people coming from? Why don’t they understand what we in Canada understand about multicultural societies?” There’d be moments in the United States when I’d feel, “Why are they banning stem cell research? How is this great republic engaged in policies which just wouldn’t get to first base in Canada?”

Q: But there must be policies that have been formulated and advanced in Canada that you don’t agree with.

A: Oh, sure. Sure, but they’re mine. It’s my country. I can bitch about them because it’s mine.

Q: You’ve been back about three years. What’s surprised you most about Canada now that you’re living here full-time?

A: It’s certainly renewed my patriotism, and I’ve got a book coming out called True Patriot Love, which is no accident. I think the single biggest surprise is the sense of a great country underperforming. I’m a patriot, but an impatient patriot. We’re heavily regionalized; the ties that bind us are weaker than I think they should be. You want to use the authority of the federal government, not to run everything from Ottawa, but to get us a few national projects we can do together, whether it’s energy corridors or building the transportation infrastructure, so we start to feel that we are trying to build a country together.

Q: The moment you raise something like an energy corridor, especially when you’re the leader of the Liberal party, well, you know how talk of energy flowing east-west rather than north-south will play in Alberta.

A: The last thing in the world I would try and bring back is the National Energy Program. I’ve gone to Alberta and said, “We got that wrong,” but for heaven’s sake, Albertans are intensely patriotic and proud Canadians; they want to contribute to a national economy. I’m not saying let’s stop the north-south flow of our energy markets, I’m saying let’s balance east-west and north-south in a way that allows us to use these stupendous energy resources for the benefit of all Canadians. And it’s not just natural gas and oil, it’s hydro. We’ve got an enormous capacity to enhance our east-west grids there that would be for the benefit of all Canadians. That’s the kind of national project I think we should do.

Q: So this is essentially a national project, and not necessarily an economic project?

A: I think you can’t have a national project that doesn’t make economic sense, right? What I hear in Quebec is not, “Leave us alone. Don’t bother, you’re irrelevant.” What I’m hearing is, “Travaillons ensemble, what can we do together?” You hear that from Premier Charest. It’s Premier Charest who says, “Well, you know, we’ve been talking about this darn Quebec City to Windsor train for 30 years, why don’t we do it?” So there’s an opportunity. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties. We’re in recession, we’ve got difficulties, but recessions are also opportunities to do some great things. I’m aware of the complexities, I’m aware that our federation is complex. You do this by consent, not by confrontation, and a prime minister can’t do it all. But a prime minister can lead, he can say, “Here are two or three things that if we did, we’d end up being a stronger country.” I think the Harper government has pursued a strategy of habituation—“You don’t like us, so we’re going to do as little as we can until you get used to us”—and that’s one reason why their vision has never been unveiled, because I think they fear that if the Canadians saw it they wouldn’t like it so much. But it means there’s a vacuum, in my view, where vision ought to be, and I think our party needs to seize that.

Q: Why did you support the budget and ask for regular reports on its progress rather than demand substantive amendments to it? Surely you don’t consider Mr. Harper’s budget to have been flawless.

A: I said it was a flawed budget. We felt that they’re the government, we’re the opposition—it’s their responsibility to manage this economy, not ours, and that the appropriate role for an opposition is to say, “Are you delivering on your promises, and is there other stuff that you’re going to do if this recession gets worse?” So we’ve put them on probation and said, “There is a problem of trust here.”

Q: Isn’t it the proper job of the opposition to say, “We’re an alternative, let us try”?

A: We will be presenting alternative policy.

Q: I mean defeating the Conservatives and taking government.

A: We had an election on the 14th of October. I had to make a decision whether it was in the national interests of the country to go into an election immediately. In my judgment it was not. I’m very aware that we are in unprecedented economic times. Right across the country everybody’s like swimmers in a swimming pool trying to get their feet on the bottom, and no one knows where the bottom is. In those circumstances, adding political uncertainties was not a responsible choice. I also felt that a coalition was not a responsible choice.

Q: Why did you sign the coalition document then?

A: I believed very strongly that a credible threat of coalition was the only thing that would get this government to wake up and give us a budget that was in the national interest. You compare where they have moved from the autumn statement of the 27th of November to the budget of the 27th of January; there’s one reason why they moved, which is that they feared that they would lose government. And we’ve now put them on probation because they can lose government in the next months if they don’t deliver on the promises in the budget.

Q: Can you point to a precedent where the opposition declares a confidence vote on a matter like this and the government falls as a consequence? Usually, the government just blows off such votes and remains in power.

A: Well, I think we have set the table so that it would be extremely difficult for this government to continue in office if they don’t continue to have our support. If we withdraw support they are back to where they were at the end of November, facing a House where they are short of the majority necessary to get their legislation. They can’t blow that off.

Q: The amendments ask the government to report on things like whether the budget and the stimulus package as they are being implemented “are minimizing existing job losses,” and “creating the employment opportunities of tomorrow.” Those are very vague phrases.

A: Not if you look at the failure to fund Genome Canada. Can you think of a better way to create the jobs of tomorrow than to fund Genome Canada?

Q: So it’s going to be up to you to define whether or not the government’s performing well within the very large and loose parameters that this amendment sets up?

A: We would also like to get the parliamentary budget officer in on this—he’s not an officer of the Liberal party, he’s an independent officer—we’d want him to assess things like the deficit projections. Many, many experts are already saying of the Flaherty budget that they are underestimating the revenue drop and overestimating the growth rate, which means that the story they’re telling Canadians about the deficit is not true. Canadians need to know just how deep the hole is that this government is digging. That’s not vague at all, that’s real clear. And decisions like Genome Canada, the decision in respect of the Newfoundland issue— informing a government on the 27th of January that you’re going to change the formula by which their resource revenue offsets are decided—has a devastating impact on one province. One of our criteria is fairness to the regions. Already this government is in difficulty on that issue.

Q: We can expect, then, to be going to the polls this spring if the government’s doing this bad already and you’re determined to bring it down if it doesn’t meet your standards.

A: I don’t engage in idle threats, and I’m not going to issue a threat. I’m simply saying that I was deadly serious when I said there’s some accountability measures, and we are going to take them seriously.

Q: What does it take before you pull the plug on this government and say, “We go to the polls”?

A: I’m not going to enter into hypotheses. What I’m going to say is these are serious accountability measures, and a week into this we already have some concerns. We’re going to watch things, like: is the money promised on infrastructure getting out the door? You can count this stuff. Canadians in the construction industry want the money to flow. Our job is to hold them to making it flow.

Q: So why not be specific, and put down real, firm yardsticks so that everyone knows that if the government doesn’t measure up it’s going to be thrown out?

A: I think you will see that these accountability criteria provide us with a grid which we can present to Canadians almost like a report card and say, “Here’s how they’ve done, folks, here’s the first quarter result. Doesn’t look too good to me,” or “They have met the basic accountability criteria we set down.” My job in opposition is to make sure that the government of Canada keeps its promise to Canadians, and that’s what I propose to do.

Q: One of the criteria is that you have to insure that the deficit is not a burden to future generations. We’re taking on the biggest load of debt since the Second World War. How can that not be a burden to future generations?

A: Well, it’s not a burden if you keep the deficit under control and the plans to get out [of] that are based on reasonable assumptions. As I’ve said, I’m concerned that their assumptions are not reasonable. Now, we’ve gotta watch that very carefully because Canadians, for good reason—because the Chrétien-Martin governments dug us out of deficit—have learned the enormous advantages of not being burdened with structural deficit. And they want the truth, they don’t want to be told a happy song as we sink into the bog, and my job is to say, “Give us the numbers. Just the facts, please, Mr. Flaherty. Just the facts, Mr. Harper.”

Q: You have defended the coalition and the association of the Liberal party with the Bloc by arguing that they’re legitimately elected parliamentarians and, while you might not like what they represent, you respect the fact that they represent a particular constituency in Quebec. Would you enter into a coalition or a similar agreement with the Bloc again?

A: My sense is I’m strongly disposed against it, but I don’t know what situations I’m going to face in the future. I thought it was legitimate to conclude an agreement because I said at the time—and have said since—I didn’t believe it would compromise the national unity of my country, and that was the bottom line for me and for every MP in my party. We’ve all learned a lesson about coalition. One of the things I took away from the experience is it awoke particularly strong feeling in the West. I’m in this country to unite Canadians, not divide them, and I took the messages from the West very seriously. There was a genuine feeling of anger on that issue, and we all have to learn from that.

Q: But the coalition wasn’t a mistake?

A: No, I’ve said that I think the coalition was not a mistake because it showed that if you messed with Parliament, Parliament would turn around and bite you and force you to take measures which this government should have taken in late November.

Q: So a coalition with the Bloc again, if circumstances present, is a possibility?

A: I’ve made it very clear that I have deep difficulty with the very possibility. What I said is that in a future in which there is a possibility of minority governments, I would not exclude making arrangements or agreements, public, transparent agreements, with other parties that will allow me to govern. But notice I did not use the word “coalition.”

Q: I’m not clear what you’re ruling out.

A: I think it’s very difficult for me to do a deal with the Bloc. But let’s be clear why: it’s not because I doubt the good faith of Mr. Duceppe or his capacity to carry out his word. My issue is that they have different strategic objectives.

Q: But you won’t rule it out categorically.

A: I am telling you I would not go into coalition agreements with the Bloc Québécois, period. That rules it out. In a situation of minority Parliaments, Canadians have to get used to the idea that it is responsible for political leaders to envisage the possibility of creating agreements or accords or political arrangements to govern in order to secure stable government, but not with the Bloc.

Q: We’ve got a stable minority Parliament for the foreseeable future. Why not submit to a conventional leadership selection process to legitimize your position as leader of the Liberal party?

A: Well, the competitors for this job withdrew.

Q: So would you invite them to come back?

A: They’ve withdrawn, and so we are where we are. I’m not going to tell them what to do. They’ve rallied to my leadership in a very positive and helpful way, and so we’re working together every day.

Q: You haven’t come up through the ranks of the party in the conventional way. You were parachuted into a safe riding without a nomination fight. Do you not think it would help to establish you as leader if you paid your dues and went through a process like that?

A: I think I’ve paid a fair bit of dues. I’ve worked day and night for the party for three years. The question implies I kind of arranged this transition. It happened because Stephen Harper launched us into a constitutional crisis—not of my making—which required the leadership of our party to take some difficult and tough decisions, and for my rivals to make very difficult decisions—which I strongly admire—and I’ve said I welcome review and ratification of my leadership in May. I’m travelling the country constantly to sit in rooms with the rank and file to take their questions, to respond and react. This is a rank-and-file party and I can’t be a good leader unless I’m listening to them at every step of the way, and at the same time rebuilding this party as a mass-based party. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Q: But were the government to fall and were you asked to form a government tomorrow, you would be coming into the office without having won a conventional leadership race, and effectively getting the leadership through a backroom deal, without having even been elected to the position.

A: Sorry, what backroom deal are we talking about?

Q: It wasn’t a conventional leadership conference.

A: It followed all the constitutional procedures for the party.

Q: I’m not arguing that. You don’t see an absence of democratic legitimacy to it?

A: Well, as I say, we’re going to have a convention in May, we’re going to have a great convention, the rank and file are going to get a chance to ratify my leadership. I have to prove my spurs to that leadership every day to the caucus, and I sit there in front of 250 people with my sleeves rolled up taking questions from anybody, and that’s the way I propose to lead. I’m aware that I have to win my spurs with my party, that I’m very aware of, and so we’re working hard on that.

Q: You once said in a New York Times piece that intellectual life and political life require different sorts of judgment. What did you mean by that?

A: I think in intellectual life you can indulge possibilities or alternatives that are not practical possibilities here and now. The thing I think that you appreciate in political leadership—and great leaders have it—is this kind of unfailing sense of reality, and a sense of what’s possible or not possible in any given situation. The other thing is that politics is about people, so the judgments that you have to make as a political leader are not about ideas, they’re about what this person might or might not do in this or this circumstance, you know? It’s about that, and then it’s most fundamentally a judgment about what the Canadian people want. I had to make a judgment about this coalition issue, and I sat there and I just listened to a lot of Canadians for six weeks. I put my ear to the rail of Canadian life and kind of tried to hear something. Politics is an art, not a science, and so the judgments that you’re making are about people, and they’re judgments about what’s possible, and those are very different than the judgments you make in the safety of academic life.

Q: You’ve quoted Machiavelli’s argument about political judgment, that to be effective you have to follow principles more ruthless than those acceptable in ordinary life, and that a politician needs to know how to do wrong. What did you mean by that?

A: Heavenly days! I’m not going to endorse Machiavelli in a family magazine!

Q: You raised the issue.

A: I just meant that politicians have to make tough and difficult decisions. Whatever you do, someone is not going to be happy. There are very few political decisions that are win-win for everybody, and you have to live with that and accept that and be easy in your skin. What I would never endorse is decisions that involve illegality, that involve cruelty, fraud and deceit.

Q: You did say your political job is theatrical, more so than intellectual life, and that sometimes you’re required to pretend to have emotions that you don’t actually feel, and to take positions that you don’t necessarily believe in, and that’s all part of the job.

A: Of course it’s theatrical, it’s showtime, sometimes. Canadians have a great meter for phoniness, and you’re not going to succeed if you’re a phony. I mean, the thing I like about the job is—and this is the theatrical side—you come into a room of people on a Friday night in St. John’s, Newfoundland, or Halifax, or Vancouver, Surrey, and you know, they’ve got worries, they’ve got mortgages to pay, they’ve had a difficult day at the office. And your job—it is your job—is to get them fired up, get them to believe in the country, get them to believe in the party, get them to believe in you. And I do believe the Liberal Party of Canada is the great engine of positive, middle-of-the-road, common-sense change for our country. I’ve believed it since I was 17 years old. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.

Q: I agree with your observations in the Times piece. I think anyone who writes about politics, who watches closely, knows that politicians engage in a lot of posturing. But you are a politician now and you’re keeping one foot in the intellectual or observational camp—are you going to be able to continue to do that? Because people will read that piece and think, here is this guy saying that we sometimes have to do wrong as politicans, sometimes have to pretend to have emotions, take positions we don’t believe in, and they will wonder if they are being misled or manipulated. Can you be so frank in your observations about politics and still be a politician?

A: Look, if I’ve behaved like Machiavelli counselled, Canadians should throw me out of office.

Q: You’d be murdering rivals, for starters.

A: Exactly. I don’t think we’re going to do that! They’d do more than throw me out of office, they’d put me in jail, and they’d be right to.The kernel of your question is about doing it and observing yourself doing it, and look, I’ve got where I’ve got in my life by doing both at the same time, no matter what role I had. I’ve thrown myself 100 per cent into this role and this life and this experience, but I think it’s very helpful to have a part of you that looks out to one side and sees the ridiculous side, sees when I’ve screwed up, you know? You’ve gotta have the capacity to say, “Now, wait a minute, that wasn’t so terrific.” You’ve gotta be able to observe yourself because it’s the way you improve and get better at what you’re doing. You know, like most people, I’m a work in progress.

Q: On the use of torture, an issue you’ve written about, you said that to defeat evil sometimes we have to traffic in evil, and you did advocate indefinite detention of subjects and coercive interrogation. Do you still feel the same way about those matters?

A: I think if you read the entirety of The Lesser Evil—and I think I can ask that it be read and judged in its entirety—I have a very personal horror of torture.

Q: That’s clear in the piece.

A: I believe that we are faced with people who are a danger to Canadian national security and a danger to our way of life, and we’re part of a global effort, not a war on terror but a global effort, to defeat extremism, and the message in The Lesser Evil, the metaphor that was key to me in The Lesser Evil, was democratic states have to fight this battle with one hand tied behind their back, and it’s because they tie one hand behind their back that they win. So getting to the issue of interrogation, interrogation has to be consistent with Canadian law, consistent with international conventions—like the Convention on Torture—consistent with our international obligations. It has to be rigorous and thorough, because we’re up against some threats to our security, but it must be within the traditions of the Canadian Charter and the applicable laws, and it must be subject to democratic scrutiny.

Q: Does Canadian law allow for coercive interrogation?

A: I don’t believe we should engage in those forms of coercive interrogations. Rigorous interrogation can take place without actions that would disgrace us morally or legally.

Q: What’s the difference between coercive and rigorous interrogation?

A: Rigorous interrogation is consistent with Canadian law and international standards.

Q: So it’s not coercive.

A: Not coercive.

Q: So you no longer believe that coercive interrogation is advisable.

A: When I talked about coercive interrogation, people then made the allusion right away to torture. That was never, ever, ever intended/desired/stated. There is a clear line between tough interrogations that stay on the right side of the law and stuff that gets into the area of moral disgrace, and I’ve always been clear what that line is.

Q: I greatly admired your comments a couple of years ago on Afghanistan. You said that Canada had an obligation to keep its moral promise to the Afghan people despite the mounting death toll, and you said that the Canada you love and respect always keeps its promises. Would you consider committing Canada in Afghanistan beyond the 2011 deadline that Mr. Harper has set?

A: No. My view is that we’ve kept our promise to the Afghan people, we’ve kept our promise to the government, we’ve kept our promise to NATO, but it was never in the nature of an indefinite promise, it was a bounded promise and that the job was to train the Afghan army and police to take our place. Without a fixed deadline we can’t accomplish that work. We’ve got to get the Afghan institutions to be responsible for the security of Afghanistan. And so I’ve been clear on that subject. It doesn’t mean we cease our engagement and investment in Afghanistan. We’ve lost some brave men and women, and their sacrifice must not be in vain, and therefore sustained and even increased involvement on the humanitarian, the political and the diplomatic side seems to be part of what we need to do, but with a particular focus on the political side. I’m just very concerned that we have a military strategy, and our men and women are doing superb work but there is no diplomatic-political strategy. We need to engage with the Americans because we can’t be there forever; it’s not our country. We’ve got to engage with the Karzai government, with Pakistan, with India, with Russia, the geopolitical strategic players in the region, and say, “We all have a converging interest around stability in Afghanistan. How do we get there?” [Obama’s Afghanistan envoy] Dick Holbrooke is the kind of guy who can bang a strategy together, and I hope Canada will be a full player in that effort.

Q: Your wife, Zsuzsanna, is often at your side. How would you describe her influence and her role? She has a public relations background, or is she there for personal support?

A: She is the rock on which the life is built. She has very good political judgment. I talk to her about everything. So it’s not public relations advice, it’s everything advice.

Q: When all’s said and done, what would you have liked most to accomplish for Canada as a politician?

A: Well, I’d like to restore hope, I’d like to be part of a process in which we become more than the sum of our parts, not less than the sum of our parts. I’d like us to do a few great things together in the next decade or so, as long as I’m around—we’ve talked about some of them—strengthen the kind of east-west linkages that hold us together as a people, strengthen our citizenship, our common sense of being Canadians. People are saying, “Let’s do something together. Tous ensemble,” and I hear it from one end of the country to the other. The job of a leader is it say, “Okay, there are 47,000 things we could do together. What are the three we could actually achieve? Let’s roll up our sleeves and do it.”


Maclean’s Interview: Michael Ignatieff

  1. Michael Ignatieff is clearly the most intelligent and most candid party leader we’ve had in this country since Trudeau. He may have flaws, but he doesn’t pretend otherwise. I’ve never read a more impressive interview. He’s restored my hope.

    • “most intelligent”

      Do the math Jack. Ignatieff said no to having the bloc as his coalition mates, but says coalition kept Harper in line. Had he been lib leader last fall, according to his sans bloc statement, where would we be at right now?
      His last answer in this Q&A starts with ” I’d like to restore hope”. That seems very familiar – oh ya! That fellow from the south – Hopey – Changey. I guess if that blather sells to the naive liberals in the states why not try it here? If playing on peoples fears is intellegent, then yes, Iggy`s intelligent.

      • I’m afraid it takes intelligence to notice intelligence, glak.

    • Jack Mitchell, I have to ask you what you are basing this glowing review on. Iggy may have been getting loads of flattering columns from the punditry and the American press, but what has he done exactly to merit all this?

      • I was just basing it on the interview, and mainly on the lack of clichés. For me, clichés in a politician’s mouth are symptoms of stupidity and general cowardice. I don’t know how Iggy would do in government, but the fact that he was thinking about his answers and not just reciting press releases means he at least might retain his ability to think in PMO. That’s enough to make me glow.

        • ” don’t know how Iggy would do in government, but the fact that he was thinking about his answers and not just reciting press releases means he at least might retain his ability to think in PMO.”

          Yeah or he’s just a smooth talker, Jack.

          • Well, that would sure be a breath of fresh air.

    • Michael Ignatieff is quite impressive in this interview, I agree!

      His credentials are also very impressive. Ignatieff is a recognized historian and author; he has written many books that are read internationally. He has written extensively on international development, peacekeeping and the international responsibilities of Western nations. A lot of his non-fiction social/political issue books have been translated to other languages; his books and ideas are read in other countries, and have received many awards. Apart from being an international author, Ignatieff has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, political commentator, filmmaker, professor at various universities, and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Ignatieff has nine honorary doctorate degrees.

      I share your sentiment on him restoring my hope.

  2. Yeah right Iggy is the man clearly an intellectually superior fellow alright. I love the boasting about close he is to Obama and crew : as apparently one of Obamas circle read one of Iggy’s books – hey maybe it was ‘ Blood and Belonging ‘ as if you want some insight on Iggy and how he feels about Ukrainians – check it out! Good grief talk about major foot and mouth disease. Calling himself one of those old time great russians as opposed to those low life lesser russians like Ukrainians – ROFL LMAO .. man my stomach hurts from laughjing so hard. Clearly a superior intellect = maybe as the jury is still out but Clearly a Big Mouth = no doubt about it.

    • Admit it, Wayne. You want out of the Conservatives. You left the LPC thinking you’d never be back, but now, as usual, never proves to be an awfully long time, and Stephen Harper really doesn’t help things, does he? Now, I know how hard you’ve tried to be on this Harper fellow’s side – we’ve all seen how hard you tried, but there’s been a whiff of longing in your posts of late.
      Your fingers may type, ‘Look at all the ways I’m opposed to this Ignatieff person,’ but your heart says, ‘Aw, let’s just chalk it up to Great Man Syndrome and get those fingers dialing my local Lib office already.’

    • I don’t think you even read the book Wayne!

      • Of course I never read the book good grief! What are you kiding and spend time other than ranting on web forums and actually turn into an elitist!!! Why the next thing you know I would be attending gala’s and the like god forbid. Nope I am still 100% a Harper neoconbot thingy or however frustrated left wing nuts insult us CPC’ers. As to the post above sorry no deep seated thoughts about dating Iggy coming from me as I am just beginning to look forward to this fight … espescially now that Dion is gone – like giant breath of fresh air in the HOC and that’s for sure. Iggy will put up a good fight but in the end there are just going to be a lot more frustrated left wing nuts out there. The best part is now that Iggy burned the coalition bridge permanently and the ABC movement is dead and toe tagged and the very best part the LPC numbers up a bit (which is best case scenario for us CPC) as there is nothing worse than leading too far ahead in the polls. Not to mention the fact that my boy Stevie is apprently being pronounced DOA – this is the best news as every other time you hear that the next thing you know he wins again.

        • Oh Wayne, you are absolutely my favourite neoconbot thingy. I’m pleased for your sake that your boy Stevie is back up on his hero-worship pedestal. I wonder how he got back up there, but at least the world as I know hasn’t come to an end, after all.

      • Wayne if you had read his book you would know that the Ukrainian remarks were taken out of context. As an “admirer” of Iggy i figure you just read the controversial press coverage.

        • “Press coverage?” I blogged through every smear of the 2006 campaign and that was one of the ones even the most credulous reporters laughed off quick. If you’re part of the “But Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery” crew” it isn’t like telling them to just read the damn book will help.

  3. I’d send a number of the anti-Iggy for anti-Iggy’s sake folks over to Afghanistan to help with the drug eradication program.

    My inner Darwin suggests that their efforts would result in the average height of the plants to decline over time.

  4. I appreciated Iggy’s candour. He wasn’t regurgitating media releases or party talking points.

    And I think he did a good job defining who he is — as opposed to simply comparing himself to another leader or his party to the other parties.

    To this day, I really have no idea what makes Harper tick: what he believes in – where his beliefs originated.

    He seemed very adult and responsible to me.

    • “He wasn’t regurgitating media releases or party talking points.”

      Of course he wasn’t. He was talking about himself. Why would he need talking points to talk about his favourite subject?

      • I think you could be right. But that doesn’t exclude him from making a good PM .After all, SH never talks about himself – one of his few virtues in my opinion – and he’s turning out to be a very bad PM.

  5. Wayne — the country has denied Harper a majority – three times in four years. And he couldn’t even win a majority against Dion. What exactly makes you think he can beat Ignatieff?

    I don’t think he will run in the next election.

    • First there have only been 2 federal elections with Harper so I am unsure as to what 3 rd one you were watching. The reason I believe that that the CPC will win next election is based upon common sense and some basic strategy (though it is about 60 -> 40 right now and this may change as it is way too early to tell). First off consider the following 12 more seats for a majority = a very and I mean very good position to be in the house whenever the writ drops. A far more divided opposition than we had before. Let’s be honest now the coalition was the fly in the ointment and this has been successfully removed from their range of options resulting in the NDP, BQ and the LPC returning to thier internecine warfare. Therefore divide and conquer will more than likely result in more 3 ways by CPC. Of course everything hinges on the economic numbers come this winter and early next spring as that is the only window Iggy has … as he can not wait longer as god forbid the troops start coming home and then the economy picks up – this would be unacceptable to the LPC and downright stupid. This idea that my boy Stevie may pack it in is a form of frustrated left wing nut dream wish fulfillment. The only thing Stevie wants to avoid right now is playing the game stupidly over the next while as he has to take all the heat coming his way at present. Let’s be candid folks you sit in the seat you take the heat and what I am really impressed by are how good he is polling at present I was assuming the numbers would be way worse but then again the canadian voter shows time and again how much more sense he and she have than a lot give credit for.

      • Three elections: 2004, 2006, 2008. Harper peaked in October 2008 and then blew it.

        • Sorry catherine but you have confused a leader selection with an federal election as there have been only 2 Harper is on his second term as PM and increased the seat count to only 12 more for a majority. Now I know you want to keep believing that Harper has blown it as you put it .. however … as with all such knee jerk hyperpartisan reactions they are rarely accurate and invariably disappointing to the holder. This is probably why the Harper haters out there are almost always … well dare I say … are not very good examples of people who keep their emotions in check on web forums. This is a very good sign in that emotional people more oftten than not make very stupid mistakes.

          • Sorry Wayne, but there actually have been three elections in which Harper ran as leader of the Conservatives federally. To refresh your memory, in 2004 he ran as leader of the newly formed Conservative Party and lost against Paul Martin who formed a Liberal minority government with Harper as leader of the opposition. In 2006 Harper won his first Conservative minority government on the strength of the sponsership scandal and a series of popular promises such as cutting the GST by 2%, defeating Martin and leading to Martin’s resignation. In 2008 Harper got another closer minority running against a weaker Liberal leader in Dion.

            Compared to Dion, Ignatieff is more centrist and thus less likely to compete directly with the NDP, Greens and Bloc for the far left-progressive fringe votes, but rather could stand to take soft Conservative votes in the middle of the spectrum from Harper. Basically, the “tent” of the Liberal Party is wider now than it was under Dion, and since Iggy is considered new blood, no one can hang the sponsorship scandal around his neck like they did to Martin.

            That being said, there are other factors at work here. The Conservatives, have shown that they aren’t that scary in practice, and so the “hidden” socially ultra/neo-conservative agenda argument is less likely to see play compared to in earlier elections, though this may also begin to alienate the far-right fringe of their support that they’ve been able to rely on since the days of Reform. Poor social conservatives have been abandoned by everyone but the Christian Heritage Party…

            On the other hand, this whole recession is likely to make the economy the number one issue (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) for some time. Thus, I’m inclined to think that who ever can best convince the public that they can “fix” the economy is likely to do best in the next election. Harper is ill-positioned in this case, and is likely to “wear” the recession much in the same way that Martin “wore” the sponsorship scandal, regardless of how much control they actually had over those things.

            I think Ignatieff is a worthy intellectual and strategic opponent for Harper that everyone has been expecting to eventually lead the Liberals, and Harper will have a real fight this time around. Poor Dion, such a nice man, but a terrible politician… Err, where was I, oh yes so I think Ignatieff has been underestimated by his detractors, and perhaps overestimated by this worshippers. He doesn’t quite have the charisma of an Obama or even a Trudeau, but such comparisons are unrealistic. He compares favourably to Pearson, Mackenzie King, Chretien, and Martin however, as a pragmatically sound and moderate leader with enough charm to surprise people.

            I do note that a lot of people seem to call him arrogant, but as this interview seems to show, if you actually read carefully what he says he seems more self-effacing than arrogant. Perhaps a bit too intellectual and technocratic for the anti-intellectual populists who consider any expert opinion to be elitist poppycock, but then those people weren’t voting Liberal anyway…

          • “…knee jerk hyperpartisan reaction…” Listen to yourself Wayne. The lady only told you that you were wrong, and you were. Try and be a man about it!

          • Three federal elections with Harper, Wayne. Are you sure that this ‘Iggy’ character hasn’t got you in a bit of a tizzy?

          • CWE: There’s this odd effect when the feigned tone of respect currently in vogue slips, and we get a foretaste of the rhetorical environment we’ll enjoy “once he disappoints them.”

          • I see what you are doing as you are including the previous attempt where he lost and then saying ” Canadians have denied him him a majority 3 times = well sort of makes sense. I guess … personally I would only include the ones where he ran for PM and won and then from that point you could accurately state that a majority was denied. Okay I hereby officially state that, and this is for the record ” I apologize ” my bad … so sorry …. (a momentary knee jerk reaction of hyperpartisanship on my part and no doubt about it)

  6. I thought this was an excellent interview. Can I ask a follow up question?

    Where did Ignatieff learn to suck and blow at the same time? Harvard?

    A talented man indeed!

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is a school of journalism nowadays that believes in what one could call the Tim Russert Question. And I’m sorry, I regret the man’s untimely and tragic death and I got a cool vibe off of the guy, but he was known for this style.

    It is, essentially, that you ask nothing but gotcha questions, have the interviewee spend the entire show contorting out of them in the way best calculated to appeal to the audience (and demonstrate their thinking-on-the-fly chops),

    Which I guess is alright as a form of sunday entertainment, but is it really “hard hitting, probing journalism?” Or is it just flashy because of the gotcha and making the mighty squirm?

    I’m an Ignatieff supporter but I’d have had the same reaction if the interviewee had been Mr. Layton or Mr. Duceppe: you don’t learn anything by asking questions that are so leading that they -require- a defensive and politically astute answer (as opposed to a frank, interesting, or unexpected one.) The process actually accentuates the already marked tendency -away- from frank, interesting and unexpected points of view.

    What did we learn? Some people learned “Ken Whyte is a hard-hitting interviewer,” which is to his benefit. Some people learned “Ignatieff has a reasonable answer to a criticism I’ve heard leveled against him.” Some people learned “Ignatieff can handle himself.” But none of those three things are, to my mind, as interesting as what we might have learned if an interviewer had just -neutrally- asked all of the above questions, in a way which didn’t virtually demand that Ignatieff state the official, canonical position of the party on each issue.

    • Ken Whyte is not a hard hitting interviewer, or only when it suits his mood. His interview of SH was a disgrace. ” Free spending liberals” anyone! [ Retch!!! ]

      • By hard hitting interviewer I mean in the Tim Russert style, which chiefly means that some substantial proportion of the questions are intended to have a “when did you stop beating your wife” begged question for the answerer to wrestle out of.

        The ultimate consequence of that is just that you wind up with the politician being as defensive and formal as can be reconciled with an attempt to sound frank and straightforward. Logic being, “if the mighty interlocutor is squirming, than the interviewer must be doing a bang up job.”

        If he’s been softball with other pols, that’s a seperate issue altogether; at any rate, it’s something you see all the time in normal journalism, not pieces by editors-in-chief. All part of what you might call the instrumentalization or weaponization of political discourse in Canada: you don’t ask questions, you launch attacks. You don’t answer them, you defend them and launch attacks of your own. The result is not (nor is intended to be) informative, but rather influential. Instruments, not communications.

  8. We’ve all learned a lesson about coalition. One of the things I took away from the experience is it awoke particularly strong feeling in the West. I’m in this country to unite Canadians, not divide them, and I took the messages from the West very seriously. There was a genuine feeling of anger on that issue, and we all have to learn from that.

    If Iggy is able to follow through on the “take the West seriously” rhetoric it could be a game-changer for him.

    • It’s such a no-brainer that it’s amazing the Liberals haven’t gone there already. I do hope Iggy is serious about it, the country needs it.

  9. Mr Harper appearantly was suprised by the global economic realities, and the effects of this on Canada.
    Mr Ignatieff supports that type of leadership for Canada, after all Mr Harper is a trained Economist.
    dude aint near as smart as he say’s he is!
    This coalition will only get us all more of the same old same old!
    The Liberals will lose credibility fast.

  10. I still don’t accept the “I’ve been working day and night for the Liberal Party for the last three years”. Oh, WELL then, your distance from Canada emotionally and geographically for the better portion of your life is dismissed then. Furrow your brows at the budget your party and two others insisted on (wait, the “plan” was to spend more than that, wasn’t it?). I feel like I’m reading The Emporer’s New Clothes. Yes, Harper does have a masters in Economics. How many other economists have said “no one could have predicted the crisis would run this deep”? How did the coalition’s little tantrum (at cutting government spending on political parties, and holding off on strikes for the next two years for the greater good of the economy….not losing jobs but maintaining some predictability in the job market) help our economy? Did it strengthen our country in the world markets? How is Ignatieff’s you’re-on-probation-and I-hold-your-career-in-my-hands applaudable when Harper’s you’re-responsible-for-your-own-fundraising and unions-be-content-for-a-while-until-we-see-what’s-happening so deplorable? In retrospect, where would we be economically if Layton had kept his little shenanigans to himself and Harper was actually allowed to govern instead of placating Ignatieff? Who is Ignatieff that he believes he can walk in, become interim leader by default (buddies stepped down for him) and Canadians will accept him yanking our leader’s chain? He’s a consultant, a political advisor at best. He himself says you can’t please everyone all the time and sometimes you have to make the hard decisions. He says you have to put on an act for people…blah blah blah. This isn’t a University class or a film set. Go back to writing books and let Harper do his job. How many of us could get anything done at work under these same circumstances?

    • Wish I would have posted this … well done no doubt about it!

  11. Lucy,

    Hear, hear!

    Very well said.

  12. Iggy’s bringing the big tent Liberal Party back. Being on probation is going to be the least of Mr. Harper’s worries. I’ll be happy once we have a unifier in the PMO instead of a divider.

  13. Okay, when you look at the responses, it seems there some jealousy on the right side of the aisle.

    You know insecure people criticize those they feel inferior to the most.

  14. I have been sitting on the fence with regard to Mr. Ignatieff for some time. Just returned to Canada to find this interview.
    First off, I think he made the right call regarding the budget.
    Harper has moved a long way since November 27th – this budget shows it.
    There are indeed flaws – pay equality – attacks on public sector unions – but the main objective to is to get out a great deal of credit out of the door to kick start the economy. The budget does that – on paper – and if the fiscal checkpoints help to force a faster flow of the real dollars – they do their job.
    I agree with Mr. Ignatieff that the Federal Government has to do more to come up with projects that impact ALL Canadians – another Health Care – or at the very least – a serious attmept to finish what Romanow proposed!
    I vigorously disagree with Mr. Ignatieff in categorizing the National Energy Program as a mistake. Heck – we want one more than ever right now – just as the US needs one! President Obama sees this – and has the vision to reach for it. It WILL unite Americans over the long term – AND have a profound effect on their foreign policy too! All I read in Mr. Ignatieff’s statement is a feeble attempt to appease Albertans – and to a lesser extent – Saskatchewans!
    Can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs Michael – and I don’t want what is good for Canadians as a whole to be held to ransom by one (or two) western provinces – any more than I wanted Quebec separatistes to try and rekindle that narrow issue.
    Not only that – but if you have read recent statements by Peter Loughheed – you will see he has significantly modified his position of 35 or more years ago…

  15. Iggy’s worse than Dion, he can speak English, but everything that comes out of his mouth is just so much Lieberal bafflegab.

    The Power Corp Kid, Buffalo Bob Rae, and his gang haven’t been sitting idly while Iggy pontificates, watch for them to knee cap Iggy before the year is out. They’ll bushwhack him out behind the barn while Professor Puffin is smelling the manure before he attempts to hide the excrement in a fashion becoming the little industrious bird that he so admires.

    When is someone going to ask Iggy about his first wife and two kids? He left them for his publicist?

    The free ride is over.

  16. This is a good interview for exposing the fundamental contradictions in Ignatieff’s positions. The guy is getting such a light ride, despite having completely incompatible arguments. What a crock — the next Obama of Canada…I’ve never seen such an opportunistic and arrogant politician, with atrocious positions on world affairs. The guy is a neocon war monger, send him packing. His book Empire Lite is a joke pretending to be scholarship, an apologetic tract for US occupations and wars of aggression.

  17. Thanks for sharing this Ken. I really appreciate this.