Ignatieff’s summer of discontent - Macleans.ca
 

Ignatieff’s summer of discontent

GEDDES: The Liberal leader is in a deep political funk with no easy way out


 

Mike Cassese/Reuters

Only a true foreign policy wonk would expect to be stirred up by a document called “Canada in the World: A Global Networks Strategy.” But the platform paper unveiled by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff with a major speech in Toronto this week tossed more red meat in the direction of his demoralized hard-core partisans than the title hinted.

On its way to detailing a new Liberal approach on everything from Afghanistan to doing business with Asia’s economic giants, the paper swerves to slam Stephen Harper in a style more typical of a campaign stump speech than a policy blueprint.

That digression, just four pages into the 24-page paper, indicts the Prime Minister for allegedly embarrassing Canada on climate change, adopting a lopsided pro-Israel stance on the Middle East, neglecting India and China for too long, and inviting a dressing-down recently from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by, among other things, excluding abortion funding from a foreign-aid push to promote maternal health in poor countries. But the intended zinger reached way back to before Harper even became PM, sniffing that Canada is being “governed by an ideological tactician who did not travel outside North America before becoming prime minister (except for one trip as leader of the opposition to accompany prime minister Paul Martin to a World War II commemoration).”

The point of bringing up Harper’s lack of wanderlust is, of course, to contrast him with Ignatieff, who spent decades seeing the world, including hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan, as an author and documentary filmmaker before returning to Canada in 2005 to try his hand at politics. Remember that exotic, intriguing version of Ignatieff? Top Liberal strategists wish more Canadians did. After a year and a half as leader, he’s looking more like a typical floundering opposition politician, with the demoralizing twist that he’s been battling speculation that his party is so feeble it needs to look to a post-election coalition with the NDP as its best hope of regaining power, or even to merging with the NDP outright.

Announcing the foreign policy strategy looked like a bid to play to Ignatieff’s strengths, timed to exploit Tory embarrassment over plans for the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto later this month. The Liberal party set the stage for Ignatieff’s “Canada in the World” speech by unleashing radio attack ads, along with a YouTube video, that hammer the government over the $1.2-billion cost of hosting the meetings of world leaders—including a jaw-dropping $900-million security bill and frills like the now infamous “fake lake” display at the Toronto summit venue. As well, the Liberals announced that Ignatieff will “barnstorm” the country this summer with a string of campaign-style bus tours, broken only by a five-day trip to China in early July.

None of it will amount to much, though, if Ignatieff can’t find a way to start connecting with Canadians. His party is mired in the mid-20s in polls, trailing the Tories in the low-30s. Pollster Nik Nanos’s regular tracking of Canadians’ preference for prime minister is even worse news for Liberals, with Harper favoured by nearly 30 per cent last month, compared to Ignatieff’s 17 per cent. Yet Nanos says the Liberal leader, unlike his rivals, still has a chance to redefine himself in the popular imagination. “Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton have been around a long time; it’s hard to get excited about them,” Nanos says. “Ignatieff remains the question mark in the whole equation.”

For most Canadians, the answer to that question—should Ignatieff be prime min­ister?—likely won’t come until he’s subjected to the intense scrutiny of an election run. Still, he’s already test-driving tactics designed to improve his rapport with voters, notably speaking without a formal text, a switch meant to bring out his natural voice. Back when Jean Chrétien was struggling as Liberal leader in opposition in the early 1990s, he also improved his speech-making performance by shifting from prepared texts to less scripted addresses. (Chrétien’s former communications director, Peter Donolo, signed on as Ignatieff’s chief of staff last fall.)
Reaching broad swaths of voters before a campaign might be impossible. But pundits, politicos, and other potential opinion leaders are another sort of audience. The “Canada in the World” policy offers frequent reminders of what a lot of them liked about Ignatieff’s pre-politics persona, when his name was associated with intellectual excitement rather than political frustration.

It calls for making the founding Canadian constitutional objective of “peace, order and good government” the guiding concept behind federal overseas aid—as Ignatieff first proposed in a guest lecture to Foreign Affairs bureaucrats in Ottawa in 2004 when he was still a Harvard professor. And it touts the “responsibility to protect” doctrine for UN-sanctioned intervention, including sending in troops, in states failing to protect their populations from conflict or mass human rights violations—a concept Ignatieff helped frame as a member of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty a decade ago.

Ignatieff’s new positions, however, are more likely to spark debate than his recycled old ones. On Afghanistan, he said that after Canada withdraws from combat next year it should take on the training of Afghan soldiers and police, perhaps establishing a new staff college in Kabul. “Are Canadians content to walk away with the job half done? I think not,” he said. “However difficult it may be to say so, I think there is more work to be done.” On the Middle East, he set up a clash with the Conservatives by accusing Harper of “squandering Canada’s influence in the region” by siding too rigidly with Israel. The Liberal policy urges Israel to ease the blockade of Gaza to allow more building materials through, and opposes Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Embattled Liberals are hoping the foreign policy push, combined with a hard-hitting attack on the Tories’ spending on the G8 and G20 summits, will help Ignatieff turn a corner after a tough spring. Still, some fear all the talk of a merger with the NDP—despite no important, active Liberal publicly backing the idea—has already done lasting harm. “It’s given the Conservatives a ready-made election message,” said veteran Liberal strategist Michael Robinson. “But it’s also been a wake-up call. Liberals are saying, ‘We can’t afford to do this anymore.’ ” Any fresh determination to stay on message, though, will only last if Ignatieff keeps giving Liberals reasons to believe through what’s shaping up for him as a summer of grinding, high-stakes work.


 

Ignatieff’s summer of discontent

  1. Yeah!!! That's what all Canadian's are wondering – when are we going to reinforce are Diplomatic Service!! WTH!!! Cause given all the economic instability; Above all, We are really concerned about our soft power, especially in the middle east where we have been soooo influential.

    Iggy et.al: Sure, we tried to call the military: war criminals, but whatever extend the mission.

    Hey, did you ever hear about the time Iggy's Dad was in London when the Germans were bombing the city, and he thought (or said to Mr. Pearson) that something should be done, or did he say " Oh this is not good" – Wow, what an oracle!

    • Hear is my letter to my MP

      Dear MP Guy/Girl,

      I voted for you with the expressed hope that you would bring peace to the Middle East, and, perhaps elsewhere. Unfortunately, you have failed me. So, I will now vote for the Green Party, as they have promised me, to decrease the average temperature of the Earth by more than 2 degrees.

      Good Luck,
      Canadaman

    • "Sure, we tried to call the military: war criminals"
      ————————————————-

      Idiot.

  2. I imagine Iggy and Bob Rae up on a building-top when The Germans are bombing London. Iggy would mention, 'it isn't a good thing," and Bob would reply "Well, it isn't a good thing; however, it is not necessarily a bad thing"

    • Bob: "I am concerned those Spitfire pilots don't have proper writs on their person. Better return them to base to check."

      Or

      "Lets not lose our influence with the Germans"

  3. When Harper first gained the party leadership, I thought he had no principles but considerable intellect. As time went on, I came to the conclusion that he may perhaps have a few principles and he is even smarter than I thought.

    When Ignatieff first gained the party leadership, I thought he was a principled man with considerable intellect. As time goes on, I am coming to the conclusions that perhaps he has none and is considerably less intelligent than I thought.

    Smarts are good, but they're a bonus. A man can't lead if he doesn't genuinely believe in something. I don't think Ignatieff does, and I get the distinct impression that he is just casting around for a way to pretend – convincingly – that he holds something close to his heart besides himself and his ambition.

    • For years, nobody considered Harper to be a serious contender for PM. He was too lacking in charisma, too identified with the religious right, and too unlikable. Well, Harper, over the course of several years and a couple of elections—helped along by an implosion of the Liberal party—managed to do what most people figured he never would: become Prime Minister. People still see him as unlikable, uncharismatic and right wing. …but now the common comment is "but he's better than the alternative."

      If Harper can do it, don't rule out Ignatieff. I suspect he'll do exactly like Harper: try, fail, and try again until he gets it right.

      It's not like he actually has a huge task to accomplish. He ONLY has to become more likable than Harper.

      • I agree to a point. It would be unwise to write him off totally, you just never know. But Harper didnt win by being more likeable than Martin, so your presciption isnt quite accurate.

        The Tories, in their successful campaign rolled out policy after policy and set the agenda. The policies were attrcative, at the time, to enough people and they overcame the meme that they werent ready and had no agenda. Also a lockdown on the party prevented dinosaur eruptions, another sign the party and the leader had the ability to manage themselves.

        If the Liberals were to do the same they need all of the policy lined up for the campaign and they need to lock down their MP's, their candidates and their advisors. They have a summer to do it.

        The answer for Iggy and the Liberals has been the same since 2008, they justkept kicking the can down the road and prayed for a miracle. If they had started earlier they would be further along, and some would argue well ahead in the polls by now. A lesson in shortcuts I would say.

      • MTB……perhaps Ignatieff should work on becoming more likeable with his Liberal caucus before he tries to convince Canadians that he is fit to be PM.

        With only 17% support in leadership numbers he will not get a chance to run a second losing campaign. The party will make sure of that.

        Despite all of the perceived problems of Harper and the government the government continues to run ahead of the Liberal party. They have thrown everything at that them but the kitchen sink and Canadians still aren't buying the carpetbagger who would be PM.

    • When Harper first gained the party leadership, I thought he had no principles but considerable intellect. As time went on, I came to the conclusion that he may perhaps have a few principles and he is even smarter than I thought.

      I have come to the opposite conclusion: I wonder whether Stephen Harper has any principles at all. What does he stand for? Other than being "tough on crime" – and even that has been stalled due to assorted tactical prorogations. He seems willing to say anything or do anything so long as it consolidates his personal power.

      And Harper's formidable intellect is more than offset by his seeming inability to collaborate with anyone or to attract talented people to work alongside him to govern the country. Who on earth would want to be a Conservative MP? The job description includes the requirement to spout partisan nonsense as directed by the PMO, and to otherwise do as you're told. Intelligent, capable people who have been successful in other fields are not likely to put up with that for long, even if they are conservative by inclination.

      • Out There…….Obviously you believe everything you read. That's not too smart in this Liberally dominated country. You are believing the story line of the media.

        You forget that this is a minority government that has been in power for almost five years. Obviously they must be working with at least one of the opposition parties in order to get their legislation passed. You need to change that talking point.

        As for this thing about nobody wanting to run as a Conservative you only have to look at the Liberal party to see the chaos created by an undiciplined caucus. A leader must have all of his MPs singing from the same song book and particularly when it is a minority parliament. This unified caucus is a strength not a weakness as you portrayed it to be.

      • Actually I know at least two Conservative MPs personally who are intelligent, capable people who have been successful in other fields…. so I know that part of your argument to be false by direct counterexample.

        As to Harper, I admit it's pretty murky to decipher what he stands for (which is why originally I thought he didn't stand for anything). As PM, however, he's held the line on at least two issues that looked like they were going to cost him politically: abortion funding in foreign aid, and minimizing the stimulus idiocy. I attribute those to principle although I can certainly see how the opposite conclusion is also reasonable.

        • That's extremely thin, esp. on the stimulus part.

          Mulroney believed in stuff and it almost wrecked the country. If Chretien believed in stuff he was more than willing to shove it aside if he felt it necessary. Yet Chretien was by far the better PM.

        • MINIMIZING IDIOCY. Wow, now there's a slogan. "We only wasted dozens of billions, and we got to keep the shovel!" Zowie, tell me where the next rally is so I can thank Prime Minister Minimatard in person.

          • I realize it's a low bar, but when it comes to government intervention in the economy "minimizing the idiocy" is probably all that can be hoped for.

          • Surely anything resembling principle would have looked like "I won't increase spending".

            It's like saying his cave on softwood lumber was principled because he lost several billion, but he could have lost even more.

          • No, dammit. Avoiding short- and long-term damage from misguided intervention is what should be hoped for.

      • What Harper stands for, primarily, is achieving and holding on to power. He does not govern, he campaigns non-stop. The tough on crime agenda has nothing to do with principles, but everything to do with garnering votes. He has no respect for Parliament or its institutions, and has done a lot to undermine them. Harper runs a one-man show and hates to share the limelight – thus shipping the Governor General off to China, so that he alone can share the stage with the Queen on Canada Day.

        • inge…..first of all every politician wants to have and to hold on to power. Harper is no different.

          He campaigns non stop because he has three left wing parties in the House who at any moment could vote non confidence not because of any real rationale but because of ideology i.e. liberal view of the country.

          No respect for Parliament? That's simply hogwash to put it gently. It is the opposition who is making a mockery of the system and abusing their powers. Holding investigations on anything and everything they hope can gain some brownie points. The committees are out of control with members asking witnesses to speculate on the motives of the PM and demanding political staff to appear before them and then humiliating them.

          Unless you have evidence you are simply repeating the media hype. No person can run the government by himself. Is he tough? You bet. Does he expect discipline from his caucus? Absolutely. Failure to do that ensures the mess Ignatieff currently faces with his caucus.

          The GG will welcome the Queen and say goodbye to her. The fact is when the Queen is in the country the GG takes a back seat. Remember the GG represents the Queen. She is not the Queen.

    • At times, you are remarkably apt at ignoring evidence and restating the trivial criticism of others.

      • My opinions are indeed often ignorant and trivial, but they are my own and they are honest. I appreciate a rebuttal, but not a dishonest retort like this.

  4. It's hard to fathom that as little as seven years ago the Liberals were an unbeatable force. Th opposition was in a wasteland and the newly minted Conservatives were deemed an unruly bunch of hicks doomed to remain in political purgatory.
    Harper more or less laid down his conditions for leading the party and given the decade that they had been through most of the rank and file marched to the drum.
    I don't think the Liberals road will be paved out of their hell on Harper's backside. Time to decide where they want to be. As a collect well oiled election machine; or a party that can burn two chosen leaders between elections during a minority parliament?
    Canada needs it's two political Titans to beet each by bring ideas to the electorate that matter and good government. Not this endless parade of "happy hour" finger pointing.

  5. To take a busman's holiday, first you have to be a busman. Donolo couldn't have picked a better way of showing Canadians what Iggy is not. His motivation has to be questioned.

    • ….Iggy and the whole Liberal collection of odd-balls and goofs need to disappear….Next!

  6. Well, the summer has only just begun and we're going to have another Iggy pile on by journalists?

    Please spare us another summer of gang up – you did it to Harper and now you're doing it to Ignatieff.

    It's becoming a real bore.

    You don't even know how his summer will go and you probably won't even bother to go to some of his events and yet, the easy thing to do is have a pile on victim.

    A little disecting of what Harper's been up to might be more important, but no, pile on's are the easy way out.

    ……..sigh

    • OntarioTown…….Ignatieff is getting exactly what he deserves. Bad media coverage because he is doing and saying nothing. It is the same old bromides that all Liberal leaders have spouted for decades. The credibility is gone.

      As Geddes says talking about Foreign Affairs may interest Ignatieff and play to his perceived strength but most Canadians will ignore the policy other than the bit about Afghanistan which they will not agree.

      Ignatieff was in Alberta yesterday talking about the oil sands needing to be sustainable. Those are code words for destruction to become more enviromentally friendly. How does addressing a university crowd i.e. 100 of academics help him to become more connected to Canadians?

      Have you not been paying attention? Harper has been in the news daily and it hasn't been flattering.

      • HM, be fair. Ignatieff wants Ottawa to get more of us to buy produce at farmers' markets. That's just the sort of heavy hitting we all want from our federal government, no?

  7. The feckless leader of the Liberal party and his back room boys still can't/won't get it. Canadians do not vote based on foreign policy. This should be the last thing he is talking about. Domestic issues are what counts. Unfortunately that is his weakest point.

    The bus tour will be ok but it really doesn't allow Canadians to get to know him. Sure the people who he meets will draw their own conclusions about the man. However, it will not allow him to get the exposure he needs to make an attempt to appeal to the larger Canadian population.

    Most Canadians will make their judgements and have made their judgements on how he performs in leading his party, what he does to work with the government to put forward legislation and their judgement of him when he makes a speech. On all of those issues the majority of Canadians are saying he lacks credibility and substance.

    Attacking Harper in a supposed foreign policy statement makes him look petty and desperate.

    After 18 mos as leader Canadians clearly have made up their minds. The G8 and G20 will come and go. That dog won't run after the first week of July. What next?

    • hollinm continued……

      The coalition/merger speculation has hurt Ignatieff and the Liberal party badly. For all of the alleged faults of Mr. Harper Canadians do not want a coalition particularly if it includes the Bloc.

      Canadians will decide who is best to lead the country based on experience and they want a stop to the partisan bickering with four parties trying to run the country.

      Harper has Ignatieff hands down on all aspects of leadership. The Liberal supporters on this board won't like it but those are the realities of today's political climate.

      • Geez – you really are on a rant today. Trying to convince yourself or something?

        Is this the hollinm hour?

        Yawn

    • Well, that is a shame because foreign policy is one very important reason Canada has a federal government. Anyone remember the Constitution?

      If Ignatieff wants to offer up substantive foreign policy and remind Canadians that this is the duty of Parliament in Ottawa, we all owe the man our attention.

  8. I don't think you've characterized the Israel piece correctly. My read is that he's complaining about partisanship on the issue and not Canada's actual policy. The reality is that Harper's policies toward Israel begin with Paul Martin. As just one example, he is still using the Martin play book for votes at the UN changing one or two each year.

    The problem is Harper's rhetoric. On one hand, the minister of foreign affairs issues statements against settlements. On the other hand, Harper claims to lead the only political party that is not anti-Semitic. The end result is a change in the worldview of Canada's position in a manner that it inconsistent with our actual policies.

    Note in particular the document's comment about how people who support Israel are getting concerned. People like me fear that Harper's rhetoric creates more calls for "neutrality" in response, which would actually end up making our policy far less principled that has been historically. If people think we are more unreasonable than we are, then they will try to bring the policy too far in the other direction.

    • Are you seriously arguing that by supporting Israel Harper is harming Israel? Geez Jason, check your underwear for knots because you are twisting like a tornado to get that one out. Face the fact that your party has a core of hard left anti-Semites. You can appease them all you like with less strongly worded releases and more "balanced" policies but the fact remains that you are splitting the difference between decent policy and the Helen Thomas/Libbie Davies-types who are calling for an oh so subtle genocide. Those types will never bee happy until the Jews ARE back in Germany and Poland hoping the pogroms don't start again. For proof all you need do is look at the assuredly high numbers on the left who believe that "The Jews" are at least partially responsible for the financial crisis.

    • What should be the Liberal party statement on the Iranian and Turkish military escorts to Gaza?

    • You're a little rusty on the spin Jason.

      Canada has quietly become Israel's most reliable ally.

      And that has been Stephen Harper's doing. The LIberals have to kowtow to the left, which is becoming unapologetically and alarmingly anti-semitic.

    • If Harper has said that outside the House, he'd better word it very very carefully lest he find himself on the wrong end of a defamation proceeding…

      • Jason's just repeating the earlier Liberal distortion of a Conservative ten-percenter. The ten-percenter listed the Liberal's votes and positions and pointed out that the Conservatives are more consistent/strident supporters of Israel. Warren Kinsella decided this was an accusation of anti-semitism.

    • Jason – Mr. Geddes' statement on the Liberal's Foreign policy makes an interesting contrast with your interpretation of it.
      He quotes of criticism of blockades and settlements – which are clearly provocations that the international community perceive lie at the feet of recent Israeli governments. If indeed Mr. Ignatieff is taking that position – and I have not read the Foreign Affairs platform in detail – then fair observers would consider that position to be balanced and and to a degree neutral. BUT – that assumes that this is Mr. Ignatieff's position – and frankly – he has done a poor job of clarifying that – because my understanding is that his policy position is close to that of Mr. Martin – which had a decided bias towards Israel.

  9. Stephen Harper has proven himself to be a competent PM.

    Michael Ignatieff is smart but no politician.

    • Hit the wrong button – I agree with this — you are right on both counts

    • Jan……..I agree that Harper has proven himself to be a competent PM.

      I also agree that Ignatieff is no politician and I suspect never will be one. He does not understand the country he supposedly wants to lead. He waffles from one issue to the next proving he is unreliable i.e. refugee system reform. He has failed to unite the party and has not been effective at shutting down the leadership ambitions of the likes of Rae.

      Canadians have given him the thumbs down since he has become leader. If he is as smart as everybody says don't you think he could figure out what his problems are?

    • Stephen Harper is an idiot. And incompetant sprendthrift, maliciious fool.

  10. Apparently this policy paper is a list of things Haprer didn't do. Liberal policy is designed to do whatever isn't on Haper's list – whether it is good, smart or otherwise. Ignatieff has a problem. The man simply doesn't understand Canadians and is regurgitating the ideas of whomever runs his office today. He doesn't believe half of what he says and it shows. Now, he is getting upset and angry that he wasn't handed his God given entitlement to the PM's chair as promised by the backroom boys that gave him the job a few years ago. Harper is running a competent, honest government so Ignatieff needs to come up with a whole shopping list of things to pretend he would do things differently. He voted for all the Conservative policies — he didn't have the courage of his convictions -perhaps, because he has no convictions.

  11. Didn't Iggy say he wanted to "meet the Canadians"? That pretty much sums the man up, does it not?

  12. Man, the guy is three points down in the polls. It is a little early to be writing him off.

    The media in Ottawa all have battered wife syndrome. They know that they are being abused by the PMO, but for inexplicable reasons, cannot help but do everything they can in order to curry favor with their torturers.

    Instead of reporting on the utter chaos the Mike Harris crew has imported into Ottawa, we get drivel like this repeating PMO talking points about a failed opposition leader who cant do anything right.

  13. Foreign policy is hardly something that will galvanize either his grassroots supporters or long time Liberal voters. It certainly will do nothing to attract new voters to the Party, something the Liberals need desperately.

    On a personal level, Mr. Ignatieff appears to be a man of principle (rare in the House these days) who stands behind what he believes, even if it is not a popular stance. This dogged approach is similar to Stephane Dion who stood behind his carbon tax, enviro-based election platform even when it became quite apparent it could never win him an election.
    Unfortunately, both men were elected (well, at least one of them was elected) by their Party to lead that Party to an election win. As it stands now, I simply cannot see Mr. Ignatieff leading the Liberals to a win; it's as though he's occupying the spot of leader as a place-holder until it is taken from him and he is replaced by someone else.

    Hopefully, the Liberal Party will decide that their next leader will not come from the world of academia and that they will be able to really connect with "Joe Six Pack". After all, every Canadian of the age of majority is eligible to vote; unless we find a leader compelling to a broader range of the Canadian populus, it's just as easy to stay home on polling day.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

    • Interesting. Harper didn't exactly have much experience outside of academia, either. It's just that his academic accomplishments are about two percent of Iggy's, so there's nothing to bring up against him.

  14. Liberals got principles and if you don't like'm they'll ditch those and steal new ones – just like they stole $40 million dollars from us! It's their entire party, not just the American guy.

    • How about the billion being stolen/wasted by the most dishonest and corrupt government in living memory?

  15. I think Coyne scared him off the high speed train thing.

    Hey, Coyne, what's your favourite bottle of wine? The taxpayers of Canada you one, with a suitable thank-you card.

    • If Iggy ever does make PM, we will all feel for your pain.

      • women in Africa, on the other hand, might disagree when they get some access to abortion.

      • Not necessarily. There are moments when the guy makes a lot of sense. What creates consternation is the ongoing whiplash associated with paying attention to him.

  16. On the Afghanistan issue, I am willing to give Ignatieff credit for taking an unpopular stance. Of course it is unpopular precisely because it has few merits. Afghanistan lacks the kind of civil society necessary to operate as a functional democracy. Any hopes of democratizing Aghanistan anytime soon should have vanished after the last election. So, is it possible to have stability? Probably not. The Taliban has an inexhaustible source of income thanks to opium sales, and can play on Pashtun fears of domination by other groups (and the US).

    Afghanistan is a doomed enterprise, and an unnecessary one. True, without the west, Afghanistan would likely become a failed state once again – and a potential haven for terrorists. However, the fractured nature of the country makes it possible to fund regional allies in the country, in place of spending the blood and treasure necessary for long-term occupation.

    If Canada is to sign up for a doomed enterprise, Canadians should at least get something out of it. Maybe something like a nice chunk of the mining rights to that trillion dollar deposit.

  17. Just to jump in here, my problem is actually not necessarily with either leader. They may be fairly equal as hypothetical (of actual) PMs, but Ignatieff hasn't the same skill as an opposition leader. You're generally held to a weirder standard as OLO: on the one hand, you're expected to be the conscience of parliament; on the other, devil's advocate.

    In one instance, support for a bill is seen as "weakness", while opposition to another is called "obstructionist."

    I'm not saying the criticisms are unfair – Iggy has made some fairly stupid moves as all pols do – he's just paid a heavy price.

  18. I'M BETTING that Harper will pull the plug on Parliament in the last days of the Summer Recess and just ask the GG to drop the writ for a snap September-October election … and let the chips fall where they may ….!!!!!

    Iggnutz will have completed his Donoloo-inspired Grand Bust Tour of the Canadian Hinterlands outside of Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal .. meeting and pressing flesh with the "little people" .. and perhaps Iggnutz will find another place in Canada he likes … besides Algonquin Park … ding!

    If Harper hesitates, the Liberal knives may eviscerate Iggnutz, leaving them with no leader to run against. Now that wouldn't be kosher, and Canadians would be outraged if Harper did something lowly like that to their still-beloved Liberats.

    If Harper wants to run against Iggnutz in any next election, he will have to beat the Liberals beating him to it.

    September-October election … and the only issue will be "economic unity" … with Harper rallying Canadians behind the Conservative party to elect a majority so that Canada has a strong, stable and secure gov't installed in Ottawa for the next 4 years …….. because Obamerica and the Euronuts could tank their economies suddenly.

    Choose, Canada … strong and stable or weak and chaotic … majority or minority …. Conservatives or a Coalition mess ….!!!!

    • Yuck. Harper has to go and this time i think he is going down for good.

  19. How long are you in the Liberal press going to prop this turd up. The man is unelectable. Tell him to leave town.

  20. wrt China & India, a better measure would be to contrast Canada's performance against some similar country, (although finding a similar country would be hard.) It might also be useful to parse out the large commodity numbers from the smaller manufactured goods and services. Still your main point is no doubt correct, government policy has a lot less to do with the economy (and hence trade) that is generally presumed.

    There is a real difference between the policy wrt the Middle East. Of course, Canadian governments are pro-Israel. However, past governments have been fairly consistent in expressing concern when Israel's response to threats is wildly asymmetric. Whether this concern has done any good or not is a matter of debate, however, it is clear that the current government is willing to support a much more aggressive posture from Israel. That said, Canadian foreign policy will have very little impact on the future of the region.

    I suspect the reason the press "likes" the abortion/women's rights angle is that it threatens party unity. Traditionally, there are strong supporters of women's rights in the Conservative caucus and strong pro-life members of the Liberals. The political theatre that could result is especially good for the press. However, the real foreign policy issue is whether Canada should impose its own domestic decisions on weaker countries as a condition for receiving our foreign aid. My understanding is that the jury is still out wrt that issue.

    • Annual US export growth to China, 1993-2005
      13.8%/year

      Annual US export growth to China, 2005-2009
      14%/year

      Annual US export growth to India, 1993-2005
      9%/year

      Annual US export growth to India, 2006-2009
      20%/year

      Canada's performance has been roughly the same as that of the United States in any given time period with the exception of India over the past 4 years. US-India trade has grown much faster than Canada-India trade. Of course that also contradicts the notion that Harper's anti-China stance hurt export growth (and implicitly the notion that all it takes to improve exports is good diplomacy). Of course the US may not be a perfect basis of comparison as well.

  21. However one chooses to rationalize it, the present government has managed to guide Canada through a "global financial crisis" rather successfully, while in a "minority". Deservedly or not, Mr. Harper has garnered considerable credibility as a result.
    If Mr. Ignatief is to succeed in his quest to convince the electorate that he is the man for the job, I suspect he will need to take a less "professorial" stance, and begin talkin WITH, rather than TO his audience. He is, obviously, a very intelligent man, with many interesting opinions. If only he would work on his delivery. This country is looking for a leader, not a lecturer.

  22. Does nobody remember Paul Martin's International Policy Statement or innumberable speechs on foreign policy? I mean, nobody other than the guy who recycled them all for this Ignatieff document? Nearly every initiative is a replica of a Paul Martin commitment – the permanent G20 secretariat, the circumpolar ambassador, the focus on China and India, the reinforcement of diplomacy and, of course, keeping the troops in Afghanistan.

    And, here's the thing about giving political speeches without a script, it works better if you've been doing it since you were a teenager in the mill-towns of Quebec. Ignatieff's experience as an intellectual entertainer does not equip him to be an extemporaneous political speaker…

  23. It's just too funny watching the left wing ideologs getting red in the face, shaking their fists in disbelief that the average Canadian is not apoplectic about crap like our "standing" in the world, Afghan detainees, or what the Euro-trash things of us. Who cares. No one. Full stop. The average Canadian sees world economies falling apart while Canada chugs along doing far better than just about anyone else, with home prices astonishingly rising and just maybe a little revival in the job market. Like it or not, whether he deserves it or not, Harper takes the credit because he would sure be wearing it if our economy looked like Greece. Does anyone in their right mind think Canadians are going to turf him so Iggie can revamp the diplomatic core or some other esoteric navel gazing. Dream on. People vote with their pocket books.