What happened, Michael?

As Ignatieff sinks in the polls, Liberals are trying to figure out what’s gone wrong

What happened, Michael?“Would you like some soup, sir?”

Maybe this is tawdry, just another offering to the morning papers and evening news. Or maybe this is public service. Maybe it’s exactly what he should be doing, helping his fellow man, setting an example. Either way, this is politics.

“Would you like a little soup, sir?”

It’s 11:20 on the morning of Thanksgiving Sunday. Michael Ignatieff, in a white apron, is standing behind the counter at the Shepherds of Good Hope mission in Ottawa, a 20-minute walk from Parliament Hill. Men and women of various ages and in varying states file past. Behind them, three photographers click away. Ignatieff is ladling tomato and squash soup into small bowls. To his right, his wife, the exuberant former publicist Zsuzsanna Zsohar, scoops vegetables.

“Soup’s pretty good,” he says, “it’ll warm you up.”

A woman at the door, relentlessly chipper, is assuring each person who enters that the photographers won’t be taking pictures of their faces. One man isn’t willing to take her word for it and rather forcefully warns the photographers to stand down while he files past. It is the end of perhaps the worst week of Michael Ignatieff’s political career so far. His poll numbers have never been worse, his doubters have never been louder. And in the middle of this, he looks uncomfortable.

“Would you like some soup with that, sir?” he asks.

Ignatieff stays for an hour and 14 minutes, until every person is fed. He lingers awhile to talk with the staff and then he has to go. A week later, sitting at a table just off the dining room at Stornoway, the leader of the Opposition’s official residence, he tries to explain the look on his face. He acknowledges the awkwardness of the cameras. But his answer is long. He wants to explain himself fully.

“What’s so puzzling about this recession is that it’s largely invisible. But you go to a line like that and you suddenly see that it’s not just the usual street people, it’s a lot of other people who don’t know how they got there, that are shocked that they’re there, and I was shocked for them, I guess that that was my reaction,” he says. “Shocked is not quite the word, but just, it really hits you. In the same way that in Thunder Bay it hits you. On Thursday morning we were in a lumber mill that’s been closed for two years and the superintendent comes down every day just to make sure it hasn’t been broken in. Brand-new machinery standing idle. And you see something on the guy’s face that really hits you.”

He is not yet done on this. “The great thing about politics is you get to see the country raw and unplugged. You get to see things that most other Canadians don’t see,” he says. “You get to live your country’s life. So, I haven’t had the greatest autumn, but it’s an unforgettable experience and a positive one, in the sense that it deepens your sense of what your country is and what it’s going through.”

So here is Michael Ignatieff in October 2009. He is putting himself out there, listening, learning and talking it out. He is trying to understand all there is to understand about the country he hopes to lead and he is trying to help that country understand him. He is attempting to lead a party weighed down by history into the future. The questions are numerous, the opinions are plentiful and even Liberals are struggling to understand. But the onus remains entirely his.

Three years ago, he appeared smiling on the cover of this magazine beside the question of the moment: “Are you good enough for Michael Ignatieff?” Ten months into his tenure as Liberal leader, the question is now inverted: is Michael Ignatieff ever going to be good enough for us?

It has been a bizarre 10 months—from last winter’s prospect of prime minister Stéphane Dion to this fall’s reinvention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Ringo Starr in a Beatles cover band featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Through the spring, Ignatieff’s Liberals were ascendant. By summer, they had stalled. And through the fall, they have wilted. They now sit as much as 15 points behind the ruling Conservatives. “It’s very bad,” says EKOS pollster Frank Graves. “I don’t think it’s permanent or indelible or irreparable, but it’s very bad.”

But why? “It’s hard to imagine what it is he’s said or done in the last month, other than threatening an election, which I think is a key factor here, to produce such a precipitous decline,” Graves says. “He probably didn’t deserve the high approval rating he got in the spring, but he probably doesn’t deserve to be pilloried to the extent that he is right now. He’s gone from being the messiah to the village idiot. It’s the same guy. I’m glad it’s not me, but I find it almost kind of tragic and comic the way the public looks at these things.”

There are any number of explanations.

For one, there is Stephen Harper. The country has seemed to persevere through the recession and him along with it. For months, he has travelled the country handing out billions for bridges and roads. He has ventured overseas and looked as a leader does when he is seen standing beside the likes of Barack Obama. Of late, he has lamented, at every opportunity, an election Michael Ignatieff would seem to seek. And the public has apparently agreed.

For another, obviously, there is Michael Ignatieff. He has regularly befuddled the capital—attempting, for awhile, to make question period a place of substantive inquiry, allowing several Newfoundland MPs to break with the party and cast a symbolic vote of protest against the federal budget, making demands of the Prime Minister, then accepting compromise. In Sudbury last month, Ignatieff turned and announced the Liberal Opposition would from now on oppose, inviting the possibility of an election. Standing down had defined Stéphane Dion’s time as leader, so here was Ignatieff standing up. Only now Ignatieff’s poll numbers look as bad as Dion’s. He’s done the opposite and wound up with the same result.

So it regularly seems to be with Ignatieff. At times there is praise, at times there is scorn, but at almost all times there is debate about where he needs to go.

“I want the Michael Ignatieff that we saw in 2005,” says Martha Hall Findlay, the Liberal MP for Willowdale. “He came to the convention that we had, he gave a fabulous speech. I want that guy back.”

In March 2005, when Ignatieff, not yet a declared candidate for office, addressed the national Liberal convention, he was all potential. He was touted as another Trudeau—a dashing figure of intellectual vigour. He spoke then of liberalism, social justice, national unity and education. The subjects and themes were not far from what he touts now. Perhaps something has been lost.

“Frankly, he went through a leadership battle where he talked about some things and pretty much paid a price on them. So I think you get a little gun shy,” offers Rob Oliphant, the Liberal MP, friend to Ignatieff and early adherent to his cause. “The pendulum’s got to swing back down into the middle where he can be his authentic self. Which is an idea guy. My hope is that he can find his authentic voice. When I listen to him at times, it’s not the Michael I’ve heard before.”

Of course, Ignatieff never was Pierre Trudeau. But then Trudeau wasn’t quite what we remember him to be either. He nearly lost to the stiff and mockable Robert Stanfield in 1972 and was momentarily chased into retirement by the baby-faced and mockable Joe Clark in 1979. The legacy of Liberal leaders is complicated as such; even the sainted were once beleaguered. Jean Chrétien, the leader for whom Liberals most pine, was miserable once, too. Seven months into his leadership, the Liberals were nearly 10 points back of the NDP.

Chrétien’s turning point might have been the arrival of Jean Pelletier, the “velvet executioner,” to direct his office. So maybe Ignatieff needs his Pelletier. Or maybe, in fact, he just needs to trust himself. “I think there’s been a natural reaction to want to look to advisers to help. And that’s a good instinct,” says Hall Findlay. “A really good instinct is to say, ‘I’m not completely sure, I need some advice.’ But the problem with that is that sometimes that can reduce your ability to rely on yourself. And I want him to start relying on himself again.”

So maybe he’s out-thinking himself. “Michael, his whole life, has depended on his intelligence. He is amazingly intelligent. He’s also curious. He’s more of a broadcast journalist than a professor. When you’re with him, he actually interviews you at times,” says Oliphant. “So he’s depended on his intelligence and his curiosity. I think he has decided that intelligence isn’t really working for him, so he’s decided he has to be clever. And the people around him, I think, are trying to be clever. So they have this sort of chess game going on and they expect these certain moves and when the other side doesn’t make those moves, they’re kind of flummoxed. We just have to be smart. Quit trying to out-clever the other guy, because the other guy is Machivellan, the other guy… he’ll do anything.”

Maybe it is simply that the Liberal party, once a dynamic political force, seems now not to stand for anything but its past. “I think the current situation is basically the same it was six months ago, and probably pretty much the same as it was the last few years,” says Ken Dryden, the Liberal MP. “The public has been saying to us for some time that we want to know what you’re about. We want to know how you see the country and what a Liberal government would do. That’s what the public is waiting for and we haven’t given them that answer yet.”

Maybe that’s it. The man of ideas has to be just that. He needs to tell us what he’d do, show us his plan. Or not. “The same commentators who will write today that the Liberal party needs to put forward ideas now,” says Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison, “will attack us for being politically naive and bringing them out too early when we do.”

Michael Ignatieff is sitting back in a wooden chair, a reporter at the other end of the table. Ignatieff asks what the subject of conversation will be and laughs when informed the next half-hour will have mostly to do with him. A week after the worst week of his political career, the thinker is asked, once more, to think about himself and what he must do now.

Is he, for instance, enjoying himself? “I’d be lying to you if I said I enjoyed it every day of the week,” he says. “It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever tried to do. When it’s going well, the most fun. It’s a team, you feel you’re part of a team and people believe in you and we’re pushing toward the same goal, which is a good, compassionate, creative, centre-of-the-road government that really does good things for Canada. When it doesn’t go well, you have to take responsibility.”

Does he feel like he is being himself at this point? “Yes. But I think that I’m happiest when I’m more unplugged. That makes my guys a little anxious, but I’m happier when I’m unplugged,” he says, smiling. “I think there’s a perception that I’ve got overly cautious. I hope what I’m doing is getting more precise. There’s quite a lot out there that, in a weird way, I’ve had to fight for the right to be heard.”

He references here the television ads Stephen Harper’s side has run, apparently to great effect, against him. “ ‘He’s just visiting. He’s only in it for himself.’ I’ve had to fight to kind of say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m a Canadian, I’m here to stay and here’s what I’ve got to say.’ ”

Is he trying to be too clever? “If I’m trying to outsmart Mr. Harper, I’m not doing the world’s greatest job, let’s be clear about it,” he laughs. “This is a business that teaches you humility in spades.”

Maybe this is the problem right here. Maybe he’s too willing to entertain these questions, too quick to be introspective and self-effacing. Maybe he should be more precise.

He speaks in his own defence. Liberal party membership, he says, has tripled. Reinvigorated fundraising has pulled the party out of debt. He understands, it seems, the primary complaint—that he has not put enough to his name, that Canadians want ideas—and much of the half-hour is filled with his vision for the country and all of the things he says he’s been talking about in speeches in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, if only anyone would listen. He talks about child care and the paramount importance of education. He speaks of India and China and the need to realign the Canadian economy. We must decrease, he says, our dependence on fossil fuels. We must focus on energy efficiency. We need to think seriously about productivity and interprovincial energy sharing.

All of which may be noble notions, but lack the specificity now demanded. He promises more, at some point. “I got some of the things out there,” he says. “There’ll be more and we’ll tie it up in a big bow and hand it to Canadians and say, ‘There you are.’ ”

The last year has blurred the traditional partisan divide, so a new distinction must be made. Stephen Harper, he seems to say, is a man of today, he is a man of tomorrow. “Mr. Harper, after nearly destroying his government in December 2008, basically moved into the Liberal house. But there’s no vision, absolutely no vision of where we’re going to be in five, 10 years. I’ve talked a lot about 2017 because it’s a way of focusing the mind on the question that actually bothers Canadians. The thing I pick up is relief that civilization as we know it didn’t end, but the anxiety that remains for Canadians is what did we get for $56 billion, how are we going to dig ourselves out of it, and if the American market is going to be flat for three, four, five years, how do we make our living in this world?”

Discussion drifts back at several points to that Thanksgiving Sunday and those people and that soup. It was a photo op, and it was a matter of public service. But maybe it mattered for other reasons altogether. Maybe it was part of Michael Ignatieff understanding for himself, and explaining to everyone else, why he’s in this game.

“I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m still learning. And there are three or four other pieces that have to be there before Canadians start to think, ‘Yeah, well, he’s at least thinking about our future,’ ” he says, again casting forward. “He’s not up there at 50,000 feet, he’s trying to address the anxieties and anguish that I saw in that food line, that I see in the supervisor’s face. And you have to make that connection. And it’s not enough to just have lots of ideas, lots of policies. People have got to feel, ‘That guy, he’s in my corner. He’s a little funny, he’s got a funny name, he’s been outside the country, but he’s in my corner.’ I mean, that’s the connection you have to make. It’s very visceral. And I feel I make the connection constantly. I don’t think I’m dreaming.”




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What happened, Michael?

  1. Wow what an article! , this Ignatieff guy is unbeleivable, I mean he sounds so confused and unsure of himslelf and what his purpose is, that it no wonder Canadians are not buying into the Liberal leader.

    Canadians want leadership and Ignatieff is no leader .

    I think the Liberal Party made a huge mistake by anointing him leader with out a grass roots membership vote.

    • Our connectivity makes these difficult times to seal seams and keep the lens in focus. Given this, leadership tends to lean towards autocratic rule. Is this what we will come to view as real "leadership?"
      Mr Harper has established his leadership credentials largely by being a micro managing control freak, muzzling his charges and ruling with an iron fist that punishes dissenters and individualism. While effective in building a "brand" does this serve our parliamentary system, where MP's are elected to represent individual ridings? What about the negative attacks, where discrediting the other fella in endless looping ads enhances the attacker's "leadership" by default? What is that really selling us?
      The definition of "leadership" in Canada is being rewritten, and I for one, am not convinced it's for the better. I don't blame SH, he's a very clever guy trying to grab power, I'm just not sure his style of leadership charts a course that is good for free thinking democracy over the long haul.

  2. Appears to be the summer of discontent and the future doesn't look any brighter.
    Perhaps an exercise in futility to achieve a zenith that cannot be reached.
    Just a matter of when, not if, prior to the inevitable demise of the prodigal son.

  3. I think that at some point Liberals are going to have to realize that this guy just doesn't communicate well politically. I mean, in an interview where he's trying to suggest that he's got a personal stake in the ideas he wants to share with Canadians, this is what he has to say about how he'll present those ideas:

    There'll be more and we'll tie it up in a big bow and hand it to Canadians and say, ‘There you are.' ”

    Gee, Iggy, we can even picture you yawning as you say it.

    But should we really expect more of someone who came back to this county to simply add "Prime Minister of Canada" to his international resume?

  4. the liberals made the only choice possible in the circumstances and it may yet be to early to write Ignatieff off. The latest EKOS poll (as well as Leger and Leger) show a narrowing of the gap between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives can no longer expect a majority and I dont expect that time is on their side.

  5. Exactly what purpose is fullfilled by annointing another entitled liberal…..the toilet hasnt finished flushing after Cretien vacated the bathroom….and wait till the names start surfacing from the Montreal embezellment scandal.

  6. In any case Ignatieff has already accomplished much. Liberal finances are now very much in the black and they can afford an election campaign. Party membership is now over 100000 and still growing. In view of what he has already accomplished for the party Mr. Ignatieff deserves and will get his shot at defeating the conservatives.
    With the negative stories about conservative incompetance (action plan pork barrel and Hilliers' revelations about Afghanistan) continuing to appear it is not at all certain that Harper's lead in the polls wont melt away with the snows next spring. This is even likelier if the economy, as is quite possible, either fails to improve or actually worsens. I know the governor of the bank of Canada is predicting all kinds of wonderful growth for next year but based on his record as a prophet (he was way off the mark last year) I wouldnt quite break out the Champagne just yet.

  7. You've concluded all that from two recent polls that even Dion was able to out-perform, have you?

  8. Maybe it's not Iggy at all. It is possible that Canadians have overcome their dislike of Harper and accept him as a competent manager of things. That he appears to be, why take a chance on Iggy who's mouth is all over the place and his ideas are not there or no different than the Tory ideas?

  9. Good interview – Ignatieff was surprisingly candid. Actually that was one thing I liked about him as a leadership candidate. I think Iggy is being managed to death, something you see far too much in politics.

    PS: that is the fakest smile I've ever seen. Ignatieff, like Harper, shouldn't fake smile. Everybody can tell when they aren't being themselves.

  10. do you know what a seat counter is – there are quite availble out there on the wild wild internet – take a snapshot of any poll of late and see what what happens? I think it might depress you!

  11. Those polls contradict Nanos, which shows the Liberals losing more ground, not gaining.

  12. I am not the only one who has concluded this. If Harper thought there was a majority in it for him he would move heaven and earth to provoke an election call. The fact that the ultimate political opportunist has not done so is a fair indication that his daily tracking polls (no one in the PMO is permitted to go to the bathroom without checking those first – not unique to Harper, Chretien ran things the same way) tell him he wont get a majority. In any case time is never kind to sitting governments. There is more than a bit of truth to the old saying that it's not oppositions who defeat governments, it's governments who defeat themselves.

  13. I thought we were expecting a flu epidemic not an epidemic of blind stupidity. That is what would be needed to overcome dislike of Harper.

  14. The problem with Iggy is obvious and right in front of everyones faces! He isn't the leader of the party – his handlers or advisors or grand viziers .. whatever … the backroom bay st boys got together threw Dion under the bus so fast it didn't leave skid marks and coronated Iggy all on the warning about evil meanie stevie and an emergency? What Emergency? the only emergency was that if a leadership vote were taken Iggy might not have won = everyone knows this and everyone watched Iggy coronated as leader without a real vote – after all when Bob Rae backed out of the show trial in vancouver I mean really they at least should have a sham vote along woth the sham wow convention (I thought this line was clever) .. there is literally nothing he can do about this as it set the stage for every blunder of which there are too many to count since – if what we have witnessed so far with him as leader of the LPT is indicative of his leadership skills then there is no way he anyone should ever conisder him for PM as of yet – not ready for prime time -

  15. More like Brian Mulroney's style. You may want to check before assuming anything. Lots of municipal politicians in montreal are affiliated with the conservatives and the now almost defunct ADQ.

  16. " Quit trying to out-clever the other guy, because the other guy is Machivellan, the other guy… he'll do anything."
    - Hall-Findlay

    Yes, if only we could get back to the principled, non-Machiavellian approach perfected by Chretien during the Liberals' heyday.

  17. “The great thing about politics is you get to see the country raw and unplugged."

    Um, no. You get to see the country raw and unplugged by being a part of it. The country shouldn't come as a surprise to someone in politics. They should be a part of that country, familiar with why it is the way it is. That understanding should then make them a better politician to help make the country a better place.

    That he had to become a politician to see the country raw and unplugged is pathetic. It speaks to his unfamiliarity and privileged life. He should have been a Canadian all along. You don't have to be a politician to see the nation in some sort of purer way.

  18. “Mr. Harper, after nearly destroying his government in December 2008, basically moved into the Liberal house. But there's no vision, absolutely no vision of where we're going to be in five, 10 years."

    That's pretty much it, in a nutshell. Harper has pretty much become Chretien, minus the patina of occasional protester-strangling. Harper has moved into the power-for-power's-sake, otherwise visionless, Liberal house. Not the greatest situation for Canada, alas. But for the Liberals to say "we want that house back!" is a bit rich.

  19. To "Steve"… really, that is your comment. It is almost like you forgot to think for yourself and simply copied and pasted talking points from the conservative website… (if you forgot, not a leader was the branding exercise for Dion)

    I understand that candid, self deprecating comments don't sit well with everyone (some seem to only associate them with weakness, which I think speaks more about that persons' inability to be critical of themselves than anything), but to me I find it somewhat refreshing. I will wait and see what his ideas are to decide whether he warrants my support … but I am hoping for more than solely a exercise in marketing (i.e. Mr.Harper)…

    I prefer to vote for a candidate, not just a brand… although I suppose I am naive to think such things exist anymore…

  20. It drives me nuts.

    Chretien was a good prime Minster, but he gained most from the fact the Fact the PC party spit.
    Without another national party it was a cake walk for him, It was the same as Mackenzie King.

    Why do you think the vilification of Stockwell Day was so important. The CA as a party would have a been a large threat, but regionalize them and the Ontario national vote goes liberal as the Conservative vote splits in Ontario.

    Fast forward to now and the liberals are still running an election based on a split conservative party. This is 5 years out of date and growing stale. When Atlantic Canada looks to the Conservatives as a viable option, using region politics to try to divide the vote only makes the conservatives stronger.

    The worst is highlighting the fact that the conservatives are spending money and showing those cheques everywhere. Now many people look at the conservatives in a much more positive way, even if they didn't see the original cheque, because they get free advertising every time a cheque appears. This story should have been ignored by liberals and instead they should have focused on the way the contracts are going out. Many small real local scandals would have played out better.

    Also the spending announcements aren't done and what will happen when the GTA gets a couple billion thrown at them for transportation upgrades or other spending from the Feds. This will be linked to the conservatives. Even if they don't use a cheque.

    All I can say is lack of focus.

  21. Maybe its not Iggy at all. It might be possible that most of Canada has not forgiven the Liberal party for the Quebec fiasco. While Iggy is charming in Toronto/ Ottawa he is just another "evil" Liberal to the rest of Canada.

  22. Who else has concluded it? You mean PMO insiders, based on your, uh, PMO insider status?

    You're also contradicting yourself.

    On the one hand, you say that current so-called tightening polls indicate something now, but they didn't indicate something when they were even higher?

  23. what they want is an honest fellow to show respect to their felllow man…that is Michael…dont worry…he will win out in the end……

  24. Well you have to hand it to the Liberals: at least they're consistent in their raw power-lust.

  25. Chretien was a good prime Minster?

    $117,000 fake-invoice with a $50,000 Adscam kick-back to 2 Liberal ridings,
    with the goal to pack the events with Chretien supporters…to out do Martin…..this is a good PM?
    Was Adscam about national unity or the Chretien-Martin wars?

    If MI wants to do things differently, tell us which 2 Liberal ridings got the stolen Adscam cash:

    today's Adscam news:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/libe

  26. You are wrong…the polls are going to be the new norm, and it has nothing to do with Harper, it has to do with Iggy, he isn't a leader at all, doesn't know what he is doing!

  27. "Chretien was a good prime Minster". Uh??? Ten years of scandal and corruption, 2 elections barely 3 yrs after the last. Yep! He was a good prime minister all right!

  28. If its power lust when the liberals seek power, what is it when the conservatives seek power? Pure altruism? I think not. All politicians lust for power otherwise they would not be in the business. Many politicians would be much better off financially if they did something else. Politicians are well paid but people like Ken Dryden (a lawyer) Bob Rae etc would have no difficulty making 5 to 10 their pay as MPs if they were in the private sector. Jean Chretien makes much more now per year than he probably made in his entire time as PM. Even for the conservative mps, whose level of education and business experience is much lower than the average liberal mp (Stephen Harper has never worked in the Private sector and he has never worked as an economist) they would have no problem finding a very well paid private sector job after they leave politics.
    Whatever differences may divide the parties they do have one thing in common. They lust for power otherwise they would pursue other careers.

  29. reduced the debt, eliminated the deficit etc. What a horrible person

  30. What went wrong is that Ignatieff failed to have "situational awareness". He also underestimated the intelligence of the Canadian public, and overestimated the public's gullibility.

    He's always "a day late and a dollar short" as the old saying goes.

  31. I'm no insider nor am I a member of any party but I don't think Ignatieff is the problem. There are a lot of educated, sophisticated and intelligent voters in this country that can appreciate his merits. Sure, he's got a bit to learn about political games (which the Conservatives are very good at) but I think the blame must lie with his strategists and advisers. Some of their recent tactics have left me (and many other apparently) scratching my head and wondering what they were thinking. They really need to root out and turf these amateurs before they destroy the party, then again maybe that's what they are trying to do.

  32. Yeah, the NDP loses. Very depressing if your name is Jack.

  33. You'd think after blaming all their problems on Dion that receiving similar poll numbers under Ignatieff would make Liberals start to think that their problems go beyond their leader. They're basically a fringe party west of Manitoba and their prospects in Quebec continue to be bleak despite that province being the most hostile towards Stephen Harper. Perhaps they should be finding out why that's the case rather than trying to find out what their leader of the day is doing wrong. The Conservatives were eventually successful in winning seats in regions that were electoral wastelands not too long ago. Surely, with a little effort, the Liberals could do the same.

  34. Ignatieff tries to sound too smart for most Canadians and he comes of like a lecturing, hectoring professor … and his voice doesn't even sound 'canadian' … maybe 'american'. Perhaps Ignatieff has succeeded converting himself first into a Brit and then a "we Americans" Harvard-type product … and he's just unable to convert back to a "Canadian".

    In any case, he is now a failed Liberal leader like Dion, and there is no way he can be resurrected from the political dead.

  35. I've never bought this line that political advisers handpicked by the leader are responsible for the performance of the leader. Aren't the people that the leader picks himself the responsibility of the leader? Even so, they just give advice. It's up to him to take it, leave it, or get other advice.

    Ronald Reagan famously once told a top adviser to never suggest raising taxes ever again. Like the policy or not, that's leadership.

  36. What happened Michael???? He opened his mouth and let everyone know that he is an empty aristocrat who has played politics for a little while. He has proven that you cannot take a person with no political experience and make him a leader in 4 years.

  37. Michael Ignatieff is another example of a failed Liberal immigration policy.

    When Liberals were in power they promised many educated immigrants and promised to help them with their accreditation in securing professional work. Now we have seen many cases of nurses, doctors, MBA's, teachers, engineers forced to clean factories and part time jobs.

  38. You have it right. The Liberals have been the darling of the national news media whilst Harper has been demonized. Now that Canadians realize how competently Harper has managed our national economy during this world wide financial blow-up; now that Canadians see how Harper has managed to govern despite the opposition of the other three parties Canadians are now prepared to elect a CPC majority government.

  39. Familiar like Minister of Tourism Diane Ablonczy, who thinks Georgian Bay is off the coast of Iqaluit?

  40. If we're going to compare Chretien and Harper then we should also compare results. Pound for pound which do you like best? no deficit or less GST?

    If you're tempted to answer by saying that Harper only had a 3 year minority as opposed to a 13 year majority then you've come up with the very reason Harper should never be compared to Chretien.

  41. The latest projection (today) from threehundredeight.com shows the Tories at 137 seats, the Liberals at 98 seats, the Bloc at 49, and the NDP at 24.

  42. Unite the left. That would be Harper's biggest challenge.

  43. or like Hedy Fry who sees crosses burning in BC?

  44. No, it really wouldn't. People on the left, and generally not Liberals, bring up this idea now and again as if it has any basis in fact. Uniting 'the left', assuming you mean the NDP and Liberals, would have one almost immediate effect: an exodus of centrist voters and MP's from the Liberal party. Even a sincere discussion by party leaders of such a plan would probably be enough for enough Liberal MP's to jump ship to the Conservatives that they would have a majority without the need for another election. By all means, talk up the unite the left idea if you must, but don't assume that Liberal voters feel comfortable with the NDP in their midst.

  45. The Liberal party has made two gross mistakes since being in opposition and it has been their choice of leaders.Most of the voters in this country are pretty hard working people with perhaps a high school education but a university degree from the school of hard knocks,When a party chooses a leader from an elitist background it automatically turns people off. The well educated guy from the rich background who never had to do much to get his education like many who have worked their butts off.We have only one representative of royalty in Canada and that's the GG so send this guy packing and get another little guy from Shawinigan with the crooked smile. At least big John looked trustworthy and confident without that looking down your nose attitude Remember John Turner another rich Liberal and what happened to him

  46. The Liberals currently don't stand for anything at all. The Liberals have tons of baggage still on board that needs to be dumped. The Liberals are still, steadfastly, the party of arrogant entitlement. The Liberals selected a leader who is clearly out of touch with Canada, and who doesn't know what he is supposed to say, do, or represent. The message changes from week to week. The Liberals still have not paid back the sponsorship money they stole from us under the lost years of Jean Chretien. Stephen Harper is doing a very good job under very trying circumstances. Stephen Harper is obviously not the scary bogey man the Liberals and their supporters in the media tried to portray. Canada is doing OK vis a vis the rest of the world under the Tories' leadership. So why on earth would we want a change?

  47. I find Martha Hall Findley's comments both odd and humorous. And who cares, except Aaron?

    “I want the Michael Ignatieff that we saw in 2005,” says Martha Hall Findlay, the Liberal MP for Willowdale. “He came to the convention that we had, he gave a fabulous speech. I want that guy back.”

    So, fastforward from the 2005 convention, to the 2006 one. Dion makes his convention speech. It gets cut short – he doesn't even finish it before the microphone gets cutoff (a forshadowing of his fateful late unfocused video production).

    Dion's performance, apparently was enough to convince Martha to ride the green garlaned bus early the next day to lead the faux green revolution.

    Or am I mistaken?

  48. Grasping at straws are we?

  49. These pages were very mindfull and intelligent before the CBC Blog crew sunk there teeth in… O well, everybody, prepare for the inevitable onslaught of progressive intolerance….

  50. Soup line patrons were once mostly old men and a few old women who, for the most part, had come to terms with the reality of their situation, but more and more patrons now are younger, families with children, and young adults unable to make a living, people who are stunned and ashamed that for them it has come to this. It must be a shock for anyone who doesn't see these people on a daily basis.

    IMHO, Ignatieff's 'problem' is related to the old dilemma about whether voters cast their ballots for someone who will represent their views, or for someone whose views they agree with. He seems to be trying to respond to what Canadians think they want, and that makes him seem unfocused because so many Canadians either don't know or don't care about the role of government. For those who want to make an informed decision it's not a simple matter of what's good and what's not because of all of the implications that need to be considered. The other guy is scoring points by telling Canadians what they want, so there's really nothing they need to understand except that. The other guy keeps bringing up the past to excuse his own performance, but that was then and this is now, and Canadians need to be more concerned about now.

    It would be helpful if anyone could point out what's wrong with Ignatieff's policies because they sound like the kinds of things I can support.

    Good interview – very informative.

  51. She knows where Prince George is, so I don't see how that's relevant to this thread but thanks.

  52. The libs are pinin' is all….they realize what a great catch they had in Steffi Dion and want him back!

  53. I can't believe the Liberals are still going to promote Ignatieff as their best choice and offering for PM of Canada. The man is a lapsed Canadian and in the last 36 years of his life, he lived in Britain for 27 years, in the USA for 5 years and in Canada only 4 years..!!!

    While away from Canada, he ignored and even demeaned us .. and now by his birthright he wants to be PM of Canada??? … Never!!!!

  54. I find it amusing that the Conservatives are seen as playing a very good political game and the Liberals are not. It used to be the other way around, and I think the Liberals got too complacent as a result.

    As far as Mr. Ignatieff himself is concerned, it seems he's tried a few different things and they haven't worked. If he's an "idea man" and a "global thinker" why doesn't he just try being himself. It's very hard to fake genuineness in the public spotlight if you don't have it. Some politicians can do it; Mr. Ignatieff can't. So why not take a chance on the "real Ignatieff"? People might respect that and (gulp) even like it. What has he got to lose…

  55. knick writes "It would be helpful if anyone could point out wrong with Ignatieff's policies because they sound like the kinds of things I can support. "

    Really? Can you list where those policies are? The media, partisan bloggers, Liberal MP are unable to explain what those "policies" are.

    I have read many of his speeches filled with glaring errors on the Economy, Energy and Foreign Relations. Can you provide the link and include a few points on those Policies.

    Thanks

  56. I cannot believe that Wherry fell for the crap that Iffy laid on him. The man is full of platitudes and bromides. Without putting any meat on the bones he is asking for ridicule. We do not live in the 90s where the old Liberal policies of a national daycare, aboriginal issues and child poverty can be repeated and expect the Canadian public to buy it. Canadian have told the Liberal party in 3 successive elections we don't want those hugely expensive programs. Deal with the realities facing Canadians. Trouble is Iffy doesn't know what affects Canadians on a daily basis. Going to a soup kitchen may be the reality for some but for the mainstream not so much.He is too busy talking to the elites of the country. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and does not know what it is to struggle to work for a living trying to raise kids etc. etc. So unless he can swallow himself whole and reinvent himself into something he is not Canadians are not going to buy this wannabe American.

  57. Harper has read the tea leaves and concluded what Iffy didn't have the political smarts to figure out. Canadians don't want an election and they mean it this time. Iffy of course judged it the other way and is paying for it in the polls. So Harper is working on the economy and yes handing out billions which the Libs agreed with by the way and now the Libs are mad. Hypocrisy you bet.
    Mr. Harper has also determined that Canadians do not want an elitist dropping into the country, being appointed by his party as leader to be PM. So he will bide his time and wait. Will it be a mistake? Time will tell.

  58. Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking. You are right though anything can happen. However, lets not forget that during all of Iffy's ascendancy to the leadership and after Harper is considered by Canadians to be the one best able to manage the economy. Libs can try to create faux scandals but they better get Smitherman in Ontario on their side because the Lib case just fell apart. Nobody is breaking out the chamagne but Libs should also stop drinking the kool-aid and face realities. Iffy is not the one.

  59. You are right there is going to be a spill over effect if Charest's government is implicated in the construction scandal in Montreal. Shades of Adscam will not help the federal Libs in Quebec.

  60. Just to let you know there is no provincial/municipal Conservative party in Quebec.

  61. Was your reply meant to be helpful?
    The policies I referred to are those mentioned in the interview. Granted, without more specifics, it's impossible to ascertain what their implications would be, but the general focus of those policies is what interests me. Do you have links for those 'glaring errors'?
    Sorry, the only link I have is the one you're on.

  62. Not only is it the fakest smile but the guy takes god awful pictures. He does look like the Grinch and the local vampire. Sorry but it had to said. We are in a world where public image creates impressions. Those big eyebrows bouncing up and down and the lizard like tongue licking his lips is a turn off. it may be a sign of intelligence among the latte sucking crowd but to the rest of us it is darn creepy. Maybe all this would be forgiven if what came of his mouth was credible.

  63. Very good comment.

  64. This is the 21st century and times are not remaining the same. We are moving at lightening speed and any politician who thinks they can provide a "vision" is selling snake oil and most Canadians would see that. So keep Iffy projecting out to 2017 and see how credible that vision will be.

  65. Except that Iffy is suppose to be the smartest guy in the room so the Libs and their sycophant media tell us. So where is his common sense. When Canadians in overwhelming numbers say no election he decideds to have a vote of non confidence in the House specifically to try to trigger an election. Common sense my boy common sense. Maybe when it comes to politics he ain't the smartest guy in the room.

  66. I could provide several links but the list would be too long. I will let a former Liberal Riding president explain a few mistakes on the Environmental File SH and Jack Layton poll better.

    Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade demonstrated a staggering ignorance on the ‘clean energy' file. His speech today demonstrated a total lack of understanding of this division of power. What's more, he incorrectly accused Canada of not being a green energy leader. We are. Hydroelectricity represents 88% of the world's installed renewable energy source. Canada is second only to China in the production of hydroelectric power, and is forth in the world for use of hydroelectricity as a percentage of supply.
    The majority of Canada's power production (just under 60%) comes from hydroelectricity. We're three times greener than Denmark – but more importantly because of energy use, considerably more than that megawatt to megawatt.-John Laforet

    <a linkindex="503" href="http://laforet.ca/2009/10/13/ignatieffs-clean-energy-proposal-bad-politics-and-bad-policy/&quot; target="_blank"><a href="http://laforet.ca/2009/10/13/ignatieffs-clean-ene…” target=”_blank”>http://laforet.ca/2009/10/13/ignatieffs-clean-ene

    Economic Speech
    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomm

    Toronto STAR demanding he start talking STRAIGHT EDITORIAL
    http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/714686

    It is true that the opposition leader's principal job is to expose the flaws in the government's agenda. But his electability depends on the alternatives he puts forward. When Ignatieff offers none, he invites Canadians to judge him on his persona (cerebral), his competence (undemonstrated) and his political record (scant).

  67. Michael Ignatieff could quite easily be a member of Harper's cabinet. His years in the U.S. and Britain have made him center-right in terms of Canadian poliitcs.

    Problem is, that political territory has already been staked by the Conservatives.

    So Iggy has to troll left for votes. Is it surprising that his heart isn't into it?

  68. Social Justice? Child care? Dependence on fossil fuels? Right now the average Canadian is more concerned about putting food on the table while keeping warm this winter. You would think an hour in a soup kitchen would have been more of a revelation.

  69. Thanks for the links.

    There's some debate about hydroelectric power being 'green', as the 'former Liberal Riding president' claims, because of the damaging impact it has on the immediate environment

    Both of the other items you referenced are critical of Ignatieff's failure to provide specifics of his policies, but it's not clear to me what kind of specifics they are referring to. I don't see how he could be much more specific without knowing the true state of government finances.

    If, as you claim, Ignatieff offers no alternatives, then what is it exactly that you and others want to know? I'm not being facetious, I really want to know what it is that I'm overlooking.

  70. Ignatieff is my corner, constantly connecting? From the interviews final line it is clear that Ignatieff is dreaming. Jack Handy springs to mind if there were some humour in it.

  71. This discussion is going nowhere because we're on two different wave lengths. Your focus is on trashing the Liberals, and mine is on what party I'lll support in the next election. It could go on forever.

    No thanks.

    • knick

      You asked a question and I posted links and opinion backed up additional links available that the LPC is without substance or Policy.

      I think it is wonderful you support the Liberal Party, but if you ask a serious question you should not be shocked some of us ex liberals have reasons why we won't return.

      It is not about different wavelengths as much as it is about looking for the truth and the substance behind the speeches and promises.

      Is is safe to say you will vote for Hope and Change and will wait for substance when the LPC are elected?

      • I get that you are much more aware of the inside politics stuff than I am, but I still disagree with your statement that the LPC is without substance or policy because for an average voter like myself, what Ignatieff is saying about what he would do as PM is pretty much in line with what I would like to see done.

        What I support is what I understand to be Liberal values; if a Liberal Leader demonstrates those values, then I would likely vote Liberal. I am surprised by what ex liberals are saying because I haven't a clue about why you're so bitter and why you won't return. That's probably why it seems to me that we're at cross purposes in this discussion.

        I do hope to vote for Hope and Change – a better option than we have now. The reality as I see it is that it's either a Conservative Government or a Liberal Government, so the options for Hope and Change are limited.

        As for truth and substance, it seems to me that has always been the case – we vote for people on good faith without the certainty of knowing they will do what they say they will do. There have been broken promises in the past, and I have no doubt there will be again.

        When all is said and done, the only thing I've learned from this discussion is that there are bitter disaffected Liberals. That's unlikely to change my views or influence my vote. And I really couldn't care less about all the bickering within the party and by former members except for the advantage it gives Harper.

        • Forget for a moment about policies, the reason why it is hard to trust Ignatieff is his lack of character, can't make his mind up, he doesn't know how to lead, period… I mean nothing wrong with that, some people do and others don't…

          And, he has his time ticking with the party, already deeply divided and only a major miracle would change canadians and his party minds!

  72. In my opinion, some Liberals had thought that it had no one within their ranks to lead the party, and so went looking abroad for a savior. The Conservatives correctly identified this as being something that would aggravate even the most loyal partisans. If the Liberals hope to govern again anytime soon, they need to look to the grassroots supporters and bring in leaders and candidates from within. They have got to stop cynically parachuting in leaders, and candidates whose credentials are based on hockey careers, family ties (Justin Trudeau) or physical attractiveness (Dhalla), as opposed to candidates with grassroots support in their ridings. The media seems to encourage them. I think Canadians are fed up with this idea of politicians being these puppets being run by head office. All parties are guilty of this, it just seems that the Liberals seem guiltier given that they brought in a ex-patriot and annointed him without process, and then have the audacity to have this puppet proclaim the need for an election

    • Look into the rules surrounding becoming a conservative candidate.. the Liberals only seem guiltier because it happened under the media eye.

      Take a look at Rob Anders' most recent nomination process if you want a real eye-opener about puppets.

  73. No. you are not mistaken!

  74. I think you'd find it less so if the Conservatives did not have the full support of most of our corporate media. For just one example, the recent polls showed a drop in CPC support and an increase for the Liberals of approximately 2% – this article is purportedly about the polls and yet look at the title.

    I am a little amused though at the perpetual harping on the potential for a majority – in the past any scent of Harper majority has only increased the 'hold your nose and vote Liberal' tendencies of Canadians. I'm not a betting person but I would stake money on this – that majority will continue to prove elusive, Ignatieff or no.

  75. What went wrong?! They chose as leader a man that couldn't be bothered to spend most of his adult life in Canada!!!

  76. "We are moving at lightning speed" is the funniest line of the day.

  77. I saw the nanos poll.Ignatieff has failed to connect with the people, but even the party itself seems to be in perma disarray.

  78. Dude,

    It's a big country and there's very few Canadians who get a sense of it as a whole. Being leader of the a political party would give you a pretty unique opportunity to travel all across it and meet Canadians from all walks of life.

    As for your comment "He should have been a Canadian all along.". He HAD been a Canadian all along Einstein. You don't stop being Canadian when you work abroad.

  79. Why do politicans continue to do these commical photo shoots?Everyone, I mean everyone who knows anything about politics knows that this is horrible attempt at….well whatever he is trying to accomplish by getting his picture taken. I doubt the people who needed the service cared at all that the leader of the opposition was dishing it out for them.
    Instead Ignatieff makes himself look even worse in front of the cameras.
    I still have not me a voter in this country who has been persuaded by these types of political stunts, meant only for political gain.

  80. I think the Liberals struggle with three big problems. Number one is the void of a coherent vision for Canada which has been apparent since Trudeau left office. Chrétien did a good job with his steady-hand-at-the-tiller routine, but a major “vision thing” is needed and Ignatieff clearly doesn't have it (simply saying you have vision doesn't make it so!). Number two is the Sponsorship Scandal. I think it still haunts this party, especially now that allegations of corruption are swirling around the Sponsorship Scandal's epicentre here in Quebec. Sure, different levels of government are implicated, but it's still the Liberal “brand” involved in a lot of this. Liberals need to shake their self-made image of being the Natural Governing Party and old-time cronyism. The world has changed and they have not. The last problem is Ignatieff himself. Far more so than with Dion, one can say “Not a Leader.” Threatening an election nobody wants? It doesn't get more out of touch than that. I fervently believe Canadians would embrace the Liberal Party, but only if it gets its house in order.

  81. The press conducted a total witch hunt on Ignatieff. For weeks and weeks it was run down Ignatieff and never question anything the conservatives did. I resented this totally and I don't even vote liberal.

    • Iffy and the Liberal party are the authors of their own crticisims. This man comes back to Canada after a 34 years absence helps throw the Lib leader under the bus and then gets himself with the help of the elites in the party appointed leader. He had no political experience and certainly has no political experience. There is no evidence he can lead a man band let alone a poltiical party and a country. He has made many political blunders since becoming leader and clearly was not in touch with the mood of the Canadian people. I could go on and on but the point is the media now sees the emperor has no clothes and they are simply pointing that out so that Canadians can see it for themselves. Harper has been attacked personally for years and so to think a faux American can simply show up and become PM is simply naive in the extreme.

  82. You nailed it, Dot!

  83. It's the sense of entitlement that boggles my mind. Ignatieff and the whole LPC act like 38% of Canadians suffered collective brain injuries in the last election, and that's the reason Harper won. What the hell! We should be voting LPC because they're SUPPOSED to be our government! For gosh sakes Iggy – come up with some policies and take a stand on something! Give us a reason to vote for you.

  84. This article is too long. What happened, Michael? Allow me to summarize:

    "WE DON'T LIKE YOU."
    - The people of Canada.

    • Hey, you know, you could say that about every single political leader.
      Not ONE of them got a majority of Canadians saying they were liked.

  85. I was a Liberal supporter. However, since Dalton McGuinty's blatant lies and the introduction of HST I will no longer support this party!

  86. He looks uncomfortable both in the soup kitchen and as leader of the Liberal Party. The smile is phony and people know it. He talks like a visitor, he doesn't know what Canada is about and where it should go. Why would he?

    I agree, he and the party underestimated the intellegence of the Canadian people.

  87. there is something brewing….

  88. Yes, let us avoid having educated people lead us, surely that way leads to a society prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

    Given recent results, I suggest we start with those that have economics degrees.

  89. Yes, he ignored us so much he received a Canadian Governor General's award for a book about Canada.

    Meanwhile, Harper is off in foreign countries saying that Canada is "second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status," and "a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term"

  90. Yes, all 37% of Canadians.
    A good chunk of them were saying they want MORE of the hugely expensive programs.

  91. What happened? Just look at the comments here.
    What happened is that the conservatives put out the negative advertising and uncritical Canadians took it in and started parroting it back to each other.

    Sorry folks, we might like to think of ourselves as paragons of critical thought but the truth is, the negative advertising worked. Harper's money went through the television stations into the mush on top of our necks — and for a lot of people, it stuck there.

    And now they're not even getting the facts right. Out of Canada, yes. Canadian Citizen — all along. Doesn't know about Canada? Just wrote friggin' books about it and was the go-to guy for several American stations when they wanted background info about Canada.

    • No worries, Thwim, just as soon as Ignatieff figures out how to communicate the reason that Harper’s wrong, the negative advertising will cease to work. What you’re suggesting is something like Dion’s “poor me, blame Harper” routine which was frankly beneath him. No, if Ignatieff and the Liberals want to win, the responsibility is THEIRS. Crybaby antics will just play into their opponents hands.

      • Yeah, do some research into marketing.

        They've already shown that attempting to correct a negative first impression generally only reinforces that first impression. All you can do is present a different impression and hope it has enough stick that it overwhelms the first one.

        Now I'm not arguing that Ignatieff is doing a decent job in defining himself — and he needs to. But what's happening here is in the lack of that, Harper's party has used negative advertising to present a definition of him and lazy and gullible Canadians have taken up that definition without actually using that cholesterol they store in their skull.

        • Thank you for the clarification. Were this, I dunno, Chretien or Trudeau, we’d see a more effective alternate impression then.

  92. The party is at war with itself. Rae wants to be prime minister and be darned if he’ll let the czar or a quebecer stand in his way.

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