The last time Michael Ignatieff addressed a Liberal convention, he had just won the party leadership. I was backstage, watching his speech scroll by on the teleprompter.
“Friends,” he said that day, “I am confident that if we offer our fellow citizens a message of hope, they will ask us to form their next government.”
In the end, our fellow citizens weren’t quite on the same page. But Michael Ignatieff is still hopeful.
“Bottom line message: rumours of the death of the Liberal Party are slightly exaggerated,” he told Anonymous Liberal Sources this afternoon.
Tonight, he’ll thank the party he once led. It’s a reversal of tradition; the party usually thanks the leader, not the other way around.
“You spend six years with people, you meet thousands of people across the country,” Ignatieff told us. “This is a volunteer organization and you want to thank the people who got you there.”
But first, he’ll show a video—a series of clips of the former leader describing the Liberal vision for Canada. You’ll hear “what we stood for, what we believe, what we’ve always stood for, what we’ve always believed,” he says. It will be Ignatieff’s final retort to those who say the Liberal Party did not stand for anything under his leadership.
When he speaks, he’ll be surrounded by young people—part of a new generation whom he calls “the future of the party.”
“The party needs to remember that the future is in the room,” he told us. Then he spoke to Jordan and me directly. “You got into politics 5 or 6 years ago, sometimes for the first time in your life for any political cause, and you’re still here. That’s how the future of the Liberal Party is going to get built. I want to thank you for coming in and tell you to stay. Pretty simple.”
He plans to heed his own message. “People say, ‘what’s it like to be out of politics?’ But I’m not out of politics. You’re never out of politics. I’m a writer, I’m a teacher, I’m a citizen, I’m a member of this party. I use every single platform I’ve got to advance the values I’ve advanced all my life: small-L liberal values. It’s what I do. So I’m not going anywhere.”
But what exactly Ignatieff will say this evening is anyone’s guess. There won’t be a teleprompter in sight. His plan: “ignore those speechwriters”—thanks, boss—“and just let it go.” But he warns, “I’m rusty as hell. So we’ll have to see.”