Q&A: Michael Ignatieff on success, failure and his time in politics

‘You live and learn,’ says former Liberal leader

by Aaron Wherry

Two years after the Liberal party he led was dealt its worst general election defeat—and he lost in his own riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore—Michael Ignatieff is attempting to make sense of it all with a book. Fire and Ashes is the story of how he decided to enter politics, what it was like to be a politician and how it felt when it didn’t turn out the way he, and many others, had hoped. Mr. Ignatieff and I spoke for an hour last week about the book and his experience. The following transcript has been edited and condensed.

Q: Were you naive when you got into this?

A: Well, the first chapter of the book is called hubris, so hubris is a form of naiveté in which you over-estimate your abilities and under-estimate the obstacles. And all I would say, as counsel for defence here, is that I don’t think anybody goes into politics unless they over-estimate their abilities and under-estimate the difficulties. Sure, there was a lot I didn’t know. A lot I didn’t know about the party. A lot I didn’t know about what had changed about politics since I had last been involved. I think I under-estimated the ferocity of the Conservative attack. I under-estimated the ferocity of attack within my own party. But you live and learn. And I think by the end of it I don’t think I was too naive at all.

Q: If you had to do it all over again would you stay Harvard?

A: No. You don’t go into this to have an existential experience, but it was an unforgettable experience. It changed me. I’m glad I did it. My regret is not that I did it, but that I didn’t succeed.

Q: In that first chapter, you talk about the men in black coming to see you and what they offered you and you refer to it as an “astonishing proposition.” And you say, “The idea was preposterous. Who did I think it was?” Doesn’t that almost confirm the things the Conservatives said about you? That you were “just visiting,” that “he didn’t come back for you”?

A: No, absolutely not. I’m a Canadian. I’ve always been a Canadian. I wouldn’t have even had dinner with these people if politics and Canadian politics wasn’t part of my life since as far back as I can remember. I came back because I thought I could do something useful. I could stop being a spectator in the stands and put on my skates and get on the ice. And the book also says, however, and I think this is just being honest, you don’t know who you’re doing it for until you do it. And then as you go out on the road and you see what Canadians want and what Canadians need, it begins to shape a sense of agenda and purpose that, frankly, nobody has before they go into it. That’s what makes politics so extraordinary. But the Conservative attacks—I spent five and a half years in the game, and they never once attacked a thing I said, they only attacked who I was. I don’t think that’s good for politics.

Q: The counter argument is that attack ads have always been around. 

A: No question and I think there’s good attack ads and bad attack ads. I think there are attack ads that attack the policy, attack the idea. But two things I think are new here. One of them is I can’t recall in Canadian politics a sitting prime minister attacking two successive leaders of the opposition out of election time with ad campaigns of this size and extent. So to the argument that it twas ever thus, I would say, yes, we took some pretty rough shots at Harper in the 2004, 2006 elections, so I don’t want to be pious about this, but I would insist the size, the volume, the intensity, the cost of these attack ads by a sitting prime minister against two leaders of the opposition in a minority government were without precedent in Canadian politics. And I oughta say, there was lots positive about politics. I don’t want to make my story about the negative ads. Because I would want to say is, look, as they were happening, I thought, what else is he going to do? Of course he’s going to do this. It’s not as if I was shocked. But I would say, for Canadian politics, it’s not a good precedent. And I really feel that.

Q: You’d watched Stephane Dion go through this and suffer those ads. Did you under-estimate how it could be done to you?

A: I think that’s probably true. And I think I may have been slow, in fact, to respond to it. At first, there was a kind of, I can’t take this seriously. But it began to percolate and have a huge effect on our standing in the country. I just felt I was being denied standing in my own country, which means something very simple: I could talk, I could speak, but no one was listening because everybody said, he’s just visiting. And I hope I’ve contributed something to the understanding of this process of denying people standing. And I’d seen it happen once before, with John Kerry and the Swiftboat attacks in 2004. Interestingly, I ran both the Kerry/Swiftboat attacks and the attack ads against me in my classes at Harvard in the spring and it was kind of emancipating or freeing to see them. I can laugh about it now. But at the time, when you turn on the Super Bowl, between the halves and see yourself on the screen, it wasn’t my favourite experience I can tell you that.

Q: If the party had had the money, what would you guys have done to respond? 

A: It’s a good question and I can’t do what’s called a retrospective hypothetical, a) because we didn’t have the dough, we really didn’t. They spent, I don’t know what the number is, but it was a very big number and it was just by a factor out of our reach. As you know, we went on a bus tour and I had a wonderful time doing that and I loved it, but we met maybe a half a million people across the summer, the reception was wonderful, I’d never enjoyed myself as much in politics, but you just can’t meet enough people to counter a major ad buy on the major commercial network every night of the week. So could we have done anything? The trap here is if you get hit with a negative, you reply to the negative and then you contribute to the problem that you’re objecting to. I mean, I hope, had we had $12 million, we would have said positive things about our vision of the country and shown me smiling in all kinds of agreeable and ingratiating ways (laughs)  . . .  I think the smart thing to do with a negative is to reply with a positive, but I don’t want to be pious. I can’t tell you what we would have done if we’d had $12 million.

Q: You talk about the period between September 2009 to December 2009, when it was particularly rough and you had to get yourself up for Question Period. How close did you come to quitting?

A: Oh, there was no question of quitting. You know, you’re in it, you’ve been chosen by your party, but I had a difficult time. Politics is a tough game. But would I change places with a trauma nurse in an emergency ward on a busy Saturday night? No way. There are lots of jobs in the world that are tougher than politics. And politicians and people who’ve done it need to remember that. Number two, the stuff that kills you in politics is not what the press are saying and it’s not the attack ads, it’s the mistakes you make yourself. So that’s what eats you up. You think, I shouldn’t have moved that non-confidence motion. It was a mistake, it was a tactical, strategic mistake, that did me damage. So that’s what eats you up.

Q: You write about your relationship with Bob Rae. How strained was that relationship?

A: We go back a long way, really a long way. It’s actually generational, I mean our parents were friends. And it’s kind of simple, he wanted what I wanted and both of us couldn’t have it. It’s not especially complicated. But I think of course it strained the friendship. It’s mostly in that 2006 convention that there was an issue. After that we served in the same caucus, he served under me as leader, there was no issue of disloyalty. And I never lost sight of the fact that if there was a big political lift to be done, he was the guy to do it. He’s just very able.

Q: I thought it was striking that he and the cab driver had the same comment, “That’s politics.” Is there some definition of politics that you arrive at from those two incidents?

A: It’s a good question. (long pause) It’s a phrase we use all the time in our lives. You don’t get a job, that’s politics. Or something completely unexpected happens, politics. You’re at the edge of saying something—politics is the word for everything that’s maligned, unfair, unwarranted and unjust in life, right? But equally the book’s trying to say politics is much more than that. And I lived that. I’m very struck by how [much] loyalty there was in politics, actually. I mean, the whole thing would fall apart if there weren’t. If it was just a pure Machivellian game of betrayal, no political party would hold together. Loyalty matters in politics. Loyalty is in fact the driving virtue of politics and what I’m saying to you about Bob is that, for all our disagreements, he was loyal to me as leader. And that counts a lot. I’m not saying he was happy, I’m not saying it was great, but we didn’t play politics when we were in formation together.

Q: You talk about timing. You came into this fairly late, all things considered.

A: You can say that again.

Q: Do you wish you’d come into it sooner?

A: Oh sure, sure. But politics is about fortune and fate. It really is. Those are the fancy words for it. The unfancy word for it is luck. I had some great luck at some times and bad luck at others, but you don’t choose your timing. You know, my game plan, such as it was, was to run in 2006 and serve in a Martin government for awhile and learn the ropes and do all that stuff and I had kind of an idea that it would ten years and you would learn stuff. I was aware, believe it or not, that I had something to learn here. But the stuff that was extraordinary, and in a way unprecedented, is the night of the election [in 2006]—that in some ways was the decisive moment in my whole story. The night of the election, we lost and Martin quit. And I was very aware that, wow, this is happening really way too fast. But I didn’t think I’d have another shot.

Q: But for all of luck and fate and fortune, how much could you have done differently that would have changed the story?

A: I think I underestimated the structural weaknesses of the party. You know, we’d been bleeding votes for awhile. I think I didn’t have a deep enough understanding of the weaknesses in the brand, in Quebec and elsewhere. How much could I have done differently? I think things might have been different had I won in 2006. I think I would have had a longer time to run in, longer time to work it, longer time to find my feet, get a clear sense how to do this. I think 2006. What could I have done? I mean, then you run that back. You think a better second ballot strategy or some complicated stuff like that which is all now history.Coulda, woulda, shoulda, none of it matters anymore.

Q: But for all the weaknesses of the party, you do still take responsibility as the man in front for everything that happened, no?

A: Oh, no question about it. And let me give you the flavour of that. I’ll never forget going into the caucus room after the defeat in May 2011 and seeing people in tears. Now what they were in tears about was that they loved the House of Commons. They loved doing the job. So it’s a very, very heavy responsibility to feel that you’re responsible for that much grief, that much sorrow. And they had real reason to be sorrowful because they were very good members of parliament. So you carry forever the sense that it wasn’t just that you lost. Personally, I lost my seat, I lost my job. It’s that other people who signed up with you and had supported you and shown you exemplary loyalty also lost and it’s very painful to see that. So of course I take responsibility for that. At the same time, I am not taking the rap for the party I inherited. I’m just not.

Q: You talk about the days after the election when suddenly everyone wanted to tell you they had voted for and everyone was being reassuring. But how is it to handle what amounts to personal rejection from millions of people? 

A: Well, if you define it as personal rejection you go crazy. You gotta get on a bus the next day, you gotta go out to the dry cleaner, you gotta get on a plane and stand in line with your fellow citizens and if you start thinking to yourself they’ve all rejected me personally, you’re not going to make your flight as it were. It’s difficult to fail. I wanted to put the word failure in the title of the book to say that this is a book about something we don’t talk about much in politics, or in life, which is failing. And I wanted to be as straight up about it as I could. And it takes awhile. I feel two and a half years later it’s kind of a distant memory now. But at the time it sure wasn’t. It was tough, it was painful. But again, it’s so important to emphasize that in the big scale of things, I mean, I just look at the dedication of the book. It’s dedicated to three people who died in the course of  . . .  their widows, their families, it never ends for them. For me, I’m back teaching. I go on. Life has been extremely good to me.

Q: Could you have beaten Stephen Harper?

A: I think so. Let’s grant him his due. He’s not prime minister for nothing. And I think he has maintained control of the narrative in a way that, I don’t like it, but it’s effective. And I think that, perhaps what one could say is that people weren’t tired enough of him then. Maybe they will be next time. But I want to make it clear, I have plenty of respect for him, as a politician, no question about it.

Q: Did you under-estimate his effectiveness as a politician?

A: To be frank, I may have done so at the beginning, I sure didn’t by the end.

Q: How does it feel to watch Justin Trudeau now?

A: I wish I had numbers like he did. That’s to his credit. You get a certain perspective on Trudeau when you walk down a street in Papineau with him. Just watch him switching between two languages, switching into a bit of Punjabi. It’s a tough working class riding in Montreal. It has a strong Bloc Quebecois vote. He looks really good when he’s there. I was very impressed by that and that leads me to think he’s a very skilled professional politician, under-estimated at your peril.

Q: You were hailed as maybe the next Pierre Trudeau and much was made of having the resume that you had and the stature that you had, is that stuff overrated?

A: Well, first, let’s just be very clear. I had a lot of hubris going into politics, but I didn’t think I was Pierre Trudeau. It’s like that scene in that famous presidential debate, Mr. Quayle, you’re no Jack Kennedy. I certainly knew, because I worked for Pierre, I knew Pierre and I knew what an extraordinary, once-in-a-century kind of person he was. On the resume question, I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I never thought and no politician should ever think that his resume or his life entitles him to a single vote. The great thing about democratic politics is you have to earn it and you have to earn it one vote at a time. And if you don’t have it they’re not going to give it to you. So Mr. Trudeau is going to have to earn it. And he’s going to have earn it one vote at a time. And he knows as well as anybody, the name will get you through the door, but it won’t make the sale. What I’m saying to you is he’s a professional politician, in a way, frankly, that I was not. That seems to me to be, that’s what matters.

Q: Is there a lesson there? You look at the men who got past you in the last election, Jack Layton, Stephen Harper, they’re career politicians. And that tends to be disparaged, that idea of a career politician. 

A: This is a complicated question. On the one hand, you have to have experience at the game. I mean, the leaders’ debates, each of them had done three or four debates, I’d never done one before. But let’s watch where that can lead you. You don’t want to have a political system that is closed off to outsiders. And I will always regret I didn’t have enough time to learn my trade, but I went in seriously.I was prepared to give the rest of my professional life to it and that’s I think right. But I also feel, very, very strongly, I went in at the age of 58, I’d lived a life, I thought I brought some stuff to the table. If the only people who can succeed in politics are people who go in at 25, that’d be too bad. That’d be a shame. Look at Mike Pearson. Mike Pearson was not a professional politician, he’d been out of the country for 25 years and I would rank him at absolutely the top among our list of prime ministers for legislative achievement.

Q: You talk about the contrivances and the frustrations and the complaints and the compromises that you have to go through in politics. How do you think voters will take that when they read this book?

A: When I talk about the contrivances, voters know all this. Voters are very sophisticated. In fact, voters don’t give federal politics much attention because they’ve got busy lives, but they have pretty good radar for authenticity, for can I connect to this guy. They know the moves of politicians the way they know the moves of hockey players. And they’re pretty good at detecting fakes. I don’t think they thought I was a fake, they just didn’t connect to me. I think Mr. Harper is not a fake. Mr. Harper is not, in my view, very likeable, I don’t like his policies, but he’s not faking it. What you see is, I think, what you get.

Q: But that element of contrivance to it. I wonder whether  [voters] like to be told that there’s something contrived about it.

A: All I can say in my defence is if I was trying to contrive, it didn’t work so well. I think it’s important to talk about what politics actually is because a lot of what my message in the book is very simple: politics presents a unique challenge of judgment. Which is you gotta show it the way it actually is and you also want to show it as being the noble vocation that I believe it to be. It’s both of those things. And I think the public knows that. Which is why people wept at Trudeau’s funeral, because they understand that. They also know that it’s a devious, treacherous game. They know both things, because both things are true.

Q: Do they want to hear their politicians complain about things though? I think back to that Dion ad, that featured you, in which Stephane says, This is unfair. And that seemed to me to be the crushing line in it.

A: I think that’s a good point. I’m proud that I came out of the stands, got on to the ice, put on my skates and if you do that you can’t complain if someone decks you with a hit. I mean, I feel some of the hits, I wish the ref had been looking as it were, but it’s unbecoming and also naive to complain. But I’m unrepentant about saying that there were some aspects of my time in politics that I thought were not good for democracy. It has nothing to do with me. What I’m saying is, is this democracy we want? Which is a different question.

Q: Do you think that your experience basically fits the experience of every MP? Or did you come at this from a very different place?

A: I’m sure some will say that confirms everything I always thought about that guy. But I hope they, particularly the lifers and the professionals, hear the clear expression of respect for the people who’ve made it their life’s work. I mean, you can’t sit through a Liberal caucus every Wednesday for five years, as I did, without coming out with a strong belief in the basic soundness of representative democracy, by which I mean what someone knows about Halifax or Gander or the Yukon or suburban Toronto, they really know, they know it. And you’d be a damned fool not to respect that. I hope nobody misses the fact that I think representative democracy can work. My concern is that parliamentary has been emptied out and representatives can’t do their jobs and don’t have a role. You know, what people forget is that it’s not merely that representatives go back to their ridings every weekend and pick up the gossip and hear stuff—and I think some of what they say is much more useful than any poll—there’s that side of it, but they’re also the side of they’re legislators. I can remember sitting with caucus colleagues in 2006, 2007, sitting in the justice committee, on a rainy Thursday afternoon, watching people from all parties do line-by-line and clause-by-clause on a justice bill. And that was the moment, in my entire career, when I thought, ah-ha, that’s what our job is. We’re legislators. Nobody talks about this but that’s what we actually do. That’s where we earn our living. And it’s important. If you get clause-by-clause wrong, somebody does more time in the slammer than they should. It’s not about commas and semi-colons, it’s about the lives and liberties of our fellow citizens. And we’ve kind of lost touch with—it’s all gong show now.

Q: But you had an opportunity as leader, conceivably to start making some of those changes? Did you do enough when you were here to start to try to fix things?

A: Of course not, of course not. There’s no question. I think that the current leader is taking some steps that I support and that I didn’t do. But let’s also remember what we did do. We fought a government that was twice held in contempt of Parliament by the Speaker. I could have rolled over, many times, in front of the Harper juggernaut and we went into an election in 2011 that I knew the timing was not perfect because I knew it was unconscionable to roll over on a budget after the government was held in contempt by the Speaker. And why was he held in contempt by the Speaker? Because it was our party that fought to have disclosure of documents. So on crucial issues about defending the prerogatives of parliament, I think we were actually on the side of the angels. I was holding a caucus together. I think sometimes I may have actually held the reigns a little tight. I think in different circumstances I would have done differently. But the burden making parliament work falls mostly on the prime minister. And he, for obvious reasons, it makes his life easier to run it this way.

Q: But will it ever transcend? You were a leader, you know that control is a huge aspect of it and it’s a huge benefit.

A: No, there are things that I think the public doesn’t pay much attention to, but which we really could change the rules on prorogation, we really could restore to parliamentary committees the right to choose their own chairman and dictate their own agenda. We really could prevent and make impossible dumpster bills. Those are three quite specific changes that don’t necessarily make it impossible for a prime minister to have the prerogatives that he has to have to make his government work  . . .  I think we can do better is what I’m saying.

Q: When you were here, you had an ability or a willingness to be introspective and talk about the experience of politics, did you feel that you ever fully inhabited the role of a politician?

A: I think by the end I did—2010, 2011. I mean, it’s slightly ironic, I never had so much fun in politics as the last 35 days of the campaign. I had a wonderful campaign, enjoyed it from beginning to end, and got clobbered, so what do I know here? What I think is wrong is to think of me as kind of Hamlet-like, questioning the role. No, I was in the role. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was I made some mistakes, I had some problems, we didn’t have resources, but did I want to win? Did I want to succeed? Did I want to become prime minister? Did I inhabit the role to the best of my ability? You betcha me. But me being me, let me make it more complicated. I think anybody who fully inhabits the role ought to have his head examined. The role is impossible. Even Harper, I think. Anybody has moments where you think, gawd, this job is impossible.

Q: Impossible how?

A: Well, just the range of demands. The need to be on show all the time. It’s a demanding role. Again, remember what I said earlier, it’s no more demanding than being a trauma nurse on a tough Saturday night in emergency or a fireman. This is not about feel my pain. But it’s a complicated, demanding, professional role and there are moments where you’d be crazy not to look at it and say, wait a minute. And let’s be honest, politicians are doing this all the time. Their wives or their husbands are coming to them and saying, this thing is swallowing up our entire personal life. Or their kids come to them and say, dad or mom, I haven’t seen you for three weeks. Those are moments when you have to step away from your role and ask yourself, what the hell am I doing to my life? That’s what I mean. You can’t inhabit a professional role like politics if you’re Hamlet like, I don’t know whether I want to do this. You have to do it and you have to do it with full tilt, but at the same time you have to watch that it doesn’t take you over and turn you into something you don’t want to be.

Q: Let’s presume he reads it. What do you think Stephen Harper takes away from this book?

A: It’ll confirm everything he ever thought about me, I’m sure.

Q: Do you think he would see any of himself in this?

A: I have no idea. I hope he will see professional respect combined with complete political disagreement.

Q. Because there aren’t too many people who get to lead a political party.

A. And I think one of the things I believe in as a morality in politics is something I say somewhere about the distinction between enemies and adversaries. It’s a subtle distinction, but a vital one in politics. . So I regard Mr. Harper as an adversary. I disagree with him, but I have respect for his skills. I don’t wish him well politically (laughs), that’s carrying charity too far. But I, better than almost anybody else in Canada, know that he’s not prime minister for nothing.

Q: How would you like to be remembered by the public?

A: Oh, I have absolutely nothing to say about that. Really nothing. You just leave that to the folks.

Q: Any regrets?

A: Oh, no, only that I didn’t get there. I mean, that’s the thing about politics. You can do things for people. You can get home care for families that need it. You can give them some tax relief. You can strengthen our health system. You can get us an energy policy. And the fact that you don’t get a chance to do it is the part of it you regret. I don’t regret doing it. I just regret not getting there.




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Q&A: Michael Ignatieff on success, failure and his time in politics

  1. the biggest problem iggy had in the 2011 campaign was, he(iggy) bombed in the debate(both French and English) between harper and Layton. he(iggy) looked aloof. iggy reminded me of a song writer who couldn’t sing. as a singer, you can have the best musicians in the room, but if you cant sing, you don’t get an audience.

    • and don’t forget – when Jack Layton turned on him at a crucial moment in the debate then wagged his finger at him and accused him of not earning the job because of poor attendance – the oldest trick in the book – Iggy was probably under the mistaken impression that it would be all the leaders attacking Harprer and forgot the lesson of ceasar (beware of Brutus :) – et tu as it were :) – I will never forget the look in Iggys eyes the shock and for the spilt second the camera lingered on him and you could tell he was starting to panic as he wasn’t prepared to attack Jack back and so just stood there looking like a deer on the road staring into the headlights of the upcoming car- and that folks is the real way you lose elections in canada – our system is a bloodsport and if you don’t step up to the plate it runs right over you – Mulcair will NOT make that misatke which is why right now he starting to setup Trudeau for a good strike.

      • tom mulcair is not going to side wind trudeau . trudeau is a lot more media savvy than mulcair and harper put together. I agreed that iggy was aloof, but I don’t agree with your vision of mulcair taking out trudeau. I thought trudeau handled himself pretty good in the leadership debates. trudeau didn’t look like a deer in headlights whenever he debated, he actually looked very astute and aware of his surroundings. I would give mulcair about 10 mins in a debate with trudeau and I would say someone would have to hand tom a spittoon to catch the drooling froth from his mouth(toms hard on for trudeau, is whats going to bury him). its only easy to get mulcair mad, just call him Thomas.

        • The only reason Trudeau looked decent in the leadership debates was because he knew he’d already won, there were no attacks from his debate opponents, and the moderator was lobbing softballs at all of them, which they’d had time to prepare ahead of time for.

          I know this doesn’t go with the MSM consensus that Trudeau’s going to have a cake walk into the PMO, but his handlers had better have him practicing well in advance. We’ve already seen that if he speaks off the cuff he becomes a never-ending gaffe machine. If he tries his “this is no time to debate policy” standard line, he’ll be laughed out of the country.

          • Name one person in the msm who says JT is going to have a cakewalk into 24 Sussex? Take your time. I wont wait up.

        • were you watching the debate – because I watched it on CPAC – it was no debate it was an out and out coronation – each candidate and I use that term in it’s widest possible interpretation spent all their time saying they hate Harper – only ONE lady starting standing up up the young dauphin – - and I hasten to add that no one has seen her since :) – name one candidate who gave curly locks any grief whatsoever – double dare? – oh and by the way they don’t call Mulcair angry Tom for nothing becuase when he gets going he is almost as tough as Harper – and we will see this in awhile … but .. it willl be like when Jack took out Iggy – it will come from the blind side – make no mistake about this!

          • no other leader had to go through the scrutiny with the media that trudeau went through with his run for the leadership. the way your replying to my post, you sure, you don’t need a spittoon ? so tough is what makes a PM, does it ? if people new tom had a meeting with the mafia or he had 4 mortgages on his home, he would have never been elected as leader. now their are 4 dippers vying for the job as leader of the BC dipper party(dix had a 10 point lead and blew it). that tells me, tom is not an easy guy to work for and what about jacks hunny(chow) vying for the mayors job in TO. im just waiting for the other shoe to drop with some of his members talking about defecting to the BQ. so trudeau may not even have to worry about facing off with tom in 2015. personally it looks like its going to be a TKO for justin. are your teeth grinding yet, wayne young ?

          • Hehe, of course you’d claim Trudeau will win by Technical Knock Out, and not just a Knock Out.

            During the leadership race, he wasn’t asked to answer one single question about policy. He managed to deflect any hard questions by talking about his million dollar inheritance instead. Nobody dared question the fact that he has next to zero real world experience. Anybody who did was instantly chastised. The kid hasn’t been tested at all.

          • Garneau, MGF, Murray. Are you sure you watched any of it?

          • “…each candidate and I use that term in it’s widest possible interpretation spent all their time saying they hate Harper – only ONE lady starting standing up up the young dauphin…”

            I love how the people who constantly accuse others of “hating” Harper are the first to use smears like “young dauphin” and “shiny pony.”

        • Trudeau’s problem is policy. His idea of selling our oil companies to China makes him seem as nuts as Harper.

      • How does Brutus relate to this? Jack was up against two right-wingers with nary a policy difference between them. Name one – I dare you.

  2. No regrets – really?
    How about arrogantly forgetting that in a parliamentary democracy creating alliances or coalitions is not illegitimate.
    How about enabling a mean-spirited leader and regime to destroy what little environmental policies and capacity we had – including scientists whose jobs are at peril for telling the public the truth. Or a deceitful Harper who – six months AFTER the federal election – announces in Switzerland that Canadians 55 and under will have to work two more years to qualify for their Old Age Security pension despite the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer revealing that it is NOT necessary!
    But typical elitist Liberal hubris and entitlement trumps creating parliamentary alliances or coalitions (Harper while in opposition had proposed a deal with the bloc and the NDP) at the expense of the common good.

    • Ignatieff did not have to sign the coalition agreement against his wishes.

      He could have stepped out of the Liberal party and sit as an independent, just as Rathgeber has done. Rathgeber is a hero, is he not?

    • How about Jack the saint backing Harper rather Martin, thereby creating the opportunity to let the devil in? Typical ndp selective, partisan amnesia.
      It’s all too easy to simply cast blame isn’t it?

      • Because Jack would have doomed his party by backing the corrupt thieves that were the Liberal party at the time. I know you Liberals like to try to pretend that the Sponsorship Scandal never happened, but it did. And it disgusted Canadians to no end that your party would defraud taxpayers to fund their own election machine. You forget this at your peril.

        • No, he wouldn’t , instead he went with a guy who was the very antithesis of everything he stood for. He knew the Harper accountability crap was bogus – at least he should have. The point is it is easy to write self righteous diatribes about why MI didn’t stop Harper – hell you write similar things on here all the time. You just have.

          • Oh, you mean the “accountability crap” that was one of the first bills passed by Harper’s government? You’re suggesting that Layton should have simply taken Martin at his word that, despite a half decade of defrauding taxpayers, they were done with it because they got caught? Go with the known liar and thief over the guy who was proposing concrete reforms to prevent such abuses in the future?

            Layton even did prop up Martin’s government, and got concessions from the Liberals, until Gomery released his report. At that point, the crimes of the LPC were well documented and could no longer be denied.

          • Yeah the one he dishonoured the moment it became expedient to do so.
            Clearly you watched none of the Gomery inquiry. Nothing was personally hung on Martin. Or do you think your hyperpolic opinion is some kind of substitute for actual evidence? We are a country under law, right!
            In any case the public passed judgement on the Chretien/Martin govt at the time. They paid. You of course will beg to differ.

          • No, nothing was hung personally on Martin. But he was the Finance Minister, and there were many in his party who knew about it and said and did nothing. He didn’t exactly go to great lengths to purge the party of those people, nor did he make any attempt to repay the stolen funds.

            And yes, the Liberals paid, and they continue to pay. And they’ll continue to pay till the day they show they’ve changed. They haven’t, and show no signs of changing in the near future.

          • The monies owed [according to Gomery] were paid.

            How on earth was Martin supposed to purge everyone from the party if he had no specific knowledge? My larger point is much of what you claim is unproven assumption. Just like the ridiculous claim the party stole $100 million or some such figure.

        • ” it disgusted Canadians to no end that your party would defraud taxpayers to fund their own election machine.”
          I do believe that’s the CPC. They were convicted for it.

      • Which devil?

        Because Liberals pretend they are progressives when out of power and signal left are social democrats to believe them?: for when in power they turn right.

        When the CCF/NDP are the balance of power they get as much as possible from the Libservatives or the Conliberals as they can on behalf of the people: whether in Ontario or Ottawa the NDP has been successful in squeasing benefits for ordinary Canadians from Liberals or Conservatives.

        • The devil aka SH.

          We all have aright to be partisans, go ahead and believe the party mythology if it turns your crank. But don’t assume because i’m a liberal i swallow all my parties bunf. I happened to support the coalition. Although in hindsight it likely would have been a disaster judging by the way it took off.

    • Well put!

  3. How long is the media going to keep on propping up this political failure? Even Bob Rae thought he was very arrogant to come back to Canada and want to become PM. Shows that the Cons were very astute in their choice of attack ads. But I’m fine with all this, it reminds voters what a bunch of hypocrites the Liberals are.

    • Where did Rae ever say that?

      • Ignatieff said it himself in the interview above. Bob Rae thought Iggy hadn’t earned the job. So it follows that one would be arrogant to assume the job even though he hadn’t earned it.

        • Sorry, where did he say that?

      • Ignatieff says so right in his book! He quotes Bob Rae as being very upset at Ignatieff for thinking of running when he hadn’t put in the work and asked him who he thought he was for thinking he could run and win! That is how their friendship basically ended. Read the book.

        • Fair enough. I haven’t read the book.

  4. Ignatieff says (still):” I think I under-estimated the ferocity of the Conservative attack.”

    Message to Mr.Ignatieff: face the truth.

    The CPC message about you was about the truth: you did live outside of Canada for most of your adult life and you did once again go outside of Canada after you stepped out of politics.

    Mr.Ignatieff: you were just visiting! The ad was NOT an attack; the ad spoke a truth which you still are afraid to face.

    • No, Ignatieff is a out of touch academic that never once even lied about trying to represent the middle class non-government taxpayer. All he wanted front the majority is more taxes while pandering to others.

      Ignatieff is just another statism pushing back room Harvard boys club type trying to pander for a vote. Wasn’t even good at that.

    • They knew he was just visting cuz they was all knowing, like you. Granting the CPC the benefit of both foresight and hindsight, like it was some kind of virtue is pathetic. Attack the idea, not the man.

      • The attack was against the idea of someone living abroad for 30 years, only to come back expecting to be anointed PM because he viewed himself as better than the rest of us.

        The fact that he promptly returned to Harvard after losing proves this. He didn’t even think about fighting to save his own job for a second after losing, he really didn’t seem that disappointed. It was as if this particular chapter in his biography was now closed, and he was happy to move on to the next. And he clearly still hasn’t figured that out.

        If you’re going to make the claim that you want to make Canada a better place, the first thing you need to do is actually understand the country and it’s people. He clearly didn’t, because he wasn’t here for a quarter of a century. Do you really think someone can come to understand Canada and “Canadianism” by reading newspapers from England? The second thing that people need to detect is a sense of being dedicated to the country, and the fact that he only came back to assume power, then promptly left when it was denied him, proves that he didn’t care at all about the well being of the country.

        Are you really going to say that the ads were wrong, when after the fact we know them to be true?

        • “He viewed himself as better than the rest of us”…idiotic subjective assumption/opinion…fail
          He lives and works in Toronto i believe and travels to Harvard…fail
          You clearly ar confused as to what constitutes a fact, and what constitutes an opinion.

          I don’t disagree that 30 years was too long and in the end he had nothing to say. But that doesn’t give you the right to just lie about someone’s motives.
          “Just visiting” was an assumption not a fact. “Only in for himself” was an idiotic childish presumption of motives. The fact that you would lap them up without question surprises me not at all.

      • How so? How is telling the truth an attack?

        • Because dear lady you are claiming ownership of the truth with the benefit of hindsight. Surely you can see that just isn’t on?

          • What hindsight? It was obvious beforehand that Ignatieff would return to his old stomping ground – Harvard et al.

            Who would or could have thought differently?

          • How do you explain him living and working in Toronto then?[ i believe he still has something going at Harvard also]
            Your omniscience is astonishing – do you have the good Lord on speed dial too?

          • Why don’t you do us all a favour and check it out for yourself where Ignatieff is hanging out these days.

            Of course he didn’t go back to Harvard right after his political loss: that would have been much too obvious. Ignatieff didn’t want the CPC ads to be that real, after all.

          • Are you saying he doesn’t teach at U of T and still live in Toronto?

  5. In 2008, during the signing of the coalition agreement, Ignatieff could have stepped out of the Liberal party and sit as an independent. He did not have to be forced to sign the agreement against his wishes.

    Did Wherry forget to point that out to Ignatieff? Did Wherry not feel the need to talk about Rathgeber heroic example of simply stepping out the party when fundamental disagreements arise???

    Why did Wherry forget to ask the most obvious questions?

    • Blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzz

      • What an excellent rebuttal. As usual, adding nothing constructive to the conversation. Now go back to worshiping Trust Fund Trudeau’s beautiful hair / mane.

        • Ah…the back half of the donkey has arrived.

          • It is you, kmc2 who has nothing to say. Why don’t you explain the double standard being applied by the likes of Wherry and others in the media? Why is it so difficult for you to answer to the truth?

          • What double standard is that then?

          • Read the contents of my posts and all will become clear.

          • Yeah i vaguely recall you saying he should have sat as an independent – completely omitting his stated reason for signing – he was worried it might fracture the LPC. Ratheberger hardly faced the same pressures.

          • So, it’s all about being able to resist pressure, or not.

            Well, it is clear enough that Ignatieff was not strong at resisting pressure. That much is clear.

            Not leadership material to begin with. That sums it up, basically.

    • Absolutely correct. And he likely would have had many other members of his caucus join him.

      Wherry prides himself on not asking tough questions of Liberals.

    • Maybe he knew you’d repeat it ad nauseum.

      • Well, if academics and so-called intellectuals can’t bother to tell the truth, then someone has to do it. Repeatedly if necessary.

        So what do you think about double standards being applied?

        • I think you are doing a fine job of it.

  6. The one seminal act that stands out in my mind was just how quickly Iggy said goodbye to us all after handing victory to the Conservatives. His goodbye was uttered as he got into his chauffeured vehicle. There wasn’t anything particularly genuine in its utterance. He didn’t give the country a second glance as he left, leaving the Liberals Party in tatters.. He was, after all, going back to teaching whatever it is that he professes to know something about. I’m quite sure that it won’t be political acumen, because politics is a subject that can teach the best of them a very real sense of humility. Let’s hope that he’s learned his lesson.

  7. Michael Ignatieff makes it sound so complex, it isn’t.

    I may not be typical, I am a conservative but do not vote Harper neo-Con. I actually considered voting for Ignatieff.

    But here is why I didn’t.

    1) He is Harvard, like a CEO of NorTel, Enron, Chrysler, GM, Carney, Bernanke and others who’s economics capabilities are lacking. Harvard is over rated, and is more of an old back room boys club.

    2) Not that politicians ever keep their promises, but I didn’t see Liberals represent the middle class non-government working class majority. All they did was pander with out money. Pander for votes, big promises to screw the backbone of Canada for more taxes, even carbon tax.

    Sum the two up, I just spoiled my ballot by writing “I need better choices”. Just parachuting in someone to manage us like sheep is not what I want. I want someone to represent us and manage government. I refuse to ever vote for people who’s career is so government geared that their view is to manage us.

    And I want less government, less taxes, but no option exists on the Canadian ballot. As if the ballot is rigged anyways. Reality is none of these parties represent us, they represent lobbyists,back room boy and the corruption of bailouts and misuse of other peoples money for a lie.

    Democracy in Canada is a ruse. 3 ponies, one result. We are tax slaves of state.

  8. If only Ignatieff were more willing to talk about him self, we could better understand this giant of a man.
    If only he were more introspective we could feel even more exhausted after reading how this tragic hero was so unfairly treated by that big meanie, Harper.

    • Iggy needs some cheese to go with his whine. Same goes for Lawrence Martin.

      • Lawrence Martin and Jeffrey Simpson are so simple in their thinking! Why the G&M still keeps them on as pundits is unexplainable.

  9. Liberals need to learn how to pick a leader. Trouble with academics and career long government manages the people types, is they have it backwards. They only know statism and other peoples money, our money. Always pandering, never leading.

    Canadians want leaders, not tax managers. We want Ottawa cleaned up, not just more government bloat from professional government employees looking at taxpayers as ATMs. We want lower taxes so it is worthwhile to work.

    Fact is big Liberal federalism doesn’t work. If I lose the city for a month, I lose water, sewer and roads. If I lose the province I lose health care and highways….if I lose Ottawa for a month would I even notice? Sure, I get passports which they gouge us for and we pay, but what does Ottawa do for your average productive working Canadian besides tax wealth out of us in income and spend side taxes?

    Ottawa has built this wasteful, often corrupt, bailout lobby buddies to tax us empire of waste. We need leaders who want to correct the moral problems of taxation as modern day slavery. More and more are questioning where the money goes and what do they get for it, and Ottawa is a non-value added waste bucket.

    • Jeez you sound exactly like my old man…”i don’t have kids in school anymore, why the hell should i pay school taxes?” Pretty soon he wont be able to drive anymore…”why the hell should i still pay road taxes now!” You can’t see past the end of your nose.

      • Yes, everybody who believes in lower taxes and smaller government has got to be an old cook. Expecting value for our tax money is just selfish, we should all happily pay for inefficient and ineffective government programs in perpetuity.

        • That was my point – you nailed it as always. How’s your thumb?

          • How’s your thumb?

            LOL – Rick Omen is going to throw down the gloves if you don’t give up the puck kcm2. He seems to have a hard time making the big hit. Hold still, will ya?.

            Just trying to keep up with the hockey metaphors here. ;-)

          • Oh he got a couple licks in this time. Gotta let em get the puck every now and again eh? Otherwise they might just go home.

        • Which old cook is that? The Galloping Gourmet?

  10. This torture-loving dork clearly hasn’t learned a thing. Bottom-line: Canadians are wise to the Liberal’s campaign-from-the-left/govern-from-the-right scam. They simply can’t be trusted on the environment, on cultural investments, on any number of crucial portfolios.

    They do decent job on foreign affairs, but that’s not nearly enough. Voting Liberal is voting for more of the same. We deserve better.

    • Yeah, Canadians are just itching for a more left-wing government. That’s certainly clear from opinion polls.

      • And the polls in Canada are oh so very accurate, just ask Adrian Dix. Have been paying attention the last few elections?

        • Nice to see that you cite, as an example, a situation where it turned out that the people of BC didn’t want a left-wing government. Keep those brilliant points of yours coming.

  11. “I’m proud that I came out of the stands, got on to the ice, put on my
    skates and if you do that you can’t complain if someone decks you with a
    hit.”

    So we have one failed politician and one successful politician, neither of whom can skate, musing about hockey? Oh. the irony!

  12. Ignatieff deprived himself of a potentially noble calling in life by not signing on with the coalition agreement with the condition that he be the Minister of Foreign Affairs in such an agreement. His portfolio perfectly suited that role and would have, IMO, quenched his desire to affect politics on the world stage (and you can certainly do that from that post, as Pearson and Clark proved). For whatever reason, he seemed bent on “PM or Bust” as the only way to quench his desire to resolve world affairs. A pity.

  13. “We fought a government that was twice held in contempt of Parliament by the Speaker.”

    The Speaker of the House of Commons does not “hold the government in contempt.” The Speaker decides whether there is enough of a case for the House to decide on contempt. To my recollection, the House never decided on contempt.

    So, to recap: how many times has any Canadian federal government Mr. Ignatieff opposed been held in contempt? Exactly zero.

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