A colleague who has been increasingly frustrated with Michael Ignatieff’s refusal to take substantive positions sent me an email on Tuesday. Look!, the email said. Michael Ignatieff took a position! He’s against asbestos exports. The email was based on this statement Ignatieff made on the weekend on Vancouver Island. If the first clause of the quote seems ominous, then you’re getting to know our man:
“I’m probably walking right off the cliff into some unexpected public policy bog of which I’m unaware, but if asbestos is bad for Parliamentarians in the Parliament of Canada, it just has to be bad for everybody else,” he said. “Our export of this dangerous product overseas has got to stop.”
Various environmental groups mistook “Our export of this dangerous product overseas has got to stop” for a statement of settled opinion, and welcomed it. So on Wednesday Ignatieff cleared everything up.
“We have had 60 years of experience with this product. What I said in answer to a question is that we have an obligation to international agreements to the countries that we export to, to make them aware of the risks. That is all I said.”
This amount of flexibility upsets some who are less agile. Chantal Hébert’s column today is instructive. The next election is shaping up as a duel between two men, each of whom desperately hopes you will concentrate on the other guy.