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The Commons: ‘I hope I make myself clear’


 

Michael Ignatieff spoke initially in French. He’ll have to do that from here on. His hair was freshly cut. Which will also now be of some vague importance.

He spoke seriously at first. His voice seemed deeper. Asked later about how his party might reach out to rural Canada, he harkened back to growing up “in the barns of my uncle’s dairy farm.” Asked about Alberta, he managed to speak of “destiny” and “adventure” and “drama.”

By the relatively humble standards of recent Liberal leaders, this was… good.

By the relatively mystical standards of prospectively transcendent politicians, this was… interesting.

He had obviously some intention of matching the blustery, make-believe machismo of Mr. Harper’s rhetoric.

“The choice is his,” he said of the Prime Minister. “Mr. Harper knows where he can find me.”

On the circumstances of his leadership. “I don’t take lessons in legitimacy from Stephen Harper.”

On the possibility of imminent Conservative attacks on him. “It would be very unwise.”

On who speaks for the Liberal party. “Nobody speaks for the Liberal party but me.”

On clarity. “I hope I make myself clear.”

And so on and so forth. A review of the early headlines shows this gambit to have been fairly effective.

He made the requisite pledge to lead the coalition, to vote against the Conservative government and fell the Prime Minister. But.

“The ball,” he said, “is in Mr. Harper’s court.”

Now he is the leader and now he must do as so. He must talk tough without limiting his options. He must keep open those options without seeming directionless. He must answer questions without committing to anything. He must be vague without seeming bereft of ideas. 

He arrived at the National Press Theatre this time with maybe 20 associates. Each of them no doubt of some opinion as to how he might do all of this.

The press gallery filled the seats directly in front of him. It is probably safe to assume some are willing to be impressed. It is probably safe to predict most will quickly prove impatient if he fails to justify his sudden ascension.  

He made the requisite nod to a “better” kind of politics. He denounced Mr. Harper’s approach to the economy. He pronounced his party be based on the ideas of “national unity” and “fiscal responsibility.” He was asked repeatedly about his party’s inability to succeed of late despite those unimpeachable principles.

He attempted to compare his Liberals to a plank of wood. They had been run through the Conservative buzzsaw, he said, but the wood itself was still of good, sturdy fibre. Or something.

If it is press conference poetry you seek, Ignatieff is probably your man. But he was not quite graceful this first time out. Two years ago, he spoke to the Liberal convention as though he’d just gulped down a bottle of NyQuil. Here, again, he slowed things down. He did not seem similarly drugged. But he seemed tentative at first. Perhaps that’s his instinct when faced with such challenge and pressure. Perhaps there is even something to be said for a leader who moves and thinks calmly and deliberately in the midst of chaos. But in public it borders on the unsettling.

As the proceedings continued he seemed to settle in, stopped hesitating. He started waxing eloquent about Canada and Canadiana and the dairy farms of his youth. “I like the smell,” he said.

He said his party must “be everywhere.” Just, one assumes, as he must now be everything.

Craig Oliver, a man who knew the sort of man some would like Ignatieff to be (last name: Trudeau), asked the new Liberal leader if this coalition was merely a road to 24 Sussex. “I’m not looking for a road to 24 Sussex,” Ignatieff said. “I’m looking for a road that takes us out of the crisis.”

Oliver challenged him again. Ignatieff bowed to his wisdom. And then vowed no less than “leadership equal to the crisis we are going through.”

By the relative standards of our current predicament that would be welcome.


 

The Commons: ‘I hope I make myself clear’

  1. Good blog Aaron. I was also impressed by the press conference. Off to a good start.

  2. The best thing for the CPC to do at this point is to let this man talk.

  3. Better than I expected. But Bob Rae going was better than Michael Ignatieff coming.

  4. With all those questions, it’s surprising that nobody asked him what he thinks about puffins.

  5. it’s surprising that nobody asked him what he thinks about puffins.

    I think the Conservatives should go with that as an attack ad.

  6. Sisyphus
    Dec 10, 2008 18:07
    Report Abuse

    Better than I expected. But Bob Rae going was better than Michael Ignatieff coming.

    Perfectly put – Sisyphus!

  7. Certainly won’t top Stephen Harper going, in my anxious opinion!

  8. Agreed Bob Rae fantastic, Michael Ignatieff quite fine…but both beat harumphing Harper any day of the week.

  9. Michael Ignatieff is saying all the right things he’s committed to bringing the country together in his press conference spoke of western Canada, Quebec rural Canada and cities nothing was said to pit Canadians against each other and that’s the Canada I want to live in UNITED. Harper is a paper cutout by comparison.

  10. Red – Hell, YES! It’s the difference between being a statesman and a partisan hack and it’s what this country sorely needs. I don’t want to be fighting with Western Canadians. We’re ALL Canadians after all. Respectful debate and different Even irreconcilable) ideas are fine. Divisive identity politics to win power are F-ed up. Obama vs. McCain baby. High road vs. low road.

  11. “Perhaps there is even something to be said for a leader who moves and thinks calmly and deliberately in the midst of chaos. But in public it borders on the unsettling.”

    What planet do you live on?

    Since when does anyone find a leader who is thoughtful, calm, and composed “unsettling”?

    In no way is this a comparison of the two men, but I think the presidential campaign showed that when one guy stays cool and the other guy continually flies off the handle, people tend to like the guy who keeps cool.

  12. Jean Proulx:
    ” I don’t want to be fighting with Western Canadians. We’re ALL Canadians after all. Respectful debate and different Even irreconcilable) ideas are fine. Divisive identity politics to win power are F-ed up. ”

    I agree, I hope you can convince and encourage the Liberal party to cease and desist this kind of politics.It is people like you that can provide real change within the Liberal party. I promise, I won’t hold it against when you fail.

  13. Daryl – Yes, we Liberals have a lot to learn about taking the high road from Conservatives.

    Ooof…almost strained my sarcasm muscle there

  14. I actually was not expecting you to take any lessons from Conservatives. I was hoping you would use any tools at your disposal to correct the divisive politics of your Liberal party.

  15. Tell you what: I’ll work on the Liberals and you can work on the Conservatives. Deal?

  16. >>>>> agree, I hope you can convince and encourage the Liberal party to cease and desist this kind of politics.It is people like you [Jean] that (who) can provide real change within the Liberal party.<<<<<

    That’s all we’re asking for, Jean; tell us what’s so great about the Liberal party of late. Try not to switch into ABC mode, but talk about why the Liberal party finds it acceptable that federal taxpayer’s money is handed to a provincial party, the BQ.

    If the Liberals would have had their financial house in order, they never would have objected to doing away with party subsidies.

    Try to answer the question.

  17. What’s so great about the Liberal Party is what’s always been great about it: it is a big-tent, non-ideological party. A party that places national unity above all else and which always tries to reach out to all regions, all parts of Canadian society. A party that governs responsibly.

    The Liberals find it is acceptable for the BQ to receive the same public financing as any other Canadian political party because we are fair-minded and democratic, because we seek to defeat our electoral opponents through a debate about ideas, not to destroy them by manipulating the electoral system.

    Furthermore public financing of political parties is eminently defensible because it reduces the influence of money on our politics and frees our elected representatives to concentrate on governing instead of chasing fund-raising dollars. In afct I would like to see all political aprties funded SOLEY By public financing and to tie the level of that funding directly to how many votes they get. That would be fair and would serve ordinary Canadians well.

  18. >>>because we seek to defeat our electoral opponents through a debate about ideas, not to destroy them by manipulating the electoral system.<<<<<

    Than let the BQ put forth a national platform when running within federal elections. Why should a Canadian PM, who speaks and must speak for all Canadians, have to compete with one party which is provincial in outlook, and seeks ultimately to separate from Canada.

    Quebeckers are free to vote for the BQ.

    I have no problem with that.

    What I find extremely disturbing with is that a provincial party (and a party which seeks separation from the ROC) should be propped up with federal tax dollars.

  19. Its the democratic right of Quebecers to vote for such a party if they wish and its the democratic obligation of our government to treat all political parties equally.

    Just for the record though I believe that Quebcers would be much better served by voting for truly national parties. The BQ, as long as it advocates Quebec independence and does not present a pan-Canadian policy agenda, has always been and always will be a marginal party with limited influence within the House of Commons. The coalition agreement would change nothing in that regard. The fact that the Conservatives got their knickers in such a twist about it just shows their ignorance about the Liberals and the NDP. Liberals and New Democrats are federalists and Canadians first, and only partisans second. As such they are occasionally willing to cooperate with the BQ on a limited basis for strategic purposes, but they would never do anything that would harm our national unity. You should also be willing to consider that the BQ offered to support the coalition for the reasons it stated: to get action on the economy (particularly as it relates to Quebec) and not as some insidious plot to harm Canada. And just because something is good for Quebec does not automatically make it bad for the rest of Canada. It’s not a zero-sum game.

  20. Jean Proulx: “What’s so great about the Liberal Party is what’s always been great about it: it is a big-tent, non-ideological party. A party that places national unity above all else and which always tries to reach out to all regions, all parts of Canadian society. A party that governs responsibly”

    How did you say that with a straight face? Seriously?
    http://calgarygrit.blogspot.com/2008/09/seat-projections.html
    http://ca.uclue.de/6628323.html
    http://www.liberalalberta.ca/default_e.aspx
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/story/2008/10/03/paul-martin-calgary-speech.html – 100 supporters?
    http://ambitonline.com/nextrelease/archives/14-Election-Advice-for-Paul-Martin.html

  21. “he harkened back to growing up “in the barns of my uncle’s dairy farm.”

    Are we fact checking this statement? Someone gonna give this obviously false claim The Full Sawatzky?

    Just kidding, everyone knows that the lib-left media accepts Liberal politicians’ claims at their word,and present it to the public as is without any investigation. If Harper had made such a claim, reporters would already have quotes from his fifth grade teachers and classmates disputing it. Iggy was born in Toronto, grew up abroad while his father was posted as a diplomat, then sent to UCC as a boarder at age 11. I’m not seeing much cow time here. At least Mulroney’s lies (driving a truck) were adjacent to true (driving a station wagon).

    I have an uncle who has a barn, I visited it a few times as a kid, I would never think of spinning this experience into the most fake attempt at rural-cred, I would say something statesmanlike such as “rural communities strengthen the spiiiiiiiiiiiine of citizenship in this country”

    Oh well, I guess it will fall to the Conservative commentariat to tell our fellow citizens the real story of this poseur.

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