The Commons: Iggy comes in, again


Iggy comes in, again

Ever conscious of this stuff, he began with a headline.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Michael Ignatieff said, “I am in.”

If that wasn’t sufficient, there was more in this quotable vein.

On loving his country: “I love my country.”

On Stephen Harper’s government: “The truth is not in them.”

On leadership: “Leadership for me is about telling a true story.”

On understanding: “What we understand together, we can master together.”

And that was just the first page.

He moved onward and upward from there. Take out your bingo cards and follow along.

Outthink. Solution. Honest. Hope. Opportunity. Dream. Equality. Values. Prime Minister. Beliefs. Challenge. Rise. Ensemble. Renewal. Best. Brightest. Pledge. Convene. Grassroots. Compassion. Toughness. Generosity. Fierce. Patriotism. Love. Faith. Listen. Respect. Tradition. Future. Honour. Lead.

As is the case with all successful politicians, he was trailed by a small array of young men in dark coats. He wore a dark suit and red tie with a shirt that might’ve been pink. He rocked a bit on his feet, massaged the air around him with his hands, pounded his fist every so often and spoke French with a particular verve. The press gallery was vaguely captivated by him, having found a politician that was purposefully more interesting than a loaf of bread.

“I’ve changed,” he declared. “I’ve been tested.”

A reporter noted that last time he sought the Liberal leadership, in 2006, it was deemed his to lose. “And I did a pretty good of job it,” he joked.

“I think the ballot question last time was, ‘Who the hell does he think he is?'” he added.

He then clarified that he was not, in fact, the devil.

If the enduring lesson of the Stephane Dion Era was that one must first look and sound the part if one hopes to become Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff would seem an easy choice to lead the Liberals into the next election. At least so long as the Prime Minister you desire is one who does a good job of seeming smart and worldly and charming and nearly cool. If your basic test is an individual’s ability to deliver a decent speech—a test that is at least as sound as any of the others—Ignatieff would seem even better prepared than he was two years ago.

But of course there are also, as sports people put it, the intangibles. How a politician makes you feel. Whether you believe him. Whether you find him relatable and endearing and admirable or merely impressive. And, er, what it is he says he wants to do within his jurisdiction.

Someone somewhere opined today that we need a leader like him. It was, all things considered, a fairly astute assessment. The primary problem with it being that there’s a large chasm between a “leader like him” and “him.” That is the question. And it is primarily on the small matter of what is he wants to do with this country—and how sensibly he articulates as much—that it will be answered.

Only once during this second attempt at a campaign launch was Ignatieff particularly tested in this regard. Someone asked him about the auto industry and what he might do about it if he were Prime Minister.

Ignatieff began his answer with reference to an obscure joke about an Irishman. What followed was altogether sensible, if not transcendent.

Which probably qualifies this as a good start, though not much more than that.


The Commons: Iggy comes in, again

  1. Well at least he made it through that press conference without sticking his foot in his mouth… again.

  2. Looks like the snap fall 2008 vanity election called by Harper will be judged as a major tactical error and $300 million mistake if this guy gains any momentum.

    The 16 year olds at the CON war room must be scratching their heads trying to figure out how to attack Ignatieff…

  3. Ah, here it comes. The infinitesimal over-analysis with seeming joy to a dilemma of the writer’s own construction. If only we could go back in time and ensure that all past leaders — hey, even a few current ones — would face such absolute dissection of their primordial assent.
    No wonder there aren’t more Obamas — you first need a real dick like Bush to make the press distracted from its characteristically self-important deflating manner, and then, maybe perhaps if the stars align, they’ll assume a less cynical eye.
    No, I’m not comparing Ignatieff to Obama, or even Harper to Bush. I’m just wondering why someone else’s hope to lead a party, and possibly a nation, has become just a sport to bat around?
    I can only imagine how the media micro-minds would have treated the likes of Borden and Pearson had they been so inclined and equipped.

  4. “I think the ballot question last time was, ‘Who the hell does he think he is?’” he added.

    He then clarified that he was not, in fact, the devil.

    Ha. Did this really happen, or just some subtle facetiousness on Aarons part?

    Charisma he might have (have my doubts though, going by how non-poli junkies see him), but to ordinary folks, it is surely a dark humourless charisma. Which might be why I can’t tell, having not seen the interview myself.

  5. Can anyone with good photoshop skillz make up Iggy to look like the Joker?

  6. ‘Natieff is to Nixon as “misplaced specificity” is to “plausible deniability”. When Denis Smith asked him how he could have held and promoted all these wrong-headed positions given all the facts that contradicted him, ‘Natieff responded with the sophism that this was “misplaced specificity”. Ha ha, funny – not so much. I’m sure Maher Arar is still laughing. Again and again, he has shown he’s got terrible judgement because he can’t grasp basic realities. Read the book, Ignatieff’s World:

  7. I like Iggy’s position on Quebec in that he is prepared to recognize that Quebec nationalism can be a positive force and should be accomodated in the Quebec federation.

    I think the Trudeau vison of Quebec federalism has not served this country well and we need to move away from it. It was Iggy’s support of the Quebec is a nation resolution which resulted in his loss in Montreal in 2006.

    The big question in Vancouver in 2009: will the Liberal Party of Canada finally bury the Trudeau vision of canadian federalism by crowning Mr. Ignatieff?

    HIs position on Quebec is completely compatible with the Clark/Mulroney/Harper view.

  8. Oops – in my first sentence in the post above, I meant to say “…accomodated in the Canadian federation.”

  9. Eugene Forsey Liberal, I’m just reading the book now. Extremely well-written and thusfar very much to the point. I second your recommendation. We need to know who this person is and we need to take a close look at his record.

  10. True, Harper’s success in Quebec this election was truly breathtaking. The Bloc is dead, so is the Parti Quebecois I hear.

  11. Mr. Mitchell: tell your friends. Better yet, get everyone you know to join the LPC to vote for anyone but ‘Natieff. Only $10 to decide who Leader of Official Opposition will be. Do we really want leaders of two major parties to both be Iraq War boosters, contrary to our government’s and our population’s stances? Obama was against war from the start. Iggy was in favour, and only half-admitted he was wrong last August.

  12. If the ConBots approve of him, well there’s the answer right there.

  13. BC – The Bloc is living on borrowed time. I also think that accomodating Quebec nationalism is correct from a policy standpoint. I’m not concerned about short-term electoral prospects, although the long-term the prospects of any federal party following such a policy towards Quebec will be bright. And if both national political parties show themselves prepared to accomodate Quebec’s legitimate aspirations, the PQ will simply morph into a left-of-centre party and will discard its separatist politics and the Bloc will die out. The BQ is destined to die.

    There will always be those Quebecers who dream of their own country but that dream will never become a reality unless the rest of Canada provokes Quebecers into making a decision that collectively they don’t want to make. It was awfully close in 1995 after the Meech debacle which was caused by Trudeau and his acolytes, but more and more the Trudeauites appear to be a spent force in the Liberal Party. Maybe Ignatieff’s ascension will be the death knell to the remaining Trudeau remnant .

  14. EFL, if after Chapter 4 I’m in anything like the mood I’m in after Chapter 1, I’ll do a lot more than that. But I will certainly recommend the book far and wide. Very glad it’s there at Google Books, the author deserves a lot of credit for making it available.

    Think there’s any market for verse satire anymore, à la Pope? Iggy provides such good material . . .

  15. The Bloc is living on borrowed time

    …maybe, maybe not.

    I find it interesting that you say Harper’s postion on Quebec follows along the path blazed by Mulroney, which I guess it does… now. Anyways, don’t leave out the NDP. That has been their policy for awhile now too, no?

  16. …after the Meech debacle which was caused by Trudeau and his acolytes…

    I am always truly amazed at the extent of historical revisionism surrounding Meech and the BS about “the night of long knives”.


  17. Austin So,

    Who started the ball rolling against Meech? Pierre Trudeau, with his coming out of retirement speech at, I think it was “The Egg Roll Restaurant” in Montreal. Then Frank McKenna joined in, which created momentum and then Clyde Wells, a Trudeau ideologue if there ever was one, refused to put the Meech resolution to the Newfoundland legislature, thereby breaking his word. Sharon Carstairs in Manitoba, another Trudeau kool-aid drinker campaigned against the Meech Lake Accord in Manitoba and was instrumental in getting it blocked in that province. Elijah Harper got the blame/credit for blocking it in Manitoba but it was Carstairs who was the force in seeing the legislature block the accord there.

    Them’s the facts.

  18. “Liberals do not want a Canada where the colour of your skin, the language you speak, the country you originated from determines how well you survive this economic downtown”

    So Ignatieff is already playing the race card. Nice. Doesn’t bode well for the decorum level in the next session of Parliament does it? Or further, if this guy actually wins. Not sure how you missed that little gem of a quote in your summation of Ignatieff’s position on Stephen Harper’s government, Aaron. Running a little cover?

    And predictably, only the National Post calls him on it. Not CTV, CBC, the G&M, the Star…and certainly no bloggers at Macleans.ca.

    But please, Aaron or Kady or Andrew…let’s sit by the fireplace and you can tell us all again the stories about how mean and nasty Stephen Harper was during the election campaign, or about how HyperPartisan the Conservatives are…we love those stories!!! The ones about the Liberals? Meh…not so much.

  19. You’re right, john g, there’s nothing more racist than calling for racial harmony; there’s nothing more divisive than standing up for unity.

  20. Mr. Michael Ignatieff is not acceptable to lead the liberal party or be the Prime Minister of Canada.

    He fully supported the Ilegal Iraq invasion and occupation, which is a criminal act.

    This is a very serious lack of judgement, and is not acceptable.

    We cannot support such a clear case of bad judgement.

  21. I think the Charlottetown referendum pretty much vindicated Mckenna, Wells, Carstairs et al. The majority of Canadians disliked Meech. Get over it.

  22. Iggy makes a point of assuring Liberals and Canadians that he’s not the devil.


    Smacks of Gertrude’s line about ‘protesting too much.’

  23. Richard – The Charlottetown Accord and Meech Lake are two different kettles of fish. The Charlottetown Accord was rightly rejected by Canadians.

    The Trudeau vision is pretty well toast is Iggy wins. The last two Liberal leaders, Martin and Dion supported Meech. Iggy, like Quebecers, is now beyond Meech, with the Quebec as a Nation resolution. So are the Conservatives and as BC said above, so is the NDP.

    The train’s left the station and the ones left behind are Pierre and Justin Trudeau, Jean Chretien, Clyde Wells, Sharon Carstairs, Gerard Kennedy and I suppose I shouldn’t forget Andrew Coyne. I would hardly call that vindicated. The Trudeau vision has becomce a minority position within the Liberal Party of Canada, for that we can all be grateful, at least to those of us who are interested in a united working federation.

  24. Jarrid,

    Clearly, you think that Meech was a “work of art”. I think it was an Aislin editorial cartoon that captured it nicely, when it showed a picture of Mulroney in front of the Mona Lisa doodling all over it to “improve” it.

    The whole premise of Meech was fabricated. There was no rising Quebec nationalism. It was in the process of dying until Mulroney latched onto the need to placate his closet full of separatists.

    Meech was a stupid document spearheaded by a stupid man to address a stupid concern.


  25. Austin,

    That’s a view shared by many Trudeauites as well: the Trudeauites won the Meech battle but have lost the war. No one would now dispute that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada, heck we’ve now accepted that they form a nation within Canada.


  26. Austin- “Meech was a stupid document spearheaded by a stupid man to address a stupid concern.”

    That is the best I have ever heard it put. But you forgot to add that it was all created to flatter BM’s stupid vanity (he wanted so desperately to outdo Trudeau he would have done anything).

    Jarrid- disputing whether Quebec is distinct within Canada doesn’t have as much to do with Meech as it would first appear. The problem wasn’t whether Quebec has a distinct history and culture it was whether it should be recognized in the constitution. That would have been a disaster. Mulroney was telling Quebec it would give them special powers and the rest of Canada it would have only symbolic meaning. Eventually Quebec would have tried to use the power and depending on how the inevitable resulting court challenge went either Quebec or the ROC was going to be mighty pissed off. How anyone can think it was a good idea is mind boggling. Put simply, Trudeau saved Canada from a disasterous constitutional mess that Mulroney created in a sad attempt to one up an old rival. As for Quebec’s “distinctiveness” every province has a distinct history and culture, that is one of the major reasons for our federal system, it allows for flexability in this regard. The fact that people recognize the obvious (about Quebec or any other province) is hardly ground breaking stuff, let alone cause to claim that the Trudeau vision of federalism is dead.

  27. heck we’ve now accepted that they form a nation within Canada

    And so the games being anew…why don’t you tell me what kind of nation it is?

    BTW…separatists (those that advocate sovereignty-lite) have infiltrated all the national parties. And lookee here! Harper is bending over backwards to satiate them as best he can. Don’t you recall how famously he did in Quebec this past election?

    The question for the LPC is whether Iggy is capable of thinking for himself viz Quebec or enjoys the attention too much.


  28. But you forgot to add that it was all created to flatter BM’s stupid vanity (he wanted so desperately to outdo Trudeau he would have done anything).



  29. RyanD and Austin, we’ll have to agree to disagree yet again on a particular political issue.

    The Liberal Party of Canada’s hardline stance against any distinctive treatment towards Quebec is dead for all intents and purposes if Michael Ignatieff prevails in this leadership race.

    Here’s hoping he pulls through.

  30. Jarrid,

    I highly doubt that you can actually articulate what “Quebec is a nation” constitutes…care to give it a go?


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