The bus pulled up at the base of the Peace Tower and, as if on cue, what had been a light shower became a veritable downpour. Undaunted, Michael Ignatieff stepped jauntily from the vehicle, without either umbrella or cap, perhaps a half dozen metaphors trailing in his wake.
He walked to the edge of the front steps, beside where a bar band had been entertaining the assembled with a rendition of Hungry Like The Wolf, before a crowd of perhaps a 150 or so umbrella’d loyalists who crowded in close in the mid-afternoon rain. Behind Mr. Ignatieff stood a dozen or so Liberal MPs, a half dozen red-and-white umbrellas keeping he and them mostly dry. “Welcome to the official launch of the Liberal Express!” Dominic LeBlanc, standing beside Mr. Ignatieff, said by way of introduction.
Mr. LeBlanc proceeded with a joke about the recent warm weather and Liberal intentions to increase the temperature. He then introduced “the next Prime Minister of Canada” to a sufficient roar from the dampened audience.
After thanking the assembled, Mr. Ignatieff aimed too for topical humour.
“We don’t care about this Conservative weather do we?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically. The crowd cried “no.”
“We’re waiting for the Liberal sun to shine,” he said. The crowd cried “yeah.”
“And we’re all on a great adventure,” he declared.
Though much of everything Mr. Ignatieff has said since entering politics has been subject to debate—and everything he said previously rediscovered and reentered into the record—his noun here seems fairly indisputable. Whatever else this has been, this last year and a half for Mr. Ignatieff has certainly been adventurous, perhaps the weirdest journey yet in a life spent wandering some of the world’s strangest corners. And here now is the latest trip, a relentless, summer-long, cross-country bus ride taken with a solemn vow to shake every hand and kiss every baby—the eager, cynical and merely bored watching and waiting to declare a successful resurgence of his political life or an unmitigated disaster portending total and final doom. His wife by his side in hot pink running shoes, anything and everything in front of him, the expectations made epic.
“We’re going to bring politics back to the Canadian people,” he said. “Restore faith in the political process.”
He promised a “compassionate, progressive, reforming alternative.” He swore to “do politics differently.” He declared respect for the institution behind him. He offered the “politics of persuasion” over the “politics of manipulation”—his best rhyme this day, whatever it may ultimately mean. “We are ready to get serious,” he said.
“We love our country. This is not about me. This is not about the Liberal party. This is about the future of country,” he very nearly growled. “And it’s in our hands.”
Even this was not yet enough. “Let’s offer a politics of hope in place of a politics of division,” he continued. “A politics of optimism in place of a politics of fear. A politics that would rather build schools than prisons. A politics that thinks now is not the time for tax breaks for rich corporations, now is the time to invest in our children and grandchildren’s education.”
He stated an intention to “restore Canada as a beacon of hope, a beacon of human rights, a beacon of peace, order and good government, an example of tolerance to the world.”
He was by then, rain still pouring, rhetorically running down hill, barely able to keep up with his own momentum.
“The Canada you grew up in. The Canada you love,” he went on, each sentence seeming to end with a crash. “The Canada… I will fight for you and I will fight with you until we get it back. And now, and now my friends the tour begins.”
After a few more words en français, he was done. And after a short, wet scrum with reporters, Mr. Ignatieff seeming quite eager, he was aboard the bus and the Liberal Express, with a few blasts of the horn, was in motion.
It proceeded back down the hill, turned the corner and disappeared from sight. First stop on the road to salvation, the cheese factory in St. Albert.