A personal reflection on the Ignatieff Era - Macleans.ca

A personal reflection on the Ignatieff Era

Colby Cosh on how the Liberals had little choice but to shout down questions about his suitability


I thought that, if for no other reason than the benefit of historians, someone really ought to record a remark on the bizarre final hours of Michael Ignatieff’s time as Liberal leader. His concession speech on the evening of May 2 was immediately praised by sympathetic journalists for its respectfulness and its reflectiveness. Few of them, probably, were watching it quite the way I was—as somebody who had money riding on the result from Ignatieff’s own riding, Etobicoke-Lakeshore. I was watching those returns like a Predator drone circling a cave full of terrorists, so I was exceedingly surprised that Ignatieff’s concession speech seemed to be predicated on him remaining, at least for a little while, as leader of a Liberal rump. He spoke as though his constituents had already invited him to be part of this new caucus, though their preference for Bernard Trottier was, by that hour, fairly apparent. Ignatieff even stressed the need for “continuity”:

I’m going to need the help of every Liberal, everyone who loves their country and loves this party, to stand with me as we rebuild and renew. I will serve as long as the party wants to make me serve, or ask me to serve, and not a day longer. This party needs the continuity, this party needs the faith to continue the work that we have done, and I am willing to serve to help us do that work of renewal, reform, and growth.

He didn’t close the escape hatch at any point, but he emphasized that his occupancy of the leadership would be up to the party to curtail. By the time he gave his speech, this was true only in a tenuous technical sense—he is the first Liberal leader to lose his seat in a general election since 1945—and Ignatieff was forced to write a humiliating cadenza to his own political career the next day.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I take this curious awkwardness, this slight off-kilterness, to be a metaphor for the whole Ignatieff experiment. (I felt the same way about his adoption of a Bruce Springsteen song as his spiritual anthem; given Springsteen’s all-American corniness, it struck me another “Oh dear, has no one told the poor man?” moment.) If you’ll pardon a moment of self-indulgence, I feel as though I’ve been standing at a level crossing, waving red flags at Liberals and anti-Tory centrists for six years; and now that the train wreck has happened, the survivors are still confused by my behaviour.

When I argued that Ignatieff’s long absence from the country was a problem—very, very carefully distinguishing my own argument from the content of Conservative attack ads—I was greeted with a chorus of “How dare you?” I was told I had no standing to criticize a man of Ignatieff’s intellectual attainments; by that standard, none of those who have been living Canadian politics for the last quarter-century had any right to speak—so how’d that argument work out? I was told that I was engaging in a “personal attack”; how’d the argument that personalities have nothing to do with election success work out? I was told that love for Canada is all that matters, and you can love it just as much from a distance as you do from the inside; how’d the lovefest turn out? This is not just idle gloating—and even if it is, maybe it is about time for Liberals to stop obsessing over the psychological motives of commentators and start listening. This is about whether the Liberal Party is capable of making use of criticism, even unfriendly or biased criticism, as advice. This is the question, fundamentally the only question, that will determine whether it has a future, if it wants one.

Ecch, that’s kind of an arrogant paragraph. Let me climb down from the high horse before I get thrown. I recognize that the Liberal Götterdammerung is as much a tragedy as a product of conscious collective error. The party took a close look at Ignatieff’s leadership qualifications, after all, and rejected him on the only occasion they had the leisure of a considered judgment. After the 2008 election, nobody could have dreamed that Stéphane Dion would look like a green giant of statesmanship in retrospect. (I had one last spasm of psephological shock on the bus home from Calgary yesterday, when I saw that Dion’s 26% national vote share—the good old days!—has dwindled to less than 19%.) Ignatieff was put in charge at a moment of crisis, and from that moment on, the Liberals really had little choice but to shout down questions about his suitability. It is not clear any alternative action would have worked out better.

But by the same token… this election could have been avoided if Ignatieff hadn’t been allowed to commit to a “Not another second of Conservative government” position on the 2011 budget. I don’t know what story Paul Wells will tell in his sprawling Making Of The Prime Minister 2011 feature, and if he disagrees with me I would strongly encourage you to take his word over mine. My information is that the Liberal high command was playing a calculated gambit by leaving the go/no-go choice on Jack Layton’s desk. They thought that a spring 2011 election was better for them than an autumn one or a 2012 one. And they thought that Layton, in any event, would probably be too ravaged by illness not to support the budget—in which case they were prepared to go out and blame him for every jot and tittle in that document. This makes sympathy for the Liberal braintrust very, very difficult.


A personal reflection on the Ignatieff Era

  1. Trying so hard to not sound like an attack ads, and yet that’s exactly what this sounds like. Good grief, for how long are we going to have to endure these shallow digs at his patriotism? Yes, I will certainly take Wells’ word over your ego inflating nonsense.

    • "For how long are we going to have to endure these shallow digs at his patriotism?" Obviously not for very much longer, dear.

      • zing!

    • I'll share my reaction to Ignatieff. He is probably pretty smart and capable. But how dare they. Do they think we are fools? Did this guy run a provincial party apparatus and build ground support leading somewhere? Did he do some really difficult policy implementation? Like, you know, in Canada?

      I resent having someone, no matter who, dropped on me from on high. If the Liberals don't get this, and from your comment, don't, they will simply disappear.

      • There was certainly a big problem with his preparedness to be a politican, let alone a party leader.

        On paper, Ignatieff is the kind of politician who I would want to run for office. His experience and scholarly background is very attractive in an era where too many decisions are made based on polls and wedge issues. I would expect someone like him to engage in thoughtful discussions on policy and consider the available evidence at hand before making a decision.

        HOWEVER, his political instincts have proved to be awful. Or, the advice of those around him was awful and he did not know any better than to go along with it. The decisions that he make politically wore away at the hopes that I had for him.

        I think that if Ignatieff was chosen to be leader through another full leadership campaign, he may have been more successful. If he had to recruit new members, engage in fundraising, stake out a basic set of policy ideas or priorities and sell them to the rest of the party, that would be valuable experience. Further, more time as a critic in the opposition to develop a higher profile and general experience working in Ottawa, but without the pressure of being the leader would have been beneficial as well.

      • when has a provincial party leader become Prime Minister in this country? I'm not disputing that qualifications/experience matter, but that particular qualification/experience has not been much of an asset for people looking to lead this country (Bob Rae, Bob Stanfield, I'm sure there are other Bob's, too, Brian Tobin…)

        • Yeah no kidding. The baggage of having been a Premier is too much for most, even if they were very popular in their province.

        • Sir John Thompson, in 1842, and Sir Charles Tupper, 1896. Both were Premiers of Nova Scotia.

  2. I think the shifting dynamics of the campaign, the attack ads and questions surrounding Ignatieff may be why the Liberals wound up with 34 seats. But 30 years of base erosion, ignoring the changes in Canadian politics, and alienating almost half the country at one time or another are why the Liberals top out at 90-100 seats right now, regardless of whether they ran the best campaign in Canadian history. So, in sum, you have a point, but it's not the real problem with the Liberals and their campaign.

  3. "…. stop obsessing over the psychological motives of commentators and start listening. This is about whether the Liberal Party is capable of making use of criticism, even unfriendly or biased criticism, as advice."

    Liberals are fundamentally incapable of listening to others and their criticisms because they believe they are prettiest, and smartest, person at the party. Liberals also seem to believe they only choose policies that have been approved by experts and who's against experts?

    Biggest problem for Libs to overcome is their belief in false consciousness and how everyone who doesn't vote Liberal is a misguided idjit. We are already seeing this argument – Iggy had wonderful campaign, nothing a matter with it all, he was freewheeling – but people were too dumb to see it.

    Also, I think it would be helpful to Liberal party if msm was not so Liberal or journos had a little more backbone and criticized their chums in Liberal party more often. Msm did not have great election either.

    • <*giggle*> not the prettiest <*hair flip*>

  4. So Cosh, are you saying that a recent immigrant shouldn't be trusted as an MP? Even if you don't count the first twenty-odd years of his residency, but just the last five.

    How long does an immigrant have to be here for them to be legitimate candidates?

    • Iggy is not a immigrant, tho it might seem that way.

      Why is it so difficult to understand people want a Prime Minister who likes the country, who chose to stay here instead of flouncing off thirty years ago and only returning to rule over us.

      • I think it's the 30 years that is key. If he had just been a professor at Harvard for a few years, it wouldn't be as bad, but he was a journalist and writer in the UK long before that. The thing that really surprised me to read was that Ignatieff had left prior to the enactment of the Charter, so had had no experience in post-Charter Canada until coming back. That's pretty huge.

        That said, I still liked Ignatieff. But I get why people were concerned that he just didn't get Canada or care enough about Canada.

        • "I think it's the 30 years that is key."

          I agree. Entire adult life spent elsewhere tells you all you need to know about what Iggy thinks of Canada.

          Iggy's time abroad only bothers me because he wanted to be Prime Minister. If Iggy did not want to be leader, and only wanted to be Minister of Finance or Foreign Affairs or somesuch, than it would have been much less of an issue. PM is only job in Canada that made me care where Iggy spend his adulthood.

          • to be fair, he did run in 2006 with a view of exactly that, of becoming a minister in Martin's cabinet. Sure, he clearly had designs of that being a stepping stone to subsequent post-Martin leadership run and shot at the premiership, but he just as clearly did not expect the post-Martin era to begin so soon.

    • He isn't saying a recent immigrant shouldn't be trusted as an MP, or that a repatriate can't run for office.

      He is just saying that it is an electoral weakness in a party leader.

    • Wasn't this semantic game put to rest years ago?

      An immigrant who strives and saves for years to make it to Canada represents the very BEST of Canada. Michael Ignatieff was never this person.

      A Canadian citizen who effectively abandons his country for more than three decades, only to return home for the express purpose of seeking elected office represents the very WORST of politics.

      Canadian political history is full of ads that failed for being discordant with reality (Chretien facial paralysis, Soldiers in our Cities etc) The Ignatieff ads worked because they identified a very real weakness in the personal narrative of the new Liberal Leader. Had these ads, in reality, contained even the slightest anti-immigrant theme it would have backfired spectacularly…particularly for a party, like the Conservatives, that has made courting new Canadians a core part of their electoral strategy.

    • wow, just amazing how you can miss the point by that wide a margin. nobody's talking of legitimacy, or even MPs.

      the point is that Canadians prefer to have a Prime Minister who lived in Canada vs a Prime Minister who didnt. That's it, that's all.

      You may consider such an attitude as parochial and outdated, but that's not the point, the point is that Canadians have that attitude, and if you want to be elected by them, take heed.

    • There's a difference between a MP and a party leader or a PM.

      Edit: In other news, I should refresh the comments after reading an article, so I'm not just repeating the exact same points other have already made.

  5. "My information is that the Liberal high command was playing a calculated gambit by leaving the go/no-go choice on Jack Layton's desk."

    Would not surprise me. I remember Wells' column from a week before election kicked off and it was about how Iggy and his brain trust were doing everything right, shame about the dire personal and party polling numbers. Reading article, you could tell Liberal plan was:

    1) Force election
    3)Next Government of Canada!

    • And interestingly, at the time I commented that their lack of fundraising was a serious problem.

      Look who won and lost. NDP and Conservatives have a solid base, good fundraising ability. So have the Greens. The Bloc and Liberals don't.

      Maybe canadians are smarter than some marketing firm in Toronto figures. Maybe, just maybe voters look at who the base supporters of a party or leader are, who writes the cheques. There isn't much we can trust when it comes to what politicians say, but they will look after the ones who brung them.

    • The third step is profit.

  6. For being as Smart and Nice as he might of been, He didn’t have a chance. Besides all the other problems the Liberals have, like mentioned by WDM, That 30 year absence was an anchor around his neck. Recruiting Bob Rae or Justin Trudeau won’t solve it either.

    Iggy suggested a Female…maybe a good idea, like Sheila Fraser or Carole Taylor(?)(former BC Liberal Finance Minister).

    • terrible idea. more tokenism!
      Leblanc is their only hope. Tough young-ish francophone who unquestionably bleeds liberal red and maple syrup

      • But can LeBlanc connect with the West? Otherwise it’s just another regional Party.

        Are you saying a Woman Shouldn’t, or Couldn’t, be considered, or handle the Job of Prime Minister of Canada??

        • He's saying picking a woman because it looks good is a terrible idea. There's no problem with a woman leader if it's the right candidate for the job. At the moment the liberals have far deeper problems than their leadership though, keeping Ignatieff on as an out-of-caucus leader would not have been a bad idea in my opinion. He'd have a lot more time to help with the root building, going around and talking to community groups/universities and setting up a fresh young organisation capable of being a real presence again in 10 years.

    • I'd support Sheila Fraser in a heartbeat!

      • Which is why I don't buy the idea that Harper's planning to push her out of the way now that he has his majority, as some have suggested. It would be like sending your enemy a gun and a box of ammo.

  7. " It is not clear any alternative action would have worked out better."

    Bingo. I'm pretty sure Conservatives could have turned Canadians against Jesus given 40 or 50 million to carpet bomb him with negatives ads for years.

    • He didn't rise after three days for you.

      • He's a Socialist out to destroy the Financial Sector! He hates the Rich! He's going to put Fishers & Bakers & Winemakers out of business. He's been seen canoddling with prostitutes and thieves! Where did he spend those Missing years and why is the media not asking about it? Sure he's "Christ-like" but I'm not sure he's really our kind of Christian.

    • Jesus would have been a terrible politician, he was too nice a guy. But his health care plan would rock: he could just heal every Canadian of every ailment by waving his finger every morning.

      • Had Jesus done so — he would have been attacked by the NDP and public sector unions for his "US style" private health care practice.

        • I suspect He would not have charged for the service though.

          • What are you talking about? He wants body. mind an soul commitment. Leave all that you have and come and follow me. ;)

          • Hey, the dye job makes it look like you've lost a lot of weight!

            Now go get me a beer.

      • No way man. The way he kicked those hawkers out of the temple was hardcore!

        Though it doesn't say much for his capitalist credentials eh? LOL

    • The more Liberals insist on blaming their situation on others then the longer they will remain in the wilderness, and the quicker the people will have to rely on the NDP as the natural governing alternative.

      • You're right. Ads like that add great richness to our political debate. They in no way serve to entrench established parties or allow parties to convert cash to electoral success (ie, buy our democracy).

        • Or, you could support a party that does not choose to appoint as leader someone with the flaws contained in Iggy`s resume.
          —Less concern about how opposing parties have reacted to your leader.
          —More concern about the attraction your party, your policies, and your leader will have to the electorate.

          • Dion was picked through a laborious democratic process. Didn't help him. As we all now know, he is a sniveling geek who talks with a funny accent, and at one point in time shrugged. Clearly, not a leader. You can give this treatment to anybody. Jesus was a radical communist who has been seen in the company of prostitutes. He wants to tell you how you should lead your life.

            People seem to be operating on the assumption that humans are perfectly rational and capable of ignoring negative advertising. Reality says otherwise. Advertising is incredibly effective at inserting subconscious beliefs and emotions. The argument almost doesn't matter. Quantity trumps quality in advertising.

          • OK carry on, but ask yourself this:
            What effect, on the 40% of voters that consistently support Stephen Harper, has the 20 years of negativity and slander from the media, the intelligentsia, the Liberals that was directed toward Harper and his family, had on the support those 40% have for the Conservative Party ?
            0 %—because they believe their Party will make the best government.

          • I wasn't aware Harper has been attacked for over 20 years… you must not mean nationally.

          • I must have missed the multi-year, 50 million dollar ad campaign about Harper.

            And I have never heard a single ill thing said about Harper's family, as it should be.

          • give me a bloody break. how about the slanderous rumours of his marriage breakdown that were spread all over the place. I even had a liberal friend tell me "everyone knows" Laureen had shacked up with another woman.

          • You mean the Norman Spector column that was pulled off the Global sites after half a day, for which almost every other media source in Canada either criticized him or ignored it entirely? That's the hand you're gonna play against the CPC's anti-Ignatieff and anti-Dion campaigns?

            I mean, it's almost like you're not even trying. You didn't even mention Handshakegate.

            I guess it's true, success does breed laziness.

          • they didn't need the 50 mill, they had the media.

          • Sure would explain all those Ignatieff endorsements, wouldn't it?

          • so you were able to view the offending ads and not be affected, yet us rubes fell right into their trap. somehow though, similar ads by the opposition parties did not sway us back. bizarre.

            clearly, you have super brainy-power which renders you immune from negative advertising, and we need your guidance, o wise one, to tell us which negative advertising is good and which is bad.

          • Nope. Everyone, no matter how bright or how much they disagree with the subject of the ad is susceptible to internalizing its message. Ads aren't aimed at our rational selves. Clearly–the arguments they make are almost always specious.

          • Yes, Im aware – according to the teachings of Eddie Bernays, they put a hot girl next to the car because the subconscious sees the hot girl, associates it with the car, and starts wanting the car.

            But somehow, i see a Liberal ad or an NDP ad, Im completely unswayed by it. And when I see a conservative ad, Im usually disgusted at the production value and how lame the ad is. Yet I voted conservative as I knew I would before I saw any ads.

            I suspect that is the case for most voters.

          • So, if the ads don't work, one wonders why they form the vast majority of the spending of political parties? They are utterly useless for articulating policy alternatives.

            Are they all just wasting their money?

          • That's a good question.

            I think generally, they work on the same level that having a banner on the boards in a hockey game works. People see the brand, and they're reminded that it's a brand with enough clout to afford this particular spot on the boards. So when you go to buy whatever, having seen the brand somewhere, you're at least comforted that the people behind the product are somewhat organized.

            But if Coca-cola started advertising that Pepsi cans were infected with the herpes virus, notwithstanding the obvious defamation, most people would take it with a grain of salt. I mean, it's not really shocking that coca-cola thinks bad things about pepsi, anymore than it's surprising that conservatives think the liberal leader is not PM material. I choose to give my fellow Canadians enough credit to realize that.

            Also, if the ad contains a fact-based accusation, like Iggy being out of the country for 30 years, well if it's true then it may matter, if people care. If it's not true I suspect the truth would be exposed and most Canadians would not be affected by the ad or the ad may backfire (soldiers in the streets). If it's true but inconsequential, Canadians are smart enough to disregard that also, no matter how ominous the voice over sounds.

            In this case, people did care that Iggy was out of the country for 30 years. And that is going to be the toughest thing to digest for Liberals I think. So the ads only brought home a message which was true, and which people cared about. That's a good ad in my view.

            As for the subliminal message in ads, or the appeal to the irrational subconscious in ads, they may play a small role, but political ads who only rely on that are usually pretty weak. The one conservative ad which did essentially rely only on that is the one with Harper working late in his office. And it stunk. And it's not the one we're talking about today for that very reason.

          • Pepsi TASTES like it was infected with the Herpes virus, that's for sure.

          • I choose to give my fellow Canadians enough credit to realize that.

            Bernays' response would be: it doesn't matter if they realize it or not, because it works anyway. It's hard to argue with results.

          • Until you remember that the OTHER dig against the Conservatives post-election besides "they spent so much money to get so much support" is "74% of the population didn't vote for this government".

            It's almost as if one (or both) of these stories aren't true!

          • Well, the truth is that results are my windmills, I argue against them all the time. Which is fine as a civilian hobby, but not much use when running a political party or managing a campaign.

          • ..and Jack Layton is a semi-radical semi-commie who has (alledgedly) been seen in the company of women who may or may not be prostitutes…ergo, Jack Layton = Jesus?

            (I think that I just threw up in my mouth)

          • It's been such a long lifetime ago, but I seem to remember the anti-Harpers of the world going off on some sort of thing mad about a prostitute.

          • about a prostitute.

            I think you probably meant to say "about an allegedly crooked (and definitely ethically questionable) business deal in which a businessman exploited his past and current PMO connections, and which took place in the vicinity of, and was designed to financially and professionally benefit, a former prostitute who associates with the businessman".

          • that was too funny lol

    • Harper is proof that you are wrong.

    • Well, I hated the attack ads, really viscerally, they more or less confirmed my dislike of Harper. however, to me the question of how much they affected people's opinion is mysterious and probably unanswerable. I also wonder to what extent the election outcome was really determined by his unpopularity.

      I thought from the start that Ignatieff would have a hard time overcoming the handicap of political inexperience, and it sure looked like that was the case.

      I think the Liberals may well be done for as a credible governing party for the foreseeable future.

    • Was it Davie Steuart who once said that if Pierre Trudeau woke up one morning in summer and walked across the water of the Rideau Canal, the headlines in Calgary would say "Trudeau Can't Swim"?

  8. Yes – Iggy always had the look of a techie trying to run a marketing campaign. Carefully reasoned and thought out, but painfully awkward and doomed to failure. Good politicians are like sales people – they appear to operate without the benefit of facts or logic, yet somehow still manage to close the deal.

  9. Agreed. I'm not a fan of Ignatieff, but I was surprised and disappointed when he stepped down, less than 12 hours after declaring he's willing to stick around and rebuild the party.

    I was disappointed because I want the Liberals to become a viable alternative to the Tories again, but they need some stability right now, and it might as well be under MI as leader, at least in the short term. Changing leaders on the fly won't really help. Until they become a viable alternative again, I'm parking my vote with the Tories.

    As for a party leader not being an MP, this was the case with both Mulroney in '83 and Chrétien in '90. I wouldn't have held that against Ignatieff; sometimes party leaders aren't MPs, but I don't think it means they should stop being leader.

    • I disagree. Ignatieff needed to go to give the party even a chance to rebuild it's fortunes. When you lose that bad, you need a major change to send a message to the remaining party faithful. The party has four years to rebuild and there is, apparently, a huge amount of work to do. Why not start on day one?

      • Because I don't think choosing a new leader should be on the agenda on day 1. Like I said below to Rick, it's putting the cart before the horse. Take time to reflect, figure out where to go from here, put your heads together and flesh out some ideas, and THEN choose a leader.

        Although granted, a new leader will often bring new ideas, revitalize, etc., but I don't see it as working out that way. Given this party's history of unceremoniously dumping old leaders who didn't perform to expectations in search of the next great messiah, it seems like the party (at least on the surface) has once again embarked on that dangerous path.

        • All they are doing is announcing an intention to have a leadership contest. An interim leader will be appointed and an actual contest will be conducted over the next six-eight months. I just hope they don't appoint Ralph Goodale as interim leader. Rae would be good but I expect he will be putting forward his name for the leadership and obviously couldn't serve as interim leader. Too bad Dryden was defeated he would have been a good choice. Perhaps Irwin Cotler would be willing to serve? He's a respected, experienced guy along the line of Herb Grey, a previous interim leader.

          • I think Ralph was appointed (I also hoped it wouldn't be him).

            I'm concerned that the Liberals will get too distracted by a leadership convention and everything that it implies (television coverage, showmanship, putting on a false front that the Liberals are one big happy family, parties with balloons and streamers and other flashy things to easily distract people) rather than locking themselves up for hours at a time away from the cameras and media, and doing some somber, meaningful, productive soul searching and dirty work.

            When I think back on recent Liberal history, including the previous leader conventions and grand "thinker's conference," while I have no doubt that important work was done, what really stands out in my mind is the showmanship, posturing, superficial divisiveness, squabbling (remember the Chretien vs Martin camps? Yeesh…), and shutting down of controversial topics/questions. In other words, everything that the Liberals don't need right now.

          • You make good points but I think the fact that the Liberals will be doing all this housekeeping as the third party will – in a small consolation sort of way – give them a little more time and space to do it. The media will be focused on the trials and tribulations of Jack! and his Cub Pack as they make their inevitable fumbles. I think the next election in 2015 could see the Liberals come back as a strong opposition party or even as government. I expect, over the next four years, the Cons will fail dramatically and the NDP will fail as well, although less dramatically.

          • FYI: Jeffrey Simpson on Steve Paikin's show yesterday (podcast is available), basically reiterates what I mention above: Rushing to find a new leader is a mistake. He gives John Turner as an example.

            Step one is to figure out what you stand for, define your program (that means stop trying to be everything to everyone), adjust to the new realities (for example, they're the party of national unity, but that issue is not front-and-centre anymore. Time to be the party of something more current), and only then should they choose a leader.

            My fear is that they're just going to sit around and wait for the NDP or Tories to do something colossally stupid, and then get vaulted back into official opposition/gov't. But that's a dangerous game. They've been waiting 5+ years for Harper to do something really dumb, and now he has a majority.

            (I should add that I voted for Harper, in case anyone misjudges me as a disgruntled Liberal. I'm not, but I want choice. I want to at least be able to consider another party for which to cast my vote, but today none is available. Until one comes along, I'll likely stick to the Tories.)

          • I supposed technically the interim leader can be, like the current one, a defeated MP. Somebody like a Gerard Kennedy

    • There's next to no similarity between ignatieff's situation and chretien and mulroney in the years you mention.

      • All three were leaders without being MPs. That was the similarity I was pointing out. It's not unheard of.

        But obviously the circumstances are way different.

    • I actually agree. I don't think Iggy had any choice, but I think it would have been better long-run for the LPC if they'd kept him on. In fact, not having a seat in parliament, and not being Official Opposition, Iggy would have had a TONNE of free time to work on re-building the party. Instead they'll waste the next year having a leadership convention.

      • I don't think leader conventions are a waste of time, but I think it's putting the cart before the horse.

        Take some time to reflect, figure out what you stand for, etc… and THEN choose a leader. Although granted, when a new leader is chosen, you're also partly choosing his vision, but it's much too rush-rush in my opinion. Let MI stay a while, spend a year or so fleshing things out, then choose a leader.

        • I don`t think you can rebuild under a failed leader. I respect Ignatieff for what he tried to do, and for the way he handled his defeat, but you have to replace a leader who failed as dramatically as he did.

  10. My experience in the business world indicates that professional academics make very poor business managers out in the "real world." I think that applies whether they are trying to manage a tech company or a political party. They simply do not have the experience required to handle the personnel issues….and like it or not…managing large companies and groups always boils down to handling people.

    Ignatieff seemed to bear that theory out. The staff changes, the mess with Cauchon and Coderre. When these issues aren't handled right all the other people in the organization lose faith in their "leader"…and things fall apart pretty quickly.

    Lots of people keep praising Ignatieff (and Dion before him) as "really smart guys"…but you know…Albert Einstein was a really smart guy and I doubt he could have managed a lemonade stand at the side of the road.

    • Not sure I agree with you. Look at people like Condoleeza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, or even Robert McNamara. All were academics who suceeded in running very complex private and public sector organizations. They all possessed PhDs, engaged in longtime careers as academics, and dabbled in government and business very, very effectively.

      • but they were all presidential appointees!

      • McNamara came out of Ford Motor Company, not academia. Rice and Wolfowitz had mixed records. Having a Ph.D. isn't a liability; it's more a question of what you do with it. Taking your Ph.D. and taking it into industry imposes a rather different perspective than working in a true academic environment for years.

      • Given that McNamara ran the Vietnam War, and Rice and Wolfowitz were involved in the Iraq War, I highly doubt you could say they 'succeeded'.

  11. And so we should hand out to Canadians leaving the country brochures informing them that, though entirely free to leave, their absence will now make their loyalty to Canada questionable. Same goes for those who would seek a double citizenship to make their lives easier when studying abroad, even when their ancestors settled here in 1634. Do not, under any circumstances, vacation in the South of France or buy an apartment in Paris.

    This is Canada after all, not a second-rate country like Poland where national heroes can be a composer who chose to live and die in Paris and vacationed in Valdemosa and this guy:

    • Again a strawman. Ignatieff didn't just take a vaccation. He left the country for more than three decades. And he ONLY returned for the express purpose of seeking electoin to high office. You might not consider that a worthy factor in choosing who to vote for, but many Canadians did and it is100% fair game for the Conservative Party to highlight this fact in their advertising.

      • Ignatieff's absence from the House of Commons once he became an MP was a problem to me, as was his lack of enthusiasm to defend liberal policies. The first disqualified him as a political leader, the second as leader of the LPC.

        I don't feel any seething resentment towards Ignatieff for leaving Canada for thirty years to pursue an academic carreer, only to return for the purpose of seeking election to high office. I don't have another measure of Canadian-ness than the Canadian citizenship. Obviously many Canadians do so I don't hold it against the Conservative Party to highlight this to their targeted electorate. I note that Ignatieff's absence from Canada was not a factor in Québec. Neither was Dion's dual citizenship. I am a Canadienne, not a Canadian.

    • Give up the seething resentment already. Voluntarily being out of the country for thirty years was a liability for seeking the PM's job, and the electorate agreed. If you want to be a citizen of a nation where that's not an issue, you're welcome to try.

      (And given the unstable nature of Poland's pre-WWII existence, and the according dispersion of talented Poles between its periods of stability, that's a really bad comparison. It's not like Canada had ceased to exist as an independent polity for several hundred years.)

    • There's nothing wrong with owning a vacation property in the south of France, as Iggy does. The problem was, as his party was declaring "prorogation" to be the greatest threat to our democracy in history, Iggy refused to leave the South of France to return to Canada. Which was hardly a very Prime Ministerial thing to do.

    • You can’t convince voters to vote for a man by attacking their concerns about that man as illegitimate or improper. The voting booth is not a public space; attempts to shame someone into compliance will utterly fail, because no one is there to witness his vote. You have to respectfully address the voter’s concerns, or else he will, in the privacy of the booth, vote against you . . . all the more certainly if he’s angry at you for treating his concerns as a reason to insult him.

      Your comment is a textbook example of how to influence someone who is leaning Liberal but has some doubts about Ignatieff, and convert him into a Tory or NDP vote. You might believe you were just attacking Mr. Cosh, but anybody who thought Ignatieff’s three-decade absence was a legitimate issue walks away with the idea that the Liberals despise him for having doubts. That translates directly into the kind of electoral disaster the Liberals just suffered.

      • I am not as calculating as you or Mr. Cosh, or Conservative party operatives. When the Conservatives questionned Mr. Dion's loyalty to Canada because of his dual French and Canadian citizenship, Quebeckers were having pangs of belly pain caused by excessive laughing. If a contest were held in Quebec to find the most Canadian of Canadians, Dion would win by a landslide. Questioning his loyalty to Canada because of his dual citizenship ranks right up there with Premier Manning declaring in 1961 that Alberta would never accept a Social Credit leader who was French-speaking and catholic, only a tad more devious than obvious.

        I had too many negatives on his scorecard to vote for Ignatieff, but his carreer abroad was not one of them. Obviously, Ignatieff's pursuit of an academic carreer abroad, Dion's dual citizenship and French-speaking catholic politicians still rub some Canadians the wrong way*.

        *How would you explain that since Confederation the conservative parties in Canada have never chosen a French-Canadian leader, with the exception of Jean Charest whose leadership was imposed on the PCP when he was left as one of two sitting MPs in the HoC?

  12. C'mon!
    Every time Ignatieff said anything it came across as " I can't believe after the stories I've heard of Canadians being sober and contemplative that you are actually going to vote for Stephen before ME!"
    "The years outside of Canada don't matter. I really love Canada and the other doesn't"!
    And good grief Ellen, how long are we going to hear from Ignatieff supporters that it's all not fair and we just don't get how magnificent and credentialed he is?
    It's been said elsewhere that Ignatieff wanted to be Prime Minister too much.
    Actually, Ignatieff doesn't know want – never has.
    And it showed.

  13. I don`t think you have to apologize for that arrogant paragraph Colby—you have it right. There are a lot of reasons why Liberal support has dwindled the past 10 years and one of those reasons was that they arrogantly chose a leader who had little experience here in the past 35 years.

    I remember having a short conversation with Mitchell on this site a couple years back about the state of the Liberal Party and his question to me was why I would be so concerned about Liberals. I told him that when the time will come to replace the Conservative government ( and it will ) I did not want to wake up some morning with Jack Layton or Thomas Mulcair living at 24 Sussex. Well, the NDP are moving into Stornoway, and if the Liberals do not get themselves together and soon they will be the only alternative when it comes time to replace the Conservatives—-and then we are all in big trouble.

    • Isn't it Stephen Harper's ambition to make the LPC disappear? Après moi, le déluge.

      • I have no idea what Harper`s ambition for the Liberal Party is, but I doubt if he thinks they are in any shape to govern now.

        Forget about what others would like for your party. Do you really think Harper wasted any time what Chretien or Martin thought about the Reform or Canadian Alliance parties ?

      • BC politics can be summed up that way. Elections come down to 'us or the nuts'.

        The recent election came down to 'us or them'. Us meaning NDP and Cons. Very very odd.

  14. And yet objectively he was a much better choice than harper. People are funny.

    • I'm one of the moronic 40%.
      Please provide the objective reasons you claim it is so.
      My objective lenses are biased.

      • It's probably too late for you.

        • Here's an objective basis on which to make a decision:
          A candidate that objectively defined a reason to vote for them -"Give me a majority government and I shall lead as I have done in the previous 5 years".
          A candidate that objectively defined the reason to vote for them as -" Vote for me because I am not the other candidate".
          One candidate got the job dome.
          The other didn't.
          Objective enough for ya?

          • I guess we have different ideas of "getting the job done." Broken promises, lies, extreme partisanship in place of statesmanship, porkbarrelling, indictments for lawbreaking, contempt for Parliament (which translates to contempt for Canadians), huge deficits…

            Yep. Got 'er done!

          • Clue – objective.
            Objective result? A majority government.
            Since Mike T. trotted out the objective argument, I just thought I would frame my argument that way.
            One objective – one positive result.
            Is anything clear to you expert logicians commenting here?
            I sure hope none of you are still paying off student loans 'cuz youze waz robbed.

          • If you really want to talk "objective" then you have to look at promises versus accomplishments. I challenge you to dig up the CPC platforms from the preceding two elections, list the promises here, and honestly identify which were achieved and which weren't. I think you'll find quite a few in the "not" column.

            And since we're being strictly objective about it, no whining about minority govenments please!

    • A perfect example of "Canadians are just too dumb to grasp what we perfect specimens know to be true." PLEASE undo that attitude, Liberals, so Canada may yet again enjoy two serious parties worthy of our award of a mandate to govern. Right now the country only has one such party, and that's no good at all.

      • We currently don't have any. We did used to have two, one at least seems close, if they can now stop pouting about not having a majority.

    • Look up the word 'objectively' before bringing your subjective opinions to a public discussion board.

    • Harper had done a reasonable job of managing the Canadian economy for 5 years, and his policy proposals with Reform in the '90s were successfully co-opted and adopted by Chretien and Martin. Harper had also proven his political credentials by re-uniting the Canadian right, continuously building support across Canada, and managing to lead Canada's longest-lived minority government.

      Ignatieff had little practical experience in politics, parachuted into a potential cabinet minister role as a star candidate for what had historically been the party of government, and spent several years compromising what I'd regarded as principled and well-considered positions on international affairs and economics.

      Objectively, Harper has been successful, Ignatieff has not.

  15. There was a story about Ignatieff on NPR a couple of weeks ago. They interviewed a Canadian strategist (Powers? Silver? I forget- sorry) who summed up the situation as follows: Ignatieff is a world-renown intellectual with a deep resume and years of international experience, but that's all meaningless.

    It was a laugh out loud moment for me- his delivery was so deadpan- one of those laugh/cry moments when you lament for the state of politics such as it is.

    I did not vote Liberal in this election not because of Ignatieff, but because the local candidate was just so vapid. His international experience was a non-factor for me personally for the longest time until a fellow commenter – I think it was crit_reasoning, pointed out that he could find no other example in (modern electoral) history where a potential leader had been outside the country for so long. That spirited exchange gave me pause for thought and absolutely injected some degree of doubt into my opinion of Ignatieff.

    In the end, the Conservatives could not actually prove that he didn't come back for me, but crit_reasoning and our discussion gave me some empirical evidence that maybe the world's voting populace had some collective wisdom when it comes to absentee candidates.

    • I realize it's over the CPC is busy developing it's next vapid mischaracterization, but I wonder how many of these "outsiders" the world over have every run as party leaders, and if the reason they don't get the party leadership is because they haven't spent a lifetime building up connections within their party. it may not be rewarding a lifetime within our borders so much as internal party politics!

    • Thanks, SanDiegoDave. Yes, that was me. For more than a year now, I've been pointing out that in the history of the world, nobody has ever become his country's democratically elected Head of Government after choosing to live abroad as long as Ignatieff did.

      To me, this is such a surprising fact that I'm baffled that nobody in the Canadian media ever pointed it out. It's as though Ignatieff's world-record breaking absence from the country he seeks to govern was a taboo subject. For me, it was such a huge elephant in the room that if I was a member of the Liberal Party I never would have considered Ignatieff a viable leader.

      It's not just about revealed preference, either. It's about actually experiencing this country and its politics directly, instead of just reading the occasional article about it across the pond. Even now, six years after came back, Ignatieff has spent fewer than twenty years of his life living within the geographical entity known as "Canada".

      • I'm baffled that nobody in the Canadian media ever pointed it out. It's as though Ignatieff's world-record breaking absence from the country he seeks to govern was a taboo subject

        Unfortunately, it's not surprising to me. Norman Spector has had a lot of commentary about the media that I've found accurate.

        Like for instance: suddenly today there are a million stories about those NDP paper candidates who won, such as the lady who cannot speak french who won a riding that is 97% french. Yet not a single one of these stories managed to see the light of day just a few days ago. I wonder why?

        However, I'll always be baffled, absolutely baffled, that otherwise level-headed journalists like Andrew Coyne were seriously arguing that the media should not have published anything at all about Layton being discovered naked in a whorehouse during a police raid. Now that is hard to believe. And then there were the reasons: that it was a long time ago (to me that's even worse that so much time could pass without anyone reporting it), that it was so potentially damaging the politician deserved the chance to refute the story (which turned out to be unquestionably true and properly sourced) even though he had 15 years to defuse the story. And that means it's NOT newsworthy??!!!. Is there any better way to say "we like him, so we're gonna treat him well"? This is the same media that went on about Carson's choice of girlfriends over and over again? I can hardly imagine the uproar that would have occurred if anything remotely the same had ever surfaced about Harper.

        I must give credit to Cosh for also exposing the absurdity of that as well (on twitter).

        It's become so bad that I really think bergkamp is right, it's gotten to the point that the media are hurting the Liberals and NDP by refusing to provide sufficient criticism.

        • The Media did write about the NDP paper-candidates, but the stories did not get much traction. The Las Vegas trip was well reported, and there were even comparisons to some of the weak candidates swept along with Mulroney's wave.

          While all this was happening, the NDP was smart enough to hide away those candidates through the last couple days of the election, and the media became more and more focused on the implosion of the Liberal party. I would tend to agree with them that the Liberal story is much more interesting and newsworthy – even if it was partially the result of that same media narrative.

  16. When I argued that Ignatieff's long absence from the country was a problem—very, very carefully distinguishing my own argument from the content of Conservative attack ads—I was greeted with a chorus of “How dare you?”

    I remember that very well Colby. You started that thread with a + intensedebate rating, and you left it with -50, from which you have not yet recovered.

    It was really something to behold, the rage and fear of those Liberals when you exposed their problem like you did. And these are the people who now need to learn some hard lessons and rebuild. That's not going to be easy for them.

    • Obviously that was more a reflection of people's reaction to the CPC's endless media attack wave than to Colby's article. He basically put a target on his back since people can't directly show their distaste to the government.

      In any case, I'm not sure why there are spending limits during an election, and yet the remaining 99% of the time there are no limits at all. That just seems weird to me.

      • you're probably right about the reaction to Colby's article.

        the whole spending limits thing is completely ridiculous, not just the difference between elections and the rest of the time, but everything else. i would be in favour fo getting rid of all spending limits, even for 3d parties, as long as the source of the funding is always made public.

        • Predictably of course we go in opposite directions, but in any case we agree that the current Elections Canada policies are inconsistent at best.

          Personally I'd like year round limits to keep the big boys from destroying the up and comers before they get established.

          It seems too much like giving say multinationals a direct ability to destroy start-ups, which obviously wouldn't be good for the economy.

          • It seems too much like giving say multinationals a direct ability to destroy start-ups, which obviously wouldn't be good for the economy.

            Incidentally, that above point is crucial one regarding whether big business is 'pro-free-market', its not, big business doesnt want a level playing field with the start-ups, and they usually lobby for "regulation" which is just a way to tilt the playing field. but that's another topic entirely.

            As for your laudable goal of keeping "the big boys from destroying the up and comers before they get established", it's best achieved by de-regulation.

            Your mistake is that you think the Conservatives can do to any future Liberal leader what they did to Iggy and Dion. That's incorrect. The Conservative attacks on Iggy and Dion stuck because they resonated with voters. But they could very well backfire if the Liberals choose a good electable leader.

            That should be the lesson of this election, not that negative ads are inherently bad or unfair.

          • "Incidentally, that above point is crucial one regarding whether big business is 'pro-free-market', its not, big business doesnt want a level playing field with the start-ups, and they usually lobby for "regulation" which is just a way to tilt the playing field. but that's another topic entirely. "

            Yeah, I always say this. Regulation is great for corporations, because economy of scale means they can hire people specifically to deal with regulation. Smaller businesses can't.

            I also point out that internally, large corporations are planned economies, with resulting inefficiencies.

          • it's one of the biggest misconceptions today, that big business is pro-free market, and that conservatives, being pro-free market, are pro-big business.

            It's exactly the opposite.

  17. The attack ads certainly didn't help Ignatieff, but I don't think the Liberal posters give Canadians enough credit. Even if we are just passive receptors of negative ads and can't think critically about them, why didn't negative ads stop Obama?

    Quite simply because he could match negative ad with negative ads, because he had organizers and fundraisers who could allow him to match the republican machine. In short, he had a relationship with his grassroots voters.

    The Liberals have no relationship with their grassroots. They don't have a machine that can fundraise or get people interested in doing work for the party. They didn't have a sense of Michael Ignatieff that could counter the attack ads.

    I mean hell, what is the criticism of Michael Ignatieff? That he is an expatriate who is ambitious. That's a pretty weak attack. Meanwhile, you are all accusing Stephen Harper of being a fundamentalist who wants to destroy Canada and has utter contempt for our parliamentary process. So how come this negative press didn't lead to a Liberal or NDP majority? Well, it is quite simple.

    1) Liberals have been attacking people for far too long to be believable anymore, and the hysterical hyperbole of their attacks gets taken less seriously.

    2) (The important one) STEPHEN HARPER HAS A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS VOTERS. We know who he is, what he talks like, what he has done. We know him from the early 90's before he ever became an MP. So he is a fully fleshed out person to his base, with foibles, flaws and virtues that defy simple caricature.

    Those that are new to him will be more susceptible to attack ads against Stephen Harper, but the base either already knows his flaws or realizes his flaws aren't as bad as his enemies like to portray. These voters are going to be on the ground volunteering to get more voters. You underestimate the power of word of mouth over election results, especially when you consider how over the last 4 elections they have gained their majority 15-20 seats at a time.

    The conservative movement has been taking seats riding, by riding, by riding ever since the days of the Reform Party. If the Liberals wants to return to power, they have to have that grassroots organization. They have to have people on the ground riding to riding doing the work, holding rallies, holding symposiums, holding conferences, holding any event they can to build loyalty. Attack ads have worked so well on Dion and Ignatieff because this was neglected.

    But there is good news for any Liberal commentator on these boards. Your party is weak now, but it will rise again to power. It may take 10 or 20 years, but right now they are desperate for warm bodies to begin the work of rebuilding. If you invest as much time and money into the party now as a volunteer as you do as a commentator on news stories, blogs and social media, you are almost guaranteed to become influential. Never have you had such an opportunity to directly influence the democratic process within the party of your favored perspective.

    • We know who he is, what he talks like, what he has done.


      Talking with people who voted CPC, they can be very glad that this isn't the case. "Bev Oda? Who's that?"

      • If you know who he is, what he talks like, and what he has done… then the attack ads shouldn't work like they claim they work.

      • I notice as well, that you don't dispute the main thrust of my rant, that the Liberal party has neglected the areas of the party devoted to gaining new voters and getting money from them.

        You spend a lot of time on here Mike, and we both know that commenting on Macleans is just masturbatory oratory into an uncaring void. With the Liberal Party desperate for new volunteers, now would be a great time to use the time collecting new voters for the Liberal Party and raising money for them. Trust me, you'll be happier making a real difference. Call up your riding association today.

        • Ouch!
          Mike T., that's gotta hurt.
          Yanni's gotta point.
          No matter how much CBC and CTV go on about electronic social media, successful parties have people with feet on the ground.

          • I have never, ever, ever seen someone's political position change because of an argument on the internet. Political change is slow and involves a relationship with family, friends, employers or community. This is why it would be absolutely useless to hire people to comment on here. Why pay someone to do that when you can pay him to knock on doors, show up to rallies, stuff envelopes, etc. etc.

            Social networking is good for helping you organize people, not opinions. Giving your opinion on the internet is for when you want to piss away the day talking politics for fun, because you haven't got a job you need to be doing right now. That's why most of the people on here are students, the unemployed, homemakers, on some sort of leave, or have a job that they can ignore (ie. public servants).

          • You forgot to mention retired people. There are lots of us commenting.

          • I did forget the retired. Also people who are currently working part-time (like me!).

    • Obama had the most money in that race. I'll agree that Iggy would have been able to withstand those attacks better if the Liberals had the same financial resources to work with.

      • Sure, but Obama got that money because he had a grassroots base to draw upon. It didn't just fall from the sky like manna. Organizations and people that exist outside election time are necessary to gain those financial resources.

        The Liberals have squandered their 5 years in the political wilderness and relied on the per-vote subsidy rather than rebuilding their base, because they thought (like you) that all that matters is a media campaign. Losing their per-vote subsidy is either going to be the beginning of their rejuvenation or the beginning of their death.

      • Yup. The poor man versus rich man, and people expect the poor man to win?

        Oh but of course it's his fault for being poor right?

        I donated $400 to the LPC and got $260 of it back from taxpayers who likely don't support my choice.

        Meanwhile the CPC is complaining about a $2 subsidy awarded to each MP on the basis of their actual support?

        Just like we got rid of corporate donations, we need to get rid of tax rebates for political donations.

        • Yes, it is the Liberal party's fault for being poor. It isn't like Liberal supporters are any less wealthy than conservative ones. Even if they were, the NDP really has a disproportionate amount of genuinely poor supporters, and they have a pretty good war chest.

          If you want to get rid of tax rebates for political donations, I could agree with that. Though it would be a disincentive for the middle class to donate to political parties.

          • $2 per vote is a much better use of tax dollars than the contribution tax credit, no?

          • Sure, if you just like rewarding the party currently in power, rather than its challengers. The conservatives are the biggest beneficiaries of the subsidy. It certainly isn't enough to compensate for private donations anyway, and largely just encourages complacency of those in charge of the party because they're getting paid anyway or they can spend money on media rather than the socially awkward and difficult work of social organization.

            Frankly, keeping the per-vote subsidy around is to our net political advantage. I also believe, if I can be frank, that it is the biggest weakness of the Liberal Party. If the Liberal Party is forced to find its own funding, it will also find its voters. The Reform Party started with almost no funding at all, private or public and within a few short years had 50 members in the House of Commons. You can also increase the Liberal seat count by 50 seats by the next election as well, as long as you are willing to do the legwork.

            If you believe that you can't get funding except through the vote subsidy then you'll never gain any votes, whether you have the subsidy or not.

          • I don't want the Liberal party, or any party, to be beholden to a small group of donors on whom its entire fortune rest. Who will those ideologically motivated donors be? I'm not sure. Labour? Not likely. Environmentalists? Maybe.

            Which groups will buy and pay for the Liberal party? Who knows. We know for certain that they won't be working for Canadians as a whole, or even their supporters. Are Canadians well-served by the fact that the NDP is bought-and-paid-for by labour, and the Conservatives by big oil and the religious right? I don't think so. It means that sensible policies that even their base as a whole supports won't be implemented if it means alienating their paymasters.

          • It is impossible to represent Canadians as a whole, because Canadians have competing interests. Certain groups want to abolish guns, some want to shoot guns. Some want money spent on paying down the debt, some want a cool new stadium. That is why democracy isn't about representing "all Canadians" (except in terms of the fact that all Canadians have rights) but representing the Canadians that got their MP's elected.

            The political process in a democracy is always going to be based on an alliance of interests to take power. If we want a entirely publicly funded group of dispassionate rulers without interests to decide public policy, we might as well groom aristocrats from birth like something out of Plato's Republic.

            So yes, political parties are beholden to the people that sent them there, and cutting off the money is a good way of showing your displeasure in how the party performs in terms of representing you. I simply must stress as well, that MP's are there to represent you, not to represent an ideological transformation of the country for its own sake.

          • Of course there will be alliances of people within the broad electorate that form governing coalitions (either within a party or between several parties)–buying the change they want with votes. That is a far cry from tiny groups who may or may not represent the broader interests of the electorate buying the change they want with cash. You can buy control of parties with this money, and since we have an oligarchy of political parties where the barriers to entry are very, very high, mainstream Canadians will increasingly be held hostage by parties that are each controlled by tiny interest groups. We'll all get to pick the least worst of awful choices.

            It means those who can't or won't donate to political parties have far less influence. That isn't democracy.

          • Two points. If Layton came out and said, no, he will not give Labour any favors, would you believe him? Me neither.

            First, under the current rule big anything can't write big checks. The days of Liberals being stuck and getting a big check from Bay Street are gone. What we see are numerous people in an industry or region writing small checks. Chretien was brilliant when he brought that forward.

            Who would then represent the labour unions, the oil companies? Get a bunch of smart people in Ottawa to decide what is good for this or that? Bah.

            What we have now are three parties who represent specific interests. If Elizabeth May voted for increased tar sands development money, her money and volunteer organization would evaporate. Same if Harper introduced NEPII, or Layton introduced Freedom to Work legislation.

            What is great about this is we know. There are real disputes with real people who will win and lose in Canada right now. There is no nice middle ground to keep everyone happy.

          • That wasn't really what I was aiming at. If the Liberals couldn't get people to donate, that's their problem, obviously and will affect their campaign.

            My interest is more centered around increasing the value of an individual vote and ensuring that smaller parties have at least some form of funding. I think it helps keep our democracy healthy by ensuring there's always an alternative in the works for the future.

            Beyond that, I think Elections Canada needs to update its spending limits policies. It's ludicrous to have limits during an election but none for the other 90% of the time. I say set limits year round so that richer parties can't just ride roughshod over everyone.

          • I don't think the per-vote subsidy does that though, since it is rewarded to people based on how many votes they have received. A smaller party is still outspent to a degree as to make their per-vote subsidy contribution essentially meaningless. Anyone who is going to play with the big dogs needs private funding anyway, and there is no party who has ever had a shot at the House of Commons who couldn't get private funding.

            All I think the per-vote subsidy does is encourage parties to stick with their base alone (the Bloc), or to ignore the necessary work of cultivating a base at all (The Liberals). I think the per-vote subsidy has a lot to do with the results on election night.

          • The per vote subsidy helped the Greens enormously.

          • Make the party all about Elizabeth May? Why yes it did help with that.

          • They're following a strategy, and a pretty good one. Getting an MP elected gives them legitimacy they didn't have before, and helps to make them a credible choice in other ridings. They would have had a hard time getting there relying on a small grassroots organization, up against vastly better funded entrenched parties. Indeed, I would expect the Conservatives to spend vast sums to try to squelch the Greens in BC next election, as they represent a significant threat to the centre/centre-right more than the left.

          • At one time the Greens had some conservative members.

            Elizabeth May purged them. Now it is a party for people who think the NDP have sold out.

          • I'm a fiscal conservative who would vote Green if it were not electorally futile. I'm appalled by the NDP for their brain-dead economic policy, and the CPC for their brain-dead environmental, criminal justice, and social policies (as well as their brain-dead tax policy–corporate tax cuts excepted) and my suspicion of the religious/evangelicals. I grudgingly vote Liberals because they tend to be least bad and are occasionally capable of sensible policy reform.

    • Oh, and the real reason that the Liberals are in trouble is that centrists are not and will never be as dedicated to a party as more extremist ideologues. They won't donate as much money. They won't donate as much time. The grassroots of those organizations (aka rubes) get shaken down for cash every few weeks with the scare du jour.

      I don't even really understand why democratic legitimacy should be flowing from the 'grassroots'. They are what you call interest groups. They are a few tens of thousands of people who are highly motivated politically in order to donate hundreds or thousands of dollars. The vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians are not and will never be so motivated.

      • Oh I don't know, Liberal supporters seem perfectly willing to be scared about something the Harper government does on a week to week basis. It just doesn't translate into money coming in like it should. Also, I consider myself a centrist rather than an extremist, and I still vote, fundraise, and volunteer. I don't think the world is going to end if the Liberals and the NDP get into power. I just think they make bad policy that will negatively impact my life.

        Also, of course they are interest groups. We all belong to them. Do you belong to a union? You are part of an interest group. Do you go to church? You belong to an interest group. Do you belong to chamber of commerce as a small business owner? You belong to an interest group. You work for an employer? Your company is an interest group. You live in a particular city? That city is an interest group. The fact that these groups then organize their members, support political parties, and lobby government is a feature of our political system, not an aberration or a corruption of it.

        • Belonging to a group does not mean one is politically motivated. Most Canadians (population, not electors) don't even vote, much less have meaningful involvement in 'grassroots'. Grassroots are small, non-representative, politically motivated interest groups. Governments being wagged around by these groups is not necessarily a good thing. They receive inordinate attention not because of the votes they can deliver, but the cash and other resources that can be leveraged to buy other votes.

          • Interest groups are representative, they are representative of the people they represent (just not the general population).

            But if you remove interest groups, organizations, activists, lobbyists, churches, community organizations etc. etc. from the political process (something that is becoming easier as more people are less involved in the wider community in any capacity) then you will only create two results.

            1) More non-voters in general.
            2) Media campaigns (largely driven by attack ads) will become exponentially more important. If they aren't discussing policy or politics with other members of their interest group, voters have to get their information about how to vote somewhere. Negative ads are the quickest and easiest way to influence a voter.

        • More to the point, if you made the money these groups can deliver irrelevant to the political process, and the broader electorate would tend to receive more attention than this small slice of our society.

          • If you take away private donations, you make the cultivating of a grassroots base irrelevant.

            If you make the cultivating of a grassroots base irrelevant, then all campaigns are media campaigns.

            The most effective means of campaigning politically through media is to use attack ads.

          • I'd be cool with banning radio and television political advertising. Other countries have done this, and I don't think Canadians would miss it.

            It also reduces the extent to which money buys power, which can only be a good thing.

          • Sure, but that's just changing a method of transmission. I think you can make a case for limiting radio and television advertising that could be amenable to most parties, though I think it may be unenforceable in the age of the internet.

            But even if you banned all television and radio political advertising, money will still buy votes. I'll take the money I would have spent on television and radio and market my ideas through any method I can get, up to and including having people shout on soapboxes.

            If I was to run an internet campaign, btw, I wouldn't waste time on sites like this where people argue politics. Wrong crowd to pitch to and too much chance of diluting the message. Waste of money with almost no effect on gaining voters I didn't already have. Instead, I'd use venues where people aren't talking politics to spam with messages, or engage voters with a reward for listening to my spiel. I can just imagine a facebook game where you play as prime minister of Canada, and various crisis pop up on your desk. The game is rigged so that the results of choosing your favoured policies lead to great results, while if the user chooses the policies of his rivals it leads to disaster.

            Anyway, infinite ways to spread your message, though all require money and volunteers.

          • Without the need for spending on radio and TV buys, campaign spending limits can be lowered, similarly lowering the barriers to entry for new political movements.

            I'm okay with print advertising. It's easy for people to avoid if they aren't receptive. It also encourages slightly more reason-based appeals since you can't use ominous music and tense voice-overs.

            I'm sure parties will continue to try to find ways to advertise, but when the most effective avenues are cut-off, the advantage of having more money will be diminished.

    • This is one of the best posts I have read on here in a very long time. Thanks for taking the time.

  18. This is one of the most articulate, accurate and insightful articles written on the Ignatieff era. Kindly add, that not only was it questionable to select a Liberal leader missing from the Canadian scene for so long, but, also, someone who supported right-wing perspectives that would make some Conservatives shudder, i.e. apologies for torture. Yet, and no one has yet touched on this, Ignatieff was vicious to Stephane DIon and his supporters after he lost the Leadership convention. Why did the party reward such bad behavior? It needs an entirely new look, or, the Liberal party is dead forever.

  19. Despite the improved politicking skills, and the better organization under his watch, the fact is that Iggy still wasn't a very good leader.

    I seem to be the only person who thinks his concession speech was awful. It was morbid. It was like a wake. These are times to thank and rally the troops and supporters who had your back side. Instead, he seemed more interested in feeling sorry for himself and even attacking the other parties.

    Leadership is about more than communications and organization. It's also about political instincts. The debates onward exposed Iggy's lack of them. He got testy. He couldn't understand why his message wasn't working. He continued to live in the Liberal bubble.

    Other senior Liberals knew he was self-destructing. He and his team were oblivious. They never did get it. They never did get all the things that political leadership contains.

    You can't just pluck a guy out of the intelligentsia and expect he can lead a people and a nation. It takes more than that. Liberals used to know that. Now they're looking from the outside in.

  20. Wow. And not one mention of the NEP.

    (btw how'd you make out on that Linda Duncan bet?)

    • Duncan is useful for the Conservatives in AB. Just tell voters, "look, the only people who vote NDP are students and profs – no one else can afford to muse about shutting down the oilsands or transferring further wealth to QB"

    • I didn't bet against Duncan at even odds. I told people while the polls were still open that I pegged her chances of getting back in at 70%-80%.

  21. They thought that a spring 2011 election was better for them than an autumn one or a 2012 one.

    Suggestion: sub in "not necessarily any worse" for "better." This is why I dubbed this campaign the Let's Get This Over With Tour at its start.

  22. As much as I had hope for Dion, it is not quite as fair as it seems to directly compare the drop-off in national vote share between 2008 and last week.

    Ignatieff had to carefully engineer the stand-down from the Dion-Layton coalition. It was important for the country, but I really can't see any way he personally could come out of it looking good. Moreover, he inherited a party that was fiscally incapable of mounting an election campaign. Harper understood this, Layton understood this and Ignatieff understood this, but (quite rightly) the country didn't care. Harper pressed his agenda of governing as if he had a majority, Layton was a consistent and noble objector, Ignatieff really had no choice but to rationalize their support of an agenda they did not support. If anyone's analysis of this election views this result as a strategic error for the Liberals, what would have been the result 2 years ago with the Liberals running a national campaign on the scale of the Green Party. So for a long time, the Liberals talked one way & voted another. That is where they lost the public, and they knew they would continue losing the public as long as it continued. I would view their triggering of this election, like someone who agrees to risky surgery not because the likely outcomes are great but rather because the alternatives are worse.

    The point of this post is not actually that Ignatieff is a great leader, rather that unlike a Disney movie, in reality sometimes trying really, really hard is not enough and you still get smacked by the bus.

    • It might also be the case that pulling the band aid off quickly is better than pulling it off slowly. If Harper wanted to govern with a Majority, and the Bloc and NDP didn't want to do the third-party traditional duty of supporting the government, then maybe the Liberals should have opposed and forced the election right away.

      Would the parties who brought down the government have been punished. Probably, but the Liberals probably wouldn't have been punished this badly, and the NDP wouldn't have made these gains.

    • You've said a lot of the things I was thinking (and more eloquently than I would have), but let me play devil's advocate briefly:

      What if Michael ignatieff, and the Liberal Party as a whole, was trying hard at the wrong things? I mean, it is obvious now that the lesson to be learned is that the LPC needs a ground-up rebuild, why wasn't that the message that was received after the last election?

      Tactics don't count for much if your strategy is completely wrong.

      • I have heard the bottom up rebuild argument before I think it is a little diffuse. Yes they needed (and still need time), as many have noted the Conservative majority now gives them that.

        However, I think it is more accurate that the party needed a purging of some bad actors rather than a ton of soul searching about what they stand for. (i.e. they need to get rid of Volpe and his ilk.) The way to purge a party is to lose an election (badly).

        • I suspect you underestimate the task ahead for the Liberals if they're to be a viable national party in the future.

          As things stand, the Liberals hold a few seats in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Atlantic Canada with a handful scattered elsewhere. Over the next four years while the Liberals deal with fundraising and a leadership campaign, the NDP and Conservatives (both flush with money) are going to be doing their best to solidify their gains and eat away at the remaining Liberal support. Both the Conservatives and NDP can make strong pitches from both political and ideological grounds, while many Liberals explicitly disavow ideology and the party is obviously at its weakest ever politically.

          I don't see a purge winning them any new seats in Quebec or the West after this, and almost every message I've heard from the Liberals over the past 8 years is either now better expressed by another party or invalidated by their weak electoral position. They need more. Way more.

          • But that's the problem. I still want a party that DOES disavow ideology.

            Ideologic policies are not based in reason.. that's kind of by definition. Everybody suggesting a "ground up rebuild" as far as I can see are people thinking that the Liberals need to latch on to some sort of ideology. Isn't the simple desire for good governance ideology enough?

          • A desire to win inevitably tempers ideology; while there may be a few bones thrown to the base every so often, ideology does less to shape policy directly than it does to provide guiding principles.

            Not wanting an ideology is fine too, but I suspect that is a harder sell. Social democrats automatically gravitate to the NDP, conservatives feel pulled by the Conservatives, but what of people without ideology? It isn't like they'll necessarily feel a pull to the party without an ideology, will they?

            The reason I suggest a rebuild is 'cause I don't think the LPC is viable as is, plain and simple.

          • But what you're advocating for isn't anything that's any better. It seems like you're basically saying, "This is how it is, so we better just accept it." I reject that as a defeatist attitude. How on earth can we work to change Canadian politics so that people look at the issues beyond the ideology if we don't go into it with the idea that such a thing can even happen?

            What it does require is a party that can concentrate on evidence backed policies, but can do so in a way that doesn't make it a purely academic exercise. That doesn't require "rebuilding from the ground up" of anybody — that just requires sensible policy formulation. Besides, what ideology can there be for those of us who don't care what end of the spectrum policies come from so long as they're good ones?

            …actually.. thinking about this now, my problem I think is coming from the idea of what the hell does "rebuilding from the ground up" even mean? Cancelling all party memberships and then sending out to everyone hoping they'll re-join? A policy conference? Becoming a party seen as a single issue party (ala the Greens.. yeah, that's worked out)? I see it bandied about a lot but nothing really concrete about what that entails. And in the meantime, if such a massive undertaking is going on, where does that leave us who actually have to live in the world while the rebuilding is going on?

            Until someone can explain what the hell is meant by rebuilding, I have to admit I'm just seeing it as code for "Go away and don't make us think for a while."

          • I think you're misreading what I'm saying. I'm not proposing that the Liberals adopt an ideology, I'm simply pointing out that explicitly not having one may not be the easiest sales pitch and that this may be a disadvantage.

            I'm not a Liberal, so I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to make any kind of specific proposals or to advocate anything beyond a deep examination of the party's prospects across the entire country. I'd like to see a strong Liberal party, because I think that more strong options are good for the country, but I certainly don't identify with the Liberal party as it has been recently and certainly not at all with how it is now.

            You edited to add a ton while I was replying, so at the least I'll tell you a little about what I think "rebuild" means.
            1. Figure out how to make the LPC a truly national party that can win seats everywhere in the country.
            2. Drop any and all language from messaging that suggests the LPC is entitled to people's votes, and drill this into any LPC reps.
            3. Quit talking about LPC history, start talking about the future of Canada.
            4. Communicate a position that is positive rather than negative; just being a party that isn't the Conservatives and NDP isn't good enough

            Basically, "rebuild" in my mind means the LPC has to quit thinking it is something special and start acting like a party that has to desperately prove itself. Hopefully those points are broad enough that I haven't turned myself into a hypocrite after saying it would be presumptuous to make specific proposals.

          • Apologies for the edit.. comment was too long first time around, so I had to cut and re-do.

            1. I agree with, but also tend to think it's impossible until the NEP generation literally dies off.

            2. People say they do this all the time. Can you provide examples coming from the party? Examples that aren't already echoes by the other parties? The biggest case of this that I actually remember comes simply from Ignatieff during the debates, and at the time, what he said was simply honest. Nobody would have believed that the NDP would be in a position to run the country. Hell, I've seen a number of people around here even claiming that nobody votes for the NDP if they thinkt hey'd be in power.

            3. Again, I think this is something that you've been convinced is happening, despite there being precious little evidence of it, from what I can see. Also again, perhaps this is some sort of blindness on my part, so examples you have would be greatly appreciated.

            4. This is valid. But this is campaign strategy, hardly a "rebuilding"

            I guess where I miss the boat here is that I personally don't see the LPC acting like it's something special. I see a lot of people characterizing them as if they do that.. but them actually doing that, I really don't see the evidence for.

          • the NDP have $?

  23. "My information is that the Liberal high command was playing a calculated gambit by leaving the go/no-go choice on Jack Layton's desk."

    When Jack Layton announced that his party would vote against the budget, the Ottawa Citizen said he had called Harper's bluff. I thought, no, he's called Ignatieff's bluff. I thought as well, that with the polling data and his health problems he decided this was his last chance to take 2nd pace away from the Liberals. I also thought he was wrong, but that's another story.

  24. Meh. Seems to me Ignatieff's absence wouldn't have meant a thing if:

    A): Political parties who have spending limits during elections (a mere 6 weeks) weren't allowed to spend a king's ransom between elections to tear down their opponents. This essentially allows the richest party to run roughshod over everyone else. Doesn't seem terribly democratic to me to allow parties to destroy democratic choices through such means.

    B): The Liberals had gotten off their laurels, did the ground work neccesary to develop and communicate what THEY would do better, rather than trying to go toe to toe with a massive electoral machine they could never hope to out-negative.

    Worse of all though, it seems to me the LPC is living twenty years in the past. It's an insult to the term "media saavy" to suggest they have any.

    • Your comment was wavering until you hit the nail on the head with the " twenty years in the past " shot.
      For the Liberal Party, " media savvy " seemed to be having the support of the Toronto Star—now that has disappeared.

      • Personally I think it would've been better had Harper gained his majority in 2008, if only because the Liberals could've focused on rebuilding rather than having to pretend they had their act together.

        Let's face it, Canada is a two party democracy under the current rules.

        Having five parties in the mix is just ridiculous.

        We need two healthy national parties that hover near the center and can keep each other in check.

        Since 1993 our system's been a bloody mess, and now we've got a hollow shell of a socialist party pretending it can seriously oppose the government.


  25. From the first time the Liberals sent a delegation down to Harvard to convince Ignatieff to move back to Canada with the promise of becoming the next PM, something just seemed off putting.

    I think it would have went much better for him if he had returned on his own accord. Having to be bribed to live in Canada doesn't make for a very compelling pitch when running for the top job.

  26. I'll put a slight twist on your thoughts and say I would always prefer the reluctant candidate to the one gunning for the job.

    Mind you, this line of thought only works in politics, not in any other profession.

    I have a small rule of thumb when it comes to candidates- let's call it, obnoxiously, SanDiegoDave's Rule #1- only vote for a candidate who's taking a pay cut to get into politics.

    • I agree. It's not the convincing to become PM I have issue with, I too question the over eager. What I don't find appealing is the matter of having to convincing him to return to Canada. It doesn't give the best impression for a guy hoping to garner votes.

    • That's a very good rule San Diego.

    • Feschuk had a great line re: Larry Smith, about losing your seat being an even worse pay cut than the one he'd already publicly lamented…

    • Reminds me of Danny Williams. Every dollar he earned as Premier was donated to charity.

  27. Excellent observations CC – the liberal high command gambled and lost – big time. An article from the Hill Times, May 24, 2010 gives an inside look.

    "The bottom line is the guy doesn't have a whole lot of political aptitude, shall we say. That's not going to turn around. He's been in the House now for several years, he's been the leader de facto for over a year, and the direction is still south," said the insider who spoke to The Hill Times on condition of anonymity. "There would be a lot more interest in dumping him if there was a significant replacement in the wings. And that's doing more to keep him alive than anything else."

  28. So.. it really is all the leader to you?

    Why do we bother having candidates then?

    • When Layton sees what awaits him from the Quebec MP`s, he will be the asking why.

    • Why do we bother having candidates then? An excellent question. Answers include:

      In some ridings: because they are strong politicians and or ministerial material.

      In some ridings: because they can get elected no matter who they are, thanks to either party loyalty or leader popularity.

      In many ridings: so we can have a pretense of "308 candidates, national party blah-blah-blah"

      In those same many ridings: as a profit centre. "No way they're gonna win but Elections Canada refunds expenses heavily AND every vote brings us two bucks a year. So if our unrefunded expenses are less than #votes times 2 bucks times 4 years, we win even when we lose!"

  29. Yeah, corporations kicked in to Obama's campaign as well, and it was Chretien's gift to our liberty that he drastically cut the amount of funding that corporations are able to contribute to political campaigns (even if it was just to kneecap Paul Martin).

    But the amount he received from individual voters was massive, and certainly a massive increase from 2004. That is because the Democrats (and Obama's campaign in particular) worked very hard to build organizations and fundraising tactics based on Republican models.

    Have the Liberals examined how the Conservatives built their fundraising base and copied it? Do they vigorously pursue new votes, new funds, and new volunteers? No, they've neglected to replace their traditional corporate funding even though they've had three leaders since then. Why?

  30. I do laugh a bit when people write off the Liberals at this point I must say.

    While they've never been quite this low in the seat count, they've bottomed out a couple times in the last fifty years.

    1958: 48 seats
    1984: 40 seats

    The real question is whether they'll cave to pressure or actually get to work on rebuilding.

    • In 1958 and 1984, they'd been the government for the last twenty years (Mackenzie King through St. Laurent, Pearson through Trudeau, ). This time, they've been a declining opposition for seven. That context is important.

      • I take your point, but I was merely pointing out that seat count isn't neccesarily the indicator we should be looking at, especially given how tenuous the NDP seat count really is if you look at it.

        Take away their Quebec seats (which could completely evaporate next election) and they're not doing much better than the Liberals.

        The Liberals have a lot of smart and capable people, a brand that still has value, and time to let the NDP self-destruct while they rebuild.

        Being out of the lime light can be a good thing in these cases.

        • What indicator can you look at for reassurance the Liberals can rebuild? The NDP seats in Quebec didn't just come from the Liberals – they include many seats the Liberals haven't held in twenty years. And people could use their money and smarts rebuilding the Liberal party, but they should ask themselves why those resources shouldn't be spent making the NDP a credible alternative government. Which path is most likely to benefit Canadians?

      • It's not just the context or the seats. They had 28% support in '84, and 34% in '58. Now they're at 19%, Much worse. I agree they can rebound. In order to do so, they should all read Cosh' column, over and over again, until it finally sinks in. Liberals do not like advice. They don't like listening to Canadians tell them what they want, they like telling Canadians what they want. They also like power – too much. They prefer power over policies. It shows.

    • Up until election night, that was exactly my response as well when people talked of the death of the Liberal party. Even people who remember the ’80s well seemed to have forgotten where the Liberals were in that decade.

      However, I now think this time could be different. Different because the Liberals are no longer the obvious alternative government. Added to their financial situation, loss of leader and lack of organization is the fact that they are now the third party in Parliament. Everything from media attention to their Ottawa offices is going to be smaller. They are going to have to do a lot more with a lot less – which doesn’t strike me as something they know how to do.

      All this is not to say that I’m sure they are gone, but I think speculation about their death is no longer unfounded.

  31. Excellent observations, Colby, and I say this as someone who couldn't care less about your psychological motives. Your "Ignatieffalump in the room" blog post was one of most incisive pieces I've read during this whole election, and judging by the howls of indignation it elicited from aggrieved Liberals, you obviously touched a nerve.

    Now that Ignatieff has led the Liberals to a historic, crushing defeat, maybe it's time for the punditry to acknowledge that Ignatieff's three decades abroad really were a problem, and that people who pointed this out this inconvenient fact weren't doing so out of embarrassing parochialism.

    Let's hope that the Liberals will use their time in the wilderness to recognize their "conscious collective error" and learn from the failed Ignatieff experiment.

    • You're confusing something being a problem with whether it should be a problem. I think most of those arguing against the Ignatieff is just Visiting meme weren't saying "this isn't a big deal" but were saying that it shouldn't be a big deal.

      Turns out, it was. I'm still not sure exactly why.

    • Ted Morton spent three decades abroad (1949-1981). As have many new prominent Albertans. Rick George – for example. Care to tar and feather them as well?

      • Or could it be relevant that Morton has devoted the LAST 30 years entirely to Canada? No, you're right, I don't see a difference at all. Tar and feathers for everyone!

        • Ignatieff has much deeper roots here than Morton or Tom Flanigan have. Are you suggesting that, from 1980, the world being as isolated as it is, he has been unable to follow what's going on in Canada, he never visited or called, never discussed Canadian issues?

          Wow. Even Conrad Black, who has been holed up in a jail in the US or restricted to travels within the US was quoted by the CBC on election night on the results.

          Albertans are surprisingly provincial in their outlooks. And this reflects it. Harper never left N. America (apart from MAYBE a trip to Britain) before being elected PM, and one of his closest supporters, Gwyn Morgan, spent all of his free time hiking in the Rockies or meditating on his head before speaking out so magnanimously on national and internation issues.

          • "Ignatieff has deeper roots here"? I don't understand: were we somehow being asked to vote for those ghosts of his dad or his grandparents? Yeah, he personally has "roots" in pre-Charter Canada, and I guess if we ever need a Prime Minister of pre-Charter Canada, he'll make a fine one.

          • Don't you mean pre-firewall Alberta?

  32. I've always used policy and past performance in my evaluation of politicians, with the possible exceptions of Adam Giambrone and Peter McKay (where possibly I've let one or two events overshadow my entire impression of them). The entire idea of not voting for someone based on impression seems foreign to me, the idea of revelling in it because you feel it hurt your opponent tacky.

    If I have "a lot to learn" in that area I kind of prefer to stay ignorant.

    • Excellent, more Liberal condescension about how voters make their decisions. Keep that up, and you’re sure to win more votes—for the Tories and NDP.

    • As you noticed, self-awareness and doubt have absolutely no place whatsoever in politics.

      • Oh Dave, does Dean know you have abandoned him for the blonde waitress ?

        • He IS upset. Last I heard he was back at Mom's Suzuki dealership playing with his Brio trains.

  33. That's certainly a factor, but I think it's pretty obvious that there's more to it than that.

    In most democracies, someone who chose to live abroad as long as Iggy did would never be considered a viable candidate for Head of Government in the first place. (Especially not someone with a "pronoun problem" who occasionally passed himself off as a citizen of the foreign country he happened to be living in at the time.)

  34. Funny thing is Iggy has been in Canada longer than some of the NDP MPs have been alive.

    • The NDP got some seven year olds elected? Amazing.

    • ::rimshot::

  35. The NDP have strong links to unions and to NGO's. While neither of these can donate, their members certainly can, and these organizations have an audience they can cultivate money from.

  36. Sure, but how do you police such a thing?

    • Yeah, that would be like herding cats wouldn't it? LOL

      My best offer would be to say that partisan political ads shouldn't allowed outside the election period.

      There's no good purpose to it that serves democracy, and never happened at all before 2004.

      Then at least everyone knows an election is on, and the time required for subliminal programming is very limited, because ultimately it's a terribly subjective judgement as to whether an ad is intentionally trying to subvert the conscious mind.

      • "and never happened at all before 2004."

        There were occassional pre-writ spends. But not usually for months and months prior.

  37. Iggy's chief accomplishment before being drafted by the Liberal party was to be head academic cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. I'm not sure why this doesn't come up more often, presumably because it's not an angle of attack the Tories could use, since their entire foreign policy can be summed up as "be more hawkish, reactionary and pro-US than the Liberals."

    Despite the talking heads mostly ignoring this issue, I suspect it was a factor. It was like the Liberal party unanimously drafted Joe Lieberman as leader then had him run on an NDP economic platform, but with his same reactionary warmongering foreign policy. Seems like a candidate designed to be hated by everybody.

    From my perspective Chretien's most unambiguous virtue was not supporting the Iraq war. For the Liberal party to coronate Iggy was to completely reject that virtue. I thought Iggy ran a fine campaign and I actually like to listen to him speak more than any of the other party leaders. But I would sooner cut my own leg off with a dull hacksaw than vote for him or the party that selected him.

  38. Residual political sentiment doesn't sound like a great foundation for a political party. What policy goals are you trying to achieve? We have a good idea of what was achieved in the past with a strong federal NDP (CPP, Medicare), we've seen what happens when it's weak (Chretien's cuts to social programs and privatization). We have a good idea of the NDP's current priorities (pensions, health care). I can't point to a similarly clear record or agenda for the Liberal party.

    • I think you're getting ahead of yourself.

      The starting point is determining whether to rebuild, or kill the party and focus on the NDP right?

      So in answer to that I've established that for a number of very significant reasons, I think it makes far more sense to rebuild the LPC, than try and make the NDP an actual credible governing alternative.

      From that point there's a heck of a lot of work to do.

      Incidentally, it's important to note that while the NDP has been successful at pushing certain agendas during minority periods, technically it was the LPC that passed all those initiatives you're talking about.

      We don't actually have any idea how the NDP would act in government. Would it even remain the same party if it did?

      There's a lot of examples to show that the stress of actually governing pushes parties to the right for obvious reasons.

      • I disagree. First, you set out your goal – the policy stance you want the federal government to take. Then, you look at the most effective and efficient way to get there – rebuild the Liberals or strengthen the NDP.

        • I don't know. Seems to me policies come and go because most specific issues come and go. What matter most is people's perception of the core principles and ideals of your party.

          In this case they already exist. The LPC brand has those in place in the minds of voters.

          Changing the NDP branding would be terribly difficult. Even just shaking off the "socialist" label would take a lot of work.

          If the NDP already had a powerful political machine put together, then maybe it would be worth it, but from where I'm sitting they're really no better off and maybe worse than the LPC as it stands today.

          • What if the Liberal political machine supported the NDP instead of trying again with the Liberals? I have to disagree that most voters know the core principles and ideals of the Liberal party (what I'd call policy stance), especially since the Liberals have now run three consecutive elections as "the more popular NDP, with better cost estimates".

          • Ah well there's a difference we might not be able to agree on. I don't think most people equate the LPC with the NDP at all. The LPC actually has center-right support most of the time, whereas the NDP really doesn't. Most rightwingers voting NDP do so out of distaste for the current Conservatives, but their hatred of the LPC pushes them to protest through the NDP, IMO.

            Besides, I don't think political machines are transferable in that way, because the party workers come from across the spectrum too.

            I honestly believe that a merger or any version of dissolution resulting in the removal of the LPC, will actually strengthen the CPC, rather than strengthen the left.

            It seems to me that the NDP is structurally weak, out of alignment with the average Canadian and fighting against their own history, reputation and branding.

            The Quebec vote is and has always been unpredictable and touchy at best. They've made or broken governments since confederation due to their willingness to suddenly shift their support wholesale, and the majority of the NDP caucus ballooned from there, in some cases supporting candidates who didn't even have a constituency office.

          • Incidentally, the fact that they would be known by some as having "better cost estimates" goes back to my point that the LPC is already branded as fiscally responsible while the NDP still has the "socialist spendthrift" problem that drives away center-right voters.

          • Anyways, cool chatting with you. You make good points, debate well and most importantly you made it easy to steer clear of the insults and innuendo.

            Seems to me that one way or another we're botth progressive types looking for a solution to the center split.

          • Yes, it's enjoyable to talk about this stuff without being called a conbot or a drunk. Thanks for the interesting conversation.

      • Your reasons for focusing on the Liberal party don't strike me as all that significant:
        – a reputation for centrist government. Is that reputation deserved? Chretien and Martin pursued policies that echoed Margaret Thatcher's (tight money, social cuts, tax cuts, privatization). If there is centrist governance in Canada, does that reflect the Liberal party or the political character of Canada? Mulroney's most contentious policies were continued by Chretien.
        – better candidates, more previous voters, branding. These are all re-statements of the Liberal party having been popular. Also, the Liberal brand has been badly damaged in Quebec and the prairies for a long time now. What hope does it have of recovering? Is that really harder than restoring the NDP brand in Ontario?
        – from a wider range of the political spectrum. Doesn't the composition of Parliament matter more than the composition of one caucus?
        – Centre-right Liberals prefer Harper to the NDP. The NDP also has voters who vacilate between the Conservatives and the NDP.

        • I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. Branding isn't something one argues, it exists or it doesn't in the minds of the average person.

          For example if you were to sample people's beliefs about which parties are good money managers, I suspect both the CPC and the LPC would garner a significant percentage, but the NDP would not.

          As far as representation of the political spectrum, generally we have majorities, if which case the remainder of parliament is essentially irrelavent, as it is now, so I think the composition of parties matters a great deal.

          The fact that the current CPC government has so much representation now from the center and center-right does in fact legitimize them far more so than when they were only center right.

  39. Absolutely correct about the Liberal Party "braintrust", Colby. They gambled and it blew up in their faces.

  40. So we went from the party best able to marshal corporate donors dominating to the party best able to marshal small interest groups dominating. The problems remains that money buys elections, and money is driven by small, organized and powerful groups.

    Per-vote subsidies mean that a party's interest to get as many votes as possible is aligned with their goal to get funding. Individual donations by a tiny fraction of the electorate put these goals in tension: pander to your donors at the cost of political support, or vice versa? SInce money can help to buy elections, better to pander to the donors within reason. Hence dog-whistle politics.

    I support low campaign spending ceilings, too. Being able to outspend rivals is not an advantage that should be a driving factor behind election results. It should be the degree to which the party can earn popular support. Many people seem to conflate donor support from a small group being equivalent to broad popular support.

    Per-vote subsidies gives the poor person much more equitable influence than compared to the guy who can afford to have himself, his wife, his adult children, his grandparents, etc. each donate $2000. It also makes earning each vote worthwhile, even in ridings that are safe seats.

    • No, the money is driven by MANY small and organized groups, most of whom aren't very powerful.

      You seem to have the idea that voters largely drift along and make their decisions based on the wider cultural "memes" and "media". As if people are blank slate that are primed to receive any message that a massive media campaign can give. I don't buy it (and I also think memetic theory and sociology in general is hogwash).

      But most people who vote know their own interests and vote to them. They might not have a party that encapsulates all of their interests and might prioritize them (ie. a union man who is an evangelical christian who votes conservative rather than NDP or vice versa).

      I also think that pandering to your donors vs. political support is a false contrast. Your donors are interested in you having political support, and if you have good campaign financing laws (like we do) then most of your political supporters will be your donors. If your supporters give you money and votes then of course you should represent them instead of "all Canadians". They are your representatives, not people you recommend for the job of ruling over you.

      I also fail to see how you can make a connection to a per-vote subsidy to a poor person. The NDP don't care about the poor, they care about government intervention in the economy. The Liberals don't care about the poor, they care about holding power because they figure they are the best suited for it. The conservatives don't care about the poor, they care about decentralization of government, libertarianism, and a tinge of social conservatism. None of them is going to massively increase welfare, guarantee an minimum income, or build facilities to combat mental illness. So what is that per-vote subsidy doing for that poor person but support an ideology that doesn't really have anything to do with his situation?

      • You're still conflating voters with donors. The vast majority of people who vote for a party have not and never will donate to it. The people who donate to a party are not a representative sample of the people who vote for it. The party is loyal to the donors, and not the people who vote for it.

        • Listen, the first thing the Harper government did to hurt the Liberals was reduce the upper limit of donations to political parties from 5000 to 1,100. The vast majority of the donors donate between $50-$200. This is why the Conservatives are rich, and why the Liberals are not. The Liberals have people who can donate $5000 dollars, but not people who donate $50-$200.

          The most lucrative source of income for political parties is their voters, but only if you have voters who are willing to give you money.

          The measurement of subsidized tax incentive actually gives us a guide as to how much money comes from small donations. Essentially, the conservatives have the greatest amount of benefit from the tax incentive because they have many, many donors who contribute enough to claim it, but don't earn enough that this tax credit is wasted. As the party with the largest voting share, they get the largest amount of per-vote subsidy. As the party with largest number of seats and spread across the country, they also get the lion's share of campaign reimbursements. Essentially, when all is said and done, because the conservative party has a lot of voters/donors who are one in the same, they reap the greatest reward for the incentives.

          The liberals on the other hand, have many more donors than voters, and that has pretty much led them to where they are right now. Their reliance on the per vote subsidy and their resulting neglect of collecting from middle class and lower middle class donors was the cause.

          • You're still talking past this point: the vast majority of Conservative voters have not and will never donate to the party, but the party is owned by the donors. I don't think this is good and right. Ideally, our democracy would require as little cash as possible. Money corrupts the process. The answer isn't a fundraising war between interest groups backing different horses. The answer is making money less of a determinant of election outcomes. If you reply that money doesn't play a significant role in determining election outcomes, we should be able to agree that spending limits should be lowered.

          • I disagree that money corrupts the process objectively. I think money has to be managed and controlled, volunteering and donating are two very vital ways you influence the political parties. Withholding money and time are a very good way to reduce the influence of a political party who betrays your interests.

            You want nothing but a per vote subsidy that largely rewards the party currently in power. Essentially then, rather than compete with voters based on how they will appeal to various interests, you essentially will reward the campaign with the slickest way of drumming up broad based support. Then when a party gains a majority, there should be no way for the populace to use private funds to match the dominant power's electoral machine.

            I'm sorry, but that's cracked and is definitely not the way towards more democratic control of the electoral process.

            As for spending limits, sure we can do that. But it is pretty much unenforceable, as the United States proves.

          • It doesn't take much money to bootstrap a party to start winning votes. Parties with a compelling proposition don't need to sell themselves too hard. See the greens. They have managed to flourish under the per-vote subsidy, which is the opposite of what you predict.

            "Essentially then, rather than compete with voters based on how they will appeal to various interests, you essentially will reward the campaign with the slickest way of drumming up broad based support."

            Realise that what you're saying is that parties ought not to be rewarded for winning greater support. Bizzaro-world stuff. You're saying that parties should appeal to small groups rather than the broad population. I'm stumped.

            "As for spending limits, sure we can do that. But it is pretty much unenforceable, as the United States proves."

            I don't see how US electoral law matters to the Canadian context. Seems like spending limits work here pretty well. Parties that push the envelope, as with in-and-out, are rightly punished. Let's lower the cap to six or seven million for the national campaigns, and ban television and radio advertising. Parties can use their donations to build feedback mechanisms like constituency offices, etc.

          • The Greens have flourished huh? So they increased their voter share then? Also, taking votes across the country in order to use the public funds to overtly influence one riding to elect a leader is more democratic than people donating their own money?

            As for winning broader support, the way to do that in a pure media campaign is to advertise, and most of that advertising is going to be negative. There will be almost no discussion of policy because people simply don't have the time or interest to examine each issue of the day. It would exacerbate rather than solve most of the problems you complain about.

            Plus, the other reason there won't be a discussion of policy is because actually talking about policy turns off more voters than it attracts. That's why most voters aren't given any policy during media campaigns. With only the public funding based on votes, all you are going to have is slickly marketed platitudes.

            But we're talking past each other. I think you should elect people to parliament who represents your interests. You think you should elect the best people to parliament to build a utopian society. I think using money and time is a good way to force parties to listen to their constituency and force them to craft policy that is to their benefit. You think the constituency should give their vote to the party that comes up with the best policies at election time.

            In the end you want an aristocrat and I want a servant.

          • Yes, the Green's vote share did increase. In 1993 it was 0.2%. In 1997 it got 0.4% of the national vote. In 2000, 0.8%. In 2004, 4.4%. That was the first election after the political finance reform. In 2006, they got 4.5% and then in 2008 a huge jump up to 6.8%.

            Hard to look at those numbers and conclude that the Greens did not flourish under the per-vote subsidy regime.

            I also suggest trimming the use of advertising in campaigns, and reducing spending in general, so I don't know why you're throwing that in my face. Slick marketing will be much harder with much lower media budgets and/or a prohibition on the most vapid forms of political advertising (radio/television). A way of getting broad support would be to host town-halls, knock on doors, policy manifestos etc. and talk to people about policies and visions. You're suggesting that parties bring home the bacon to interest groups to secure donations to buy the disinterested electorate: what a vision of democracy. You might like that while you're one of the courted interest groups. You might like it less when the party is pandering to public sector unions with public funds to secure donations from their members, a la Bob Rae 1990.

            I don't see where you're getting the idea that I want an aristocrat. My approach is more meritocratic than anything else.

            You don't want politicians to serve Canadians. You want politicians to serve money. Let's make this discussion moot by getting as much money out of the system as possible.

          • Furthermore, you said:

            "As for winning broader support, the way to do that in a pure media campaign is to advertise, and most of that advertising is going to be negative. There will be almost no discussion of policy because people simply don't have the time or interest to examine each issue of the day."

            In other words: Canadians in general are too dumb, indifferent or unsophisticated to care about ideas, So parties shouldn't appeal to them in general. Appeal to money first, and use the money to manipulate the drooling masses. You don't actually seem to decry the slick marketing campaigns. As long as it's funded by a small core of interest groups.

  41. Is this a "coat of many colors" thing?

  42. yeah Im no expert on Bernays, i've wanted to read Propaganda (his book of that title, not actual propaganda) for a while now, but my understanding of what he's done comes from the excellent BBC doc Century of the Self.

    Since then it's been a habit of mine to evaluate commercials on how much "Bernays" they have. Beer commercials : 100% Bernays. Used car commercial (e.g. Come on down 0% interest we have huge inventory…") 0% Bernays. But political ads are 50/50. They have some actual content, but they also have the more subtle messages.

    • Century of the Self is fantastic, I agree. Adam Curtis also did a great series on the CIA/Ewen Cameron mind-control experiments, the title of which escapes me at this time. (Remember the brief bit from CotS with a short-haired redheaded woman sitting on a hillside — "Linda Campbell", I think — talking about her treatment? There's quite a bit more with her, and it's really stunning. Worth looking up.)

  43. 1. Unless you don't include Alberta in the country, however, do you really think that Liberals can ever elect an MP in all areas of the nation until the NEP generation has been buried?

    2. There is a red door, and a blue door. How is that different from 'It's us or the coalition"?
    Only we can defend national unity vs Only we can defend the economy
    Only we can stop Stephen Harper vs. Only a stable majority can stop the Coalition
    We are the natural governing party of Canada I'll grant.. if you can show me where they said it. Within the last four years or so, I don't think it's been said. And if it has, then you're correct, someone needs to school the sayer against that kind of assumption.

    3. Hm. Thinking on this one more. We do see a lot of that behavior during their rallying speeches once they've lost. Is that what rebuilding means then? Forgetting a successful past? Tossing out your history when it's different from the current circumstances? Then again, maybe I'm seeing this from an isolated viewpoint, because Liberals here in Alberta certainly don't refer to the past much.. if ever.

    4. And here's where we hit the problem. Standing "for something concrete" is simply another way of saying "get an ideology and damn the facts or circumstances". That's where we came into this with me asking "Isn't simply standing for good governance enough?" Now do they need to do more of standing for good governance? Sure. Again though, I fail to see how that's a "rebuild from the ground up" as opposed to a much simpler "adjust and move forward"

    And yes, I do think a lot of the LPC concentrating on the LPC has been the circumstances. After all, when you've just lost and your supporters are unhappy, do you go, "Man, Canadians think we suck" or do you look back to your history to show them, "We've been great before.. we can be so again.." if you want to keep the supporters, the former is probably a bad idea.

    • 1. If the Liberals don't start making an attempt in Alberta now, they're going to lose the next generation of voters as well as the only people they'll hear from is the NDP and Conservatives. It doesn't need to be a winning strategy *right now*, but there has to be some kind of credible engagement and recognition.

      2. Conservatives vs. the coalition implicitly recognizes 4 different parties while red door/blue door recognizes two. We've got (or well, we had) 4 major parties with people who support each of them. I doubt that non-Liberal federalists or non-Liberal progressives appreciated the framing the Liberals preferred because it completely wrote off their choices as illegitimate, and painted the Liberals as their only real choice.

      I watched Alfred Apps on Power and Politics yesterday saying that he didn't believe that the election represented a massive change in what Canadians wanted. Maybe he was just saying that because it is necessary for him to say that he believes that the LPC can quickly return to their central place in Parliament, but it was unfortunate all the same.

      3. I'm perfectly willing to concede that on this point, much of the issue may have been that the campaign has effectively been on since '04 and the Liberals have been hammered repeatedly.

      4. I'll think on this one and get back to you. I've a ton of thoughts rolling through my head, but I'm a bit tired right now and need time to get them sorted.

      At some point, it has to be "man, Canadians think we suck" if those are the cards you've been dealt. Obviously, I brought up the possibility that circumstance has dictated a lot of what I've seen so I recognize that may colour my perception of things and I recognize why it has happened, but when it does it become "Canadians think we suck, what do we need to change?" as opposed to "We'll be in government next time for sure"?

      One other point I should bring up is the perpetual insider leaks and infighting that have characterized the party for the past decade. There is absolutely no way any of that has helped the party or improved people's perception of it that I can see. The impression it leaves is that the environment inside the party is toxic, it is really hard to buy into a party that won't buy into itself.

      • Not much to disagree with here, though I'll point out that before the Orange Crush started, was there really any other choice for who might start government? Write them off? No more than most of Canada had for all of the foregoing history.

        That said, I think you've really hit on something with that very last paragraph — and though I think that may be part of the price for trying to build a party that admits alternative viewpoints within it — it's really gotten out of control over the last several years.

        • To add to the thoughts of choosing an ideology, when you're a party in opposition you have to give the voters some impression of what it is that you stand for. Your position on the issues doesn't have to conform to 'center', 'left', or 'right', but on each issue it does need to be consistent. You can't, for example, spend half of question period screaming about insufficient stimulus spending, and then spend the next half screaming about wasteful spending running up the deficit. They both may be valid perspectives, but you do need to pick one of them and stick with it or the public has no idea where you stand on the issue.

          When it comes to a ground up rebuild, this usually means working on expanding the base at the roots, one of the best counters i can think of to a negative campaign is thousands of party members on the ground that can talk to friends/coworkers and change their minds. This means getting involved with existing local groups, and founding your own. Listening to what they have to say, and convincing them that they're heard and have a say in your party, that when you win, they win.

          • No, it's entirely logical and valid to complain about insufficient stimulus spending, and then complaining that the spending that is running up the deficit was wasteful.

            Is it too much to ask, after all, for stimulus spending that is well considered, rather than things like this.

            Your second point, however, seems to make much more sense, but most people who are talking about rebuilding also mix it in with the Liberals needing much "self-reflection" — self-reflection implies that the party is going the wrong way somehow.. not just that they need to build up their base.

          • Well quite clearly they ARE going the wrong way, if they were going the right way they wouldn't be hemorrhaging votes. Failing to build/maintain the base is part of that wrong way. Making decisions about what the key planks of your platform are going to be IS probably another part of fixing the direction, but it should be based on this new/re-energised base, because if they don't have input into the process, how can they feel they're part of it? Where does a leader fit into all this? Somewhere between those two steps i would think. There should be some idea of where the party wants to head before picking a new leader probably. But at some point the leader needs to be there to become a rallying point.

        • Even if what you're saying is true I'd argue that, especially since '93, it has been really disrespectful to make that assumption.

          With regards to 4 and the last paragraph:
          I think the real reason why I'm as hot on the word "rebuild" as I am is the impression that the people who run the Liberal Party, and their close confidants, are hugely out of touch with reality. While this is in good part due to the party squabbling I've mentioned, I should also point out that the last LPC convention (which I followed, as someone who was potentially willing to move my vote) didn't convince me at all that the party was interested in serious discussion about what the LPC stood for and had to offer, but rather to simply gear up for the next election (that the Liberals would of course win) as soon as possible.

      • The power center of Canada has shifted, and the Liberals are excluded. Canada is no longer a rich manufacturing nation, it is one of resource development. If the Liberals want to be relevant, that is the word, they need a presence in Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC.

        As long as the answer is 'Conservative' to this question, they will remain irrelevant. The question: I have an idea/money and I want to be in touch with some people in the fastest growing and dynamic economy in Canada. Who from which party should I talk to?

        The answer for generations has been Liberal. Not any more.

  44. Yeah, I liked The Trap too…

    The one I was thinking of is The Living Dead, and it starts here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZw8NRCPmSc
    …but now I see it's specifically Part 2 ("You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough") that focuses on the psych experiments.

    • i'll be checkign that out. thanks.

  45. I'm half kidding too.

    Though when you think about it, "Render unto Caesar what is Caeser…" probably puts Him a whole lot closer to the Tommy Douglas type political/religious firebrandism than the Preston Manning type.

    Yet, now that I consider that, Tommy and Preston weren't all that different in many ways. At least they both establshed and then stuck to a clear set of principles, unlike the current leadership of, what, all five of our "major" parties?

  46. Can you link to an analysis?

  47. Gloat all you want Cosh.
    You came off as a pompous jerk by attacking Ignatieff for something that a lot of people considered trivial. A lot of people didn't as well.

    You're supposed to be smarter than that.

  48. Cosh: You are a hack. Ignatieff has more talent in one of his toenails than you will ever possess in the entire girth of your corpulent self.

    To paraphrase Bette Midler: Get some talent, then you can mouth off.

    While you're at it, try a shave and a shower. You're beginning to look like the love child of "Comic Book Guy" from the Simpsons, and "Relic" from the Beachcombers.

    • There seem to be quite a lot of crazy people in the Maclean's commentverse who think the hair and beard IN MY PHOTO are growing. Perhaps Ignatieff should have concentrated his efforts more strongly on the crucial assisted-living and sheltered-workshop vote?

    • Worst. Anti-Wherry imitation. Ever.

  49. From the article:

    "I don't know what story Paul Wells will tell in his sprawling Making Of The Prime Minister 2011 feature, and if he disagrees with me I would strongly encourage you to take his word over mine."

    No worries about that Cosh. You are one of the sad, angry dysfunctional turds who thrill to the ignorance and nastiness that the Cons have made virtues.

    Your writing is but a fleck of excrement compared to what Wells offers.

  50. Well, not exactly a capitalist. Capitalists don't punish the refusal to care for others in the pursuit of profit. They reward it. Jesus would send those sweatshop owners straight to hell.

  51. Wow! Your excerpt from his election night speech really confirms what I'd always thought. He lived in a dream world, convinced he was destined to become a great national leader.

  52. No. She's a head of state, not a head of government with executive powers, and she and her family were exiled by an oppressive Soviet regime.

  53. Wait, i thought it was the opposition who forced this election on Harper??
    I guess i must be confused then, right?

  54. Welcome to the 21st century gentlemen where capitalism conquered democracy. Whoever has the money has the ability to hugely influence the public mind about who gets elected. The electorate is so mindless and gullible elections are jokes.

  55. I'd dare to say that the only exception would be a career soldier, who had spent the majority of his life fighting far flung campaigns. Applies more to the distant past than to the present.

  56. So tired of wanna be intellectuals proclaiming Ignatieff's intelligence. Intelligence should be measured in actions and not by one's words. Anyone literate enough to read and understand Tom Sawyer, is as capable as Ignatieff for holding a position at any University. If you can BS all the better.
    Harper on the other hand has demonstrated an intelligence that far surpasses that of Ignatieff's and he returns as PM. The image portrayed in selling a product should never be confused with the man himself. Harper crafted a plan years ago to not only become PM of a majority government but also to destroy the Liberal party. Whether it is a Sun Tzu or Stephen Harper, Mr. Ignatieff is nothing more than another failed wannabe in their presence.
    An intelligent man would never have lead his team to a defeat like this but an arrogant man has.
    Mr. Ignatieff may be a fine husband and man but I shun the thought of him educating the next leaders of our nation in anything other than being an example of who they should not become.

  57. Andrew, Yanni: thank you both for a well-reasoned, civilized debate. That's a rare thing on these boards. You both raise valid points; I'm still not sure what side of this debate I fall on, ,but you have each given me a lot to think about. I hope a lot of others take the time to read through your exchange.

  58. Well, if you ask me, Ignatieff has passed through the baptism by fire, and is now a Canadian.

    He became a success, a very successful man in fact; out of Canada, and anyone who does that is going to pay a price upon returning to the country. I don't see Captain Kirk coming back to act here, or Michael J. Fox – Lorne Greene, how many Canadians have left, become successful, and have not come back? Why would they? Ignatieff thought he could – and he was wrong.

    It must be the Scottish blood. We're 25% or more of Scottish descent – in fact Ignatieff is half Scot. When Sean Connery left Scotland, became a huge success – there was an attitude in Scotland that they weren't really sure he could be considered a Scot anymore – since he'd left, after all.

    And Billy Connolly – they've removed him from the records at the school he went to in Glasgow. You leave – you're no longer a Scot.

    Only thing meaner than a Scots Canadian is an Irish-Scots Canadian. Note to other celebrity expats — if you're a success, do not come back. You'll be crucified.

  59. they have already been trolling the universities for years.

  60. Don't worry about the negative thumbs, you are right on!

  61. The bitter partisanship, the Bev Oda saga, pandering to Western base, all screams "intelligence" to me!

  62. Things aren't always as they are supposed to be I guess….

  63. That's funny. When the election was called for a Conservative majority and an NDP opposition, I thought "Wow, now Canadians can live BC politics instead of just pointing at us and saying, now that's crazy politics!" Welcome to our world!

  64. Yeesh. Give it a rest, Dot. You really need to learn to walk away after you've been schooled.

  65. Mr King: I agree whole-heartedly with points 2 and 3, but disagree with point 1 with equal vigour.

    The amount of money a party has to spend between elections is a direct result of democracy: that they have been able to appeal to their supporters in order to convince them to support them financially. There is no doubt that this money was intended, and should be spent for partisan results.

    I suggest that you are arguing for equality of result and not equality of opportunity by advocating spending limits between election periods.

    • Perhaps a simplified example will clarify my point:

      20 voters support Party A. They are lower middle class and can only donate $10, so the party has a $200 budget for advertising.

      10 voters support Party B. They are upper middle class and can donate $100. The resulting budget is $1000.

      The two parties must now attract the remaining 70 voters.

      Who do you think has the greater power to do so? Is it really democratic that the richer yet smaller group can mount so much more of a campaign?

      And consider: During election time the media pays a lot of attention to all the parties, and the election period is only six weeks, so ask yourself: How much more influence is given Party B if it can use its war chest 24/7 all year around to grab attention when the media isn't as active?

  66. PDN: I agree with your entire post,except for the commonly held misunderstanding that Chretien opposed the war in Iraq. The reality is that he had no opinion on it.

    My recollection is that he stated that Canada would support the UN direction with respect to the war. It was only after the UN declined to endorse the invasion that the government took a position against participation.

    Mr Chretien lived up to the ideals of the Liberal Party. He never took a stance in favour or against the war. Fortunately for him the UN reflected the Canadian desire and he was belatedly and simplistically allowed to take credit for opposing the invasion.

  67. Dude, I positied one objective. One attained.
    Please provide an or several "objectives" and result.
    I did not equate "promises" with objectives.
    Your type of assembling of fuzzy "objectives" works well in the ethereal opinion media but are not hard objectives.
    Plain, ordinary voters understand results.
    One leader obatined their desired result, the other didn't.
    It registers with voters.
    If you can't get your people out to vote in droves then you 're probably not able to fulfil promises.
    When will you people get that?
    It is a hard lesson.
    Where was the whine?

  68. Yes … Yes … Yes!

  69. Could you send this over to the libs? They seriously need to read stuff like this. Yes the CPC played dirty pool and they should be roundly condemned[ they were by parliament] for playing fast and loose with the rules of our democracy. But in the bigger picture they have no one left to blame anymore; rather like Harper has no one left to blame now for his blunders or contempt for our parliament.