The year in Ignatieff -

The year in Ignatieff

The leader of the opposition evaluates his work in 2009 and his prospects for 2010


The leader of the opposition does the end-of-year rounds, talking to the Canadian Press, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star (more here), Canwest (more here and here and here), Sun Media and CBC (more here).

Belatedly, there is also Ron Graham’s essay for the Walrus. And since it was just a couple months ago, here is the piece I wrote for this magazine.

Some highlights from this week’s interviews.

Let’s remember where we are. We’re not in 1993. The debt-to-GDP ratio is significantly lower than it was in 1993. Why? Because of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. We’re in a different situation in 2010 and 2011 because Liberals managed the public finances of the country well. I think we can take a little longer to pay this deficit down. We should be very careful about payroll taxes which will make the unemployment situation worse. We need to focus infrastructure investment we’re making to create jobs, to focus on the unemployment issue and that begins to create some difference. (Canwest)

Ignatieff said he and Rae work well together. “Bob is obviously one of the very most talented people I’ve got…He has enormous credibility as a foreign affairs spokesman, he’s given me good, solid and loyal advice the whole time. Mutiny? What mutiny? Really.” (Sun)

Ignatieff admits the Conservatives have gotten under his skin with their attack ads labelling him as an elitist carpetbagger who’s “just visiting” Canada after 30 years working abroad. “I’m angry, let me put it that way, at the way I’ve been described by my opponents. I’m not visiting. This is my goddamn country. Get out of here,” he fumes. “So some of that gets to you occasionally. But it doesn’t discourage me. I just think this isn’t serious.” He admits it’s been a tough year for him but argues that’s hardly the point. “Mostly, it’s been a tough year for Canadians. As for me, who cares? I mean really, really, who cares?” (CP)

“The stuff I like doing is going out on the road,” he says. “So we’re going to universities. It’s important to preach to the unconverted. Some of what I have to do is rally the base, raise money. But the stuff I enjoy the most is going into rooms that aren’t full of Liberals – university crowds, university students are the future of Canadian politics and we have to get to them. And then the town halls I do are not full of Liberal partisans and we want to get them engaged.” (Star)

“There’s no question that Stephen Harper has a vote-suppression strategy. The less people that participate, the more people that are cynical and disengaged from politics, the better from his point of view,” he says. “That kind of hyper-partisanship, alienating people from politics, seems to be part of the modus operandi.” (Star)

“I’ve got to do better. Of course, I’ve got to do better,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. And to do better means “to get a better ear” – a keener sense of political hearing. As the recession worsened, profits evaporated and job losses mounted, Mr. Ignatieff too often fixated on whether and how to bring down the minority Conservative government. “I was constantly meeting people in a state of real anxiety and sometimes in actual fear, and it took me a while to realize they didn’t want an election, they didn’t want to be bothered with that,” he said. (Globe)


The year in Ignatieff

  1. OMG, Wherry's posted on something other than the Afghanistan detainees circa 2006. I feel like someone's taken the needle off a skipping LP record or shut off the CD player stuck on a scratched skipping CD.

    This monomania's gonna tank your readership numbers Aaron, even your hard-core left/lib followers can only take so much of this.

    Welcome back to the world around you.

    • Getting tired of the government being branded war criminals, eh? Get used to it.

      • Wherry stopped short of branding our soldiers as war criminals, which was a pleasnat surprise:
        CBC swas the olny media not to show such good sense: (the abuse was his jail cell was too hot)

        Canada's troops investigated for Afghan abuse

        • Wilson you don't do your namesake justice.

        • OMG. The CBC reported an actual story. Don't they know they should censor the news so as not to offend wilson's delicate sensibilities?

    • Jarrid, you're boring.

    • Jarrid, if your post didn't bathe in vitriol and contempt you'd actually have a point. I'm tempted to give you credit for the core of your assertion but I just can't glorify such garbage with a serious reply. Try again.

  2. Let's remember where we are.

    Was that meant to be tongue-in-cheek? "Note to self: You're no longer in the US. You're in Canada now. This is not 1993…"

    • Note to Ignatieff: "Payroll tax" is American terminology. Employers pay it, so it reduces the number of employees they can hire. Canada has "personal income tax", which doesn't cost the employer a cent. The worker pays it.

  3. Most telling quote:

    “The stuff I like doing is going out on the road,” he says. "So we're going to universities. It's important to preach to the unconverted [ed. note: universities are exactly where you'll find the "converted"]… But the stuff I enjoy the most is going into rooms that aren't full of Liberals – university crowds, university students are the future of Canadian politics and we have to get to them [ed. note:again, "university crowds" are exactly where you'll find nothing but Liberals, but anyway]"

    So Ignatieff likes to be "out on the road" – but "the road" turns out to mean the same place repeated three times over… universities (sure, "town halls" were in there too – town halls held at universities, maybe?). So what Ignatieff likes about politics is going to universities. And going to them some more. And then some more again. He likes going back to universities, let's say.

    • That is the only demographic still with Liberal voting intentions, under 30 living in Mom's basement

    • [ed. note:again, "university crowds" are exactly where you'll find nothing but Liberals, but anyway]"

      The kids over at Campus Conservatives for Cthulhu are going to be quite annoyed by your oversight.

  4. I'm jarrid wilson or is wilson jarrid?

  5. No need to answer that jar-son – that was a rhetorical question – not one you need to deploy your Van Loan defence on…

    • classy people over there eh?

      • on the three or four occasions i have followed a link over there (what is wrong with with me those days?) i am consistently dismayed by how angry that crowd is.

    • Wow, really? *follows the link*

      I can't believe I'm now explaining the difference between celebrating the death of journalists and the death of journalism. And really, in her view it's not the death of journalism but the end of the gatekeeper power of consensus liberal journalism. Do you seriously believe what you're saying?

      Takes a lot of – shall we say – hate, to interpret that post as anything like the way you present it.

  6. There's no question that Stephen Harper has a vote-suppression strategy.

    Ignatieff risks being tuned out by the electorate when he makes such statements. Where is the evidence for a vote-suppression strategy? There's "no question?" Really? No doubt whatsoever? Sounds like paranoia more than anything else.

    I imagine a lot of eye-rolling, rather than thoughtful nods of agreement, from voters with such statements. This is somewhere along the lines of: Tories have a hidden agenda, will shut abortion clinics, invoke martial law in our cities, etc.

    He's a highly intelligent man, but he comes across as petty and paranoid with such statements. He should stay away from such rhetoric.

    • Yeah, it's a pretty over-the-top statement for Ignatieff to make. "My political opponent is so disgusting and vile, he's alienating voters! Therefore, I accuse him of a deliberate strategy to suppress voters!"

      • You're right, Crit, Iggy has it wrong. It's because Harper is so disgusting and vile.

        • Yes, Harper is so disgusting and vile that he's causing potential Liberal voters to "disengage". That makes a whole lot of sense. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liberal leader's 15% approval rating. It's all Harper's fault!

          • I was agreeing with you! Or, you said it, not me.

      • not sure it is that over-the-top others have written about how the contemporary right wing uses their failure while in government as a means of reinforcing the idea that government is incompetent/otherwise ineffectual to help further alienate the electorate across the board.

      • Twit.

        • Thanks, Tiggy!

          • Why are the lefty so angry? It is a few days before Christmas and all we hear from Liberals is negativity 24/7. How did they become so bitter?

          • Good grief – you're in never never land for sure. Ever read Blogging Tories? Ever read the comments on Blogging Tories? Ever notice how many Tory supporters have "Angry" as part of their title?

            Ever read your own stuff?


        • Methinks you've been re-baptised.

      • No the vote suppression strategy is thus:

        1. The Conservatives only concentrate on the 40% or so of voters that are theoretically within their reach. Their messaging is designed to move these voters and disregards the effect it has on the 60% or so of voters they've written off.

        2. As for that 60% their negative advertsing is aimed at making sure they do not coalesce around one other choice who could defeat the Cons, hence the villification of Stéphane Dion and now Michael Ignatieff. Try to make them so unattractive that many voters will just throw up their hands and say "both choices disgust me, I'm staying home" or, possibly, "I'll throw a bone to the NDP or Greens, even though they can't win, because the Liberals can't beat Harper either"

        Wells has been writing about this for years (not to mention Flanagan). Are we supposed to believe you haven't been paying attention?

        • I don't believe the Tories are "writing off" 60% of voters. The only reason I believe this is because a few months ago, there was a poll (can't remember which one, broadcast on CBC Radio) that showed the Tories were leading in every demographic, in every province, in every major city, with the sole exception of Montreal. That included women, minorities, Torontonians, francophones, etc etc… Those groups weren't scattering between the NDP and Liberals, as you suggest with your 60%. Rather, they were being attracted to the Tories.

          If what you say is true, then the gap between 35% (where they seem stuck) and 40% (majority territory) would have been filled by "targeted" groups. Instead, when polling in the 40s, their appeal was spread over many demographics and regions.

          In terms of vote splitting, I get the impression that the Liberals are much more heavily involved in this than the Tories. "A vote for the NDP is a vote for Harper." Remember those memorable Liberal radio ads? Basically, don't vote your conscience, just vote Liberal out of nothing more than fear for the Tories and their "hidden agenda."

          • Sorry, that shouldn't say every province. It should say every region (the Atlantic was taken as a region, rather than individual provinces), except Quebec where they were 2nd to the Bloc.

            That's what I recall from memory. If I can dig up the poll, I'll post a link.

          • One poll, at one point in time, does not a trend make. I would suggest his core support has remained pretty constant.

          • The fact that their support may be increasing among the remaining 60% – and I'm not convinced at all that this is the case and would like to see your evidence – doesn't mean my description of the strategy is invalid.

            What you may find, over time, is that some of the 60% may drift into the Conservative orbit because they are "strategic voters" (ex. people who decide they'd like to increase their chances of their riding getting some of that fabulous stimulus money). Also some may express their disapproval with the Liberals and NDP by voting Conservative instead of staying home.

          • Calling it a "vote suppression strategy" is laughably wrong. It's a bastardization of a term borrowed from US politics, where it referes to disenfranchising voters, challenging ballots, crackdowns on voter registration drives, strict documentation requirements for voting, etc.. In short, it referes to antidemocratic dirty tricks.

            The way Ignatieff (and you) used the term was shockingly disingenuous (again, no surprise there). When you strip away the layers of BS from statements like those, there's nothing left but hot air and lame excuses.

          • Try to get over your shock.

            The aim of the strategy is to get people to stay at home instead of vote so "vote suppression" is an appropriate term.

          • It's not an appropriate term. It's a fundamentally dishonest term.

            The aim of the strategy you refer to is not "to get people to stay at home instead of vote". The aim is to convince disillusioned Liberal voters to stay at home, rather than vote for the party they once supported, while persuading potential Conservative voters to show up at the polls in droves.

            This strategy only works if the LPC is hobbled by some fundamental disadvantage, like a lack of credible leadership or a lack of good ideas (or both).

          • Yes well disillusioned Liberal voters are people too.

            I believe there's another term from the U.S. that applies as well: the politics of personal destruction.

          • You using the term 'fundamentally dishonest' can only be meant as an ironic jest. Huzzah for the lying muppet!

          • You're right Mike432 — that stable growing group who believe running shoes are a state of evolution, who think international law is for weenies, and that accountability only matters in income tax season (and only then with other people) are also being courted by the CONs. That raises the estimate to 41.3%…

        • Wells has been writing about this for years (not to mention Flanagan). Are we supposed to believe you haven't been paying attention?

          Wells has not been writing about "voter suppression strategies" for years. Show me even one example where he has ever used that term. You're just trying to pin a partisan happy-face on Iggy's ill-chosen words.

          The strategies Wells describes are perfectly legitimate and are commonly used by any number of political parties in Canada and around the world. There's nothing novel or anti-democratic about it. Focus your positive messaging on core voters and potential voters, and use negative messaging to challenge your opponents. It's common sense, really. Not some nefarious scheme.

          • Well I agree with you it's not illegal, it's just dishonourable. It lowers the tone of our politics. You seem to be hung up on the term "voter suppression", fine, call it whatever you like but the aim is still to inspire ridicule/disgust in your political opponent.

    • "Where is the evidence for a vote-suppression strategy?"

      A multi-year hate propaganda campaign (aided by the media) to turn people off politics and voting born out by lower voter turn-out.

      That idea didn't originate with Ignatieff, as any principled journalist around here (Hello? Hellooo!!) will tell you.

    • Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun — one of the few award-winning journalists they've got left — wrote a very convincing piece about a year ago that pointed to the same conclusion. Hmmm, do I take someone who's researched the idea via stats and by talking with experts, or a CON bloghead who's biggest challenge every day is whether to change his pajama bottoms before retyping the daily talking points into his/her laptop? Hmm…. I guess Jarhead's support one way convinces me to take the better probability…

      • You've never addressed my original point, despite your name-calling and insults: I believe Ignatieff comes across as paranoid when he makes such statements. This will not go over well with voters, along the same lines as "hidden agenda," abortion in back alleys, and soldiers on our streets. Lots of eye rolling rather than nods of approval.

        If the Liberals think this is a winning strategy to attract voters, they might want to rethink that.

        • We should cut Ignatieff a little slack when he comes across as paranoid.

          After all, it appears everybody IS out to get him.

  7. The most disappointing thing is that next year the debate will be more or less the same. even worse it will be the same cast making the same accusations. Voters are turning away because they have become disillusioned with the American system where they vote directly for the leader as opposed to this system where they think they do but don't.
    Leaders should be mouth pieces for the party not the other way around.

  8. "he's given me good, solid and loyal advice the whole time. Mutiny? What mutiny? Really.”

    We watched Pink Pather tonight. When I read Iggy's quote, this scene came to mind.

    • Hahaha, so true, good one!

  9. Leader of the Opposition is a really rough job. I feel badly for Ignatieff and I hope 2010 goes better for him.

    • Layton has had the problem for years, he seems to handle much better than 'any' liberal leader.

      • Leader of the smallest party in the House is not the same as Leader of the Opposition: not as much attention or scrutiny, not as much of an expectation to be a government in waiting (to present an alternative platform, etc.), not as much patience among your partisans…

  10. "I was constantly meeting people in a state of real anxiety and sometimes in actual fear, and it took me a while to realize they didn't want an election, they didn't want to be bothered with that"

    And then he wonders why we think he is just visiting, he can't connect with canadians!

  11. Thanks for the Ron Graham article Aaron. I know Graham was quite close to Trudeau and an admirer. But that really was a devastating critque of Ignatieff, besides being a fascinating window on the backroom dealings of the Liberal Party. It certainly doesn't look like Graham has any confidence that Ignatieff will come around. Guess time will tell?

  12. I thought the following was interesting coming from someone who has been tagged as just visiting.

    "It's going to sound ridiculously sentimental, but the thing that is really a constant source of inspiration and the biggest surprise is actually how nice people are," Ignatieff says….

    It surprised him that Canadians are "nice people".

    • Oh shut up

      • This typical Liberal incivility just gave me an idea as to who can replace Bob Rae after he gets his turn and fails as Liberal leader:

        Furious George Smitherman. You read it hear first. After all, he *did* work in a camera store prior to becoming a politician, rather than being burdened with HarvardThink; he's the perfect anti-Iggy.

        • As opposed to the lying, fact distorting, professional haters who populate most CON blogs (see smalldeadanimlals link above, but not if you have any idealism left and hope for a better world)?

  13. The money quote of the year: "Iran has to understand that the international community is united on the proposition that you can't deny the Holocaust, and you can't threaten any of your neighbours, and certainly not the Jewish state. And that means the Iranian government has to be aware that those feelings, those views, are backed up with appropriate military force… so they are backed up by credible deterrents."

    Sir, we don't invade sovereign democratic states and we don't spill the blood of Canadian soldiers just because some guy halfway around the world with a military budget a fraction of Canada's questions both the veracity of and the western world's obsession with the Jewish holocaust. I mean, that's taking warmongering to a whole new level. Hey Mike: I hear the president of Guinea-Bissau says that Canada lost the war of 1812; are we going to invade them too for being ahistorical?

    Politically, Canada's increasingly non-white population, hailing from countries which were subject to white colonialism, can't be very impressed with yet another white politician threatening to invade a non-white country over such a matter, not that I expect the lily white staff and readers of Maclean's to understand that or be in tune with New Canada. Whether justified or not, white people and countries have a reputation of being warmongers and Ignatieff isn't helping matters here.

    As a Conservative, I look forward to reminding Canadians during the next election of Ignatieff's unprecedented and imperialist warmongering.

    • Concern Troll Fail

      • When are you CON trolls going to own up to Bush and in his lapdog support of his every move, Harper, have set imperialism on a new, dangerous plateau?

  14. Iggy's casual use of blasphemy in interviews he knows to will be published is another bonehead move. Canada is an overwhelmingly Christian country, nearly 80% in fact, and to use blasphemous language intended to offend 80% of the population is, well, it's typical Iggy.

    The remaining 20%, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews, and others, who are more devout in their religion than Christians, have to be asking themselves if Iggy is this disrespectful towards his own religion what he *really* thinks about their religions and how much this leader of the so-called "tolerant" and diversity celebrating Liberal party really believes in respecting all faiths and cultures.

    I'm not religious myself, but I find it quite easy to speak without using language meant to be offensive to certain religions and people, and so do other politicians. Not Iggy though, he just can't help sticking his foot in his mouth.

    • 80% of Canadian's would be offended by blasphemous language!…you're a loony!

      • Need moar exclamation points! To show people you're mentally balanced! LOLOLOL….

        Screaming insults isn't going to change the fact that your boy is a dud, as was Dion, as was Martin, and as Rae will be. I see a pattern here.

        • I'm not an Ignatieff fan, which you might have realized if you'd been paying attention rather than spouting your blather.

    • Goddamn you Conbots are crazy.

    • Where have you been hiding lo these many months, O Surrealist, my Surrealist?

    • If you're not religious, why do you care about blasphemy?

      A hypocrite is a fundamentalist who is not himself on Sunday.

  15. I've been dying for the opportunity to roast this flake, but now he's just too pathetic and I feel sorry for him. Get a ride out of town pal and save yourself and a lot of others a ton of grief and embarrassment. Even if he made sense ( which he obviously doesn't ), the damage done by Dalton McGuinty will thwart a Liberal victory for a long time coming. The only way things could get worse for these n'er-do-wells is if they foolishly anointed that ship-jumper Billy Bob Rae as the Federal Rake-Off Party's Grand Poohbah . Personally, I hope they're stupid enough to do it, but time will tell.

  16. I just read a review of "Two Hundred Years Together" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Interesting. Very, very interesting. What do I find interesting about it, you ask? Well, it seems that Count Ignatieff, Iggy's grandad, had a hand in introducing some very oppressive anti-Jewish legislation:

    "In the autumn of 1881, at Ignatiev's recommendation, a committee was created to draft new Jewish legislation in response to the pogroms. Unlike previous “Jewish committees”—there had been eight of them already—it operated on the assumption that assimilation was an unattainable goal. (This is what many Jews were starting to think as well.) The committee recommended looking to the past for guidance, apparently meaning the customs of pre-emancipation Europe. The new sentiment was that, “Jews had always been considered a foreign element, and must once and for all be considered such.”

    Ignatiev himself recommended strong measures to prevent further trouble, including the expulsion of Jews from rural villages “so the inhabitants of the countryside may know the government is protecting them from exploitation by the Jews,” and also because “governmental power is unable to defend [the Jews] against pogroms which might occur in scattered villages.” The Imperial Senate found this proposal overly coercive and refused to ratify it."

    This isn't going to go over well in the Canadian Jewish community.

    • Wait a minute…you're telling us his GRANDFATHER was anti-semitic? Oh my goodness, I am withdrawing my support from Ignatieff and the Liberals right away. I didn't realuize they hated Jewish people!

      [Spot the errors in logic in the reasoning above]

      [p.s. Also it has his great-grandfather you're thinking of you idiot]

      • Ignatieff's Russian great gran pappy might have been a anti-semitic..Wow! they'll be discovering steam next. Harper's GG father was no model of balanced behaviour if i remember properly.

  17. And so the Donolo make-over continues. I'm afraid that it's too late. No one trusts Iggy, and nobody believes him. I'm referring to the few that are still listening.

    The average Canadian has written him off and these feeble attempts at image makeover are futile.

  18. Geez, for someone that spends hours and hours in the blogosphere spewing garbage and for someone that accuses others of being negative – that's quite an angry tirade – not to mentioned far too long, as usual.

    • Your just proved my point that "lefties" an angry and bitter mob?

      Angry Left

      …Political operatives should know better than anyone that online forums and contests are depositories for raw effluent that flows from angry, maladjusted axe grinders who lurk in the dark recesses of Internet. Open up a contest for anonymous visitors to submit doctored photographs of the prime minister, and what did you think would happen?

      What is beyond brainless is the Liberals actually posted the submission. By now, most capable political operatives know that you don't make your enemy look like Adolph Hitler and you don't portray him or her as a victim of politically motivated violence.Dan Lett 18/12/09

      • They are very angry, they cant handle the truth

  19. Typical liberal rhetoric when they are in , and out of the penalty box.They cant handle being the opposition, pity, because they are going to be there for some time.

    • Oh shut up.

      • You first 'little wee' anon

  20. When his POV stops being swarmed by detractors I'll consider believing what they're selling.

  21. This will warms your hearts – Xmas/Conservatives……

    Happy Holidays – With a Difference
    Posted: 2009-12-18 17:21:20 Last updated: 2009-12-18 17:21:20
    We all know the federal Liberals and the Conservatives hold widely good will should abound."