Toronto Star columnist James Travers reported Thursday that Michael Ignatieff may be considering an exit plan from politics back to academia if the next election doesn’t go his way. His sources say that Ignatieff is “being touted as an eventual successor to Janice Gross Stein,” head of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
Later Thursday, on a summer tour stop in Peterborough, Ignatieff called the report “fiction.” He says that the only job he’s after is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s.
Although Ignatieff may not have had any formal discussions about landing at the University of Toronto post-politics, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to have had at least fleeting thoughts about life after the next election, considering the Liberals’ sagging popularity. When he returned to Canada in 2005 he was set to take a fellowship at the prestigious Munk School, but instead ran for office when an election was called. After his 2006 loss to Stephane Dion for party leadership, rumours that he’d return to academia again surfaced.
Meanwhile at the Munk School, the well-respected foreign affairs analyst Stein is set to step down, and a wide-reaching search for her successor will kick off in the fall. The Star’s sources says that the university would “welcome Ignatieff’s return if he chooses to fill the post offered in 2005” and that talks were informal through his connections to the school. The search for Stein’s replacement could take a year or more.
Ignatieff doesn’t deny having been in contact with Stein and the school’s benefactor Peter Munk, but he says their discussions had nothing to do with potential job prospects.
As Travers opines, Ignatieff is unlikely to elaborate on any post-politics plans. “Parties as well as voters expect total commitment from leaders,” he writes. “Wavering always erodes support and is particularly corrosive for Ignatieff, who Conservatives relentlessly position as a dilettante in politics for himself.”
Nevertheless, Ignatieff categorically dismissed Travers’ column, saying there’s no truth whatsoever to the speculation: “[Star columnist] Jim Travers is a good journalist, but he’s starting to write fiction here … I really don’t know where he got it from.”