Not that I have anything against cats

FESCHUK: But no nation should have to choose between two cat lovers for prime minister

“It was a summer of incompetence for the government,” Ignatieff said [during] a rare night home at his official residence—a glass of wine on the side table and a cat, Eric, on his lap.—From a report in the Toronto Star

As an electorate, we’re willing to put up with a lot. We tolerate the shenanigans in question period. We did our best to keep a straight face that time John Baird was appointed environment minister. But this is just too much: no nation should have to endure a choice between two cat lovers for prime minister.

Stephen Harper’s affection for felines is well documented. He has often been photographed cuddling with kitty cats. And the Prime Minister has served as “foster parent” to dozens of cats because he believes in helping creatures in need of kindness and refuge, unless they are Tamils or Helena Guergis.

And now Michael Ignatieff is revealed as the owner of a cat—a cat that sits on his lap during interviews, presumably for stroking-based reasons. I believe I speak for a significant percentage of Canadians when I say there are only two instances in which a grown man should sit with a cat on his lap:

1. He is plotting the destruction of the world and the needlessly complicated death of James Bond.

2. He believes that pretending to like the cat will get him some.

It’s not that I hate cats. They’re the perfect animal to own 200 of if you aspire to be an eccentric shut-in. But there’s a reason U.S. presidents tend to have dogs as pets. Dogs project an image of vitality and loyalty—and they’re great for photo ops. What kind of a photo op can you have with a cat? An aloof-off?

The timing of this cat revelation couldn’t be worse for Ignatieff—people were just starting to come around to the guy.

Many voters have followed with interest the Liberal leader’s “I am TOO a Canadian” tour aboard the Liberal Express. It’s been his Say Anything summer—two months spent holding a boom box over his head and playing Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes to convince Canada that he loves it. Policy wise, he’s still a mess of platitudes and bold promises to fix everything for everybody. But at least now he knows where Yarmouth is.

Harper, meanwhile, emerged from sec­lusion for his annual summer visit to our North. The PM has a long history of promoting sovereignty and territorial control, dating back to the days when he’d threaten to call the cops every time the ball from the local road-hockey game bounced onto his lawn. During the trip, he announced lots of nice programs and projects to keep the region from regressing economically—but no climate change action to keep it from, you know, melting.

Many media reports from the North remarked on the extent of the political stagecraft orchestrated by the Prime Minister’s Office. One photo op alone required the participation of a Coast Guard vessel, an Airbus 320 refuelling tanker, two CF-18 jets, an ice floe, a navy diver, several top military officials and, I believe, the Solid Gold dancers.

Plainly, Ignatieff lacks the resources to compete. But he did tell a woman at a recent event that he wished he could “take my own head off my shoulders and put someone else’s on so that I can feel what they’re feeling.” Yes, Michael Ignatieff is willing to switch heads with you. That’s how far he’d go to get your vote. Your move, Prime Minister.

Harper used his northern sojourn to repeat a message he’s been delivering now for months. The choice facing Canadians in the next election is clear, he says—a choice “between a coalition government of the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois, or a stable Conservative majority government.”

This is plainly designed as a scare tactic to send Canadians running to his bosom: it’s either me or [turns off lights, holds flashlight under face] . . . the evil separatists! (Granted, Harper aligned himself with the Bloc on a number of occasions while in opposition. But he was young then and needed the work.)

What’s unusual is that Harper is defining his future with clarity: he gets a majority or we get a coalition. Can we take him at his word that he’ll willingly give up government if he falls short? Or will the new guy show up at 24 Sussex to find Harper sitting in a darkened room, stroking a cat on his lap and saying, “It seems you’ve fallen into my trap yet again.”

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