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)

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