Thursday, June 08, 2006

Advantage Ignatieff

This whole mess will invariably affect the dialogue within the Liberal leadership race. A quick perusal of the various candidates positions leads me to believe that Ignatieff has the most to gain politically from the new environment. Ignatieff's consistent "hawkish" stance, which has garnered much criticism, now has powerful imagery to blunt detractors. Ignatieff, whether you agree or disagree, is quite eloquent and knowledgable whenever the discussion turns to foreign policy matters. The entire "war on terra" is Ignatieff's domain, in the sense he has devoted much of his intellectual energy to the subject. It is quite reasonable to see a scenario where Ignatieff shines if the focus is on terrorism.

As a strategist, Ignatieff's stock rises as people speculate on the framework of the next election. Harper is sure to make national security a key plank, as he occupys the natural terrain of the right. Ignatieff is somewhat unique for a Liberal, in that his stances mirror that of his foe, in effect negating any advantage for the "get tough" Bush-inspired Tory speak. A debate on security and terrorism is something Ignatieff may well relish, which is unique amongst the current crop (with the possible exception of Rae). The tactics used by the American right to marginalize "dovish" Democrats don't apply to Ignatieff and this gives his candidacy added weight. The new math favors Ignatieff in my mind, and I would expect his handlers to take full advantage and guide the discussion to his "strong" suit.


CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

At last, a Liberal candidate who calls a Harper spade a Harper spade ...

In his speech to the Economic Club of Toronto on June 6 (available at, Bob Rae sets his sights very clearly on Harper and his governance as Prime Minister, and draws very clear lines showing how different Canada would be if Rae was PM instead of Harper.

The only way to fight a politician like Harper is to call him on things he says and does. And given the vacuum created by the Liberal leadership campaign, it is refreshing to see at least one of the candidates taking on Harper and his cabinet.

A few quotes which show clearly what Bob Rae thinks of Harper's course:

• About Harper's budget's shortcomings with regard to promoting the economy:

"And yet, for the first time in nearly a decade, this year's federal budget was bereft of anything for the "excellence agenda." This is a serious omission. Again, it speaks to the short sighted, politically motivated agenda of Harper."

• About Harper's attitude to child care, Kelowna and Kyoto:

"Stephen Harper's decision to cancel the national plan on child-care, to tear up the Kelowna Accord, and to walk away from Kyoto are all examples of an outmoded vision, driven by small minded politics and rigid ideology"

• About Harper's policies with respect to children:

"Small cash giveaways for kids are no substitute for leadership on early childhood learning and support for families. If governments had done the same a hundred years ago, we would have no libraries today."

• About Harper's attitude to the First Nations:

"Stephen Harper's cancellation of the Kelowna Accord, the first major federal-provincial initiative in decades aimed at improving the social and economic condition of First Nations Canadians, is a national disgrace."

• About Harper and Kyoto:

"The idea that the only way to meet the targets set by Kyoto is by shutting down the Canadian economy lock stock and barrel is empty fear-mongering."

• About Harper's budget and its aims:

"The Harper/Flaherty inaugural budget also presented a grab bag of targeted tax incentives designed to curry favour with specific groups, to try and help push them over the top to a majority in the next election. This was an abuse."

Way to go, Bob. Tell it like it is.

This is the kind of leader the Liberals need. Not simply a clone of Harper, but a liberal Liberal.

Unlike Ignatieff.

Steve V said...


I'm not speaking to the merits of Ignatieff as Liberal leader, merely the way circumstances may play well for his bid.

bigcitylib said...

Frankly, I will wait for some polling numbers that show a bump up for Harper that can be tagged somehow to the terrorist plot and his response to it, before I attribute any advantage to Iggy for being a Conservative clone.

So far, he has supported several loser issues associated with the Tories: Iraq, extension of Afghanistan mission. He has also expressed doubts about Kyoto.

Steve V said...


I'm not so much concerned with Harper's numbers, but I do think this issue will have more prominence within the leadership debate and for this reason Ignatieff may benefit. I don't see a scenario where the recent events play well for the "doves", one of which is my favorite.

bigcitylib said...

Actually, I've posted on my site about Bob Rae's call to withdraw from Afghanistan.

I don't see this moving the numbers on that issue at all one way or another within the Liberal camp, because I don't see a connection between the homegrown terror issue and Afghanistan (nor do I think one will be generally be percieved).

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

I agree that it is highly unlikely that voters will buy into any Harper attempt to frame the election issue as Tories are for security, Liberals are weak on security. That said, Harper will try this (his advisors found it worked for Bush, why not try it here?), but is more likely to concentrate on trying to depict the Liberals as irresolute, divided and of questionable morality. He will compare this to his leadership, with the Tories will depict as resolute, decisive, carried out promises made, and united.

Against that backdrop, Bob Rae would be a formidable opponent for Harper as he would offer clarity of vision, depth of experience and the willingness to penetrate the Harperite framing and tell it like it is.

On top of that, Rae has the wit to wound Harper on the hustings, and goad Harper into unwise statements. Remember, Harper is a man of few words, used to pontificating, not debating. Rae's acuity will strike at that Achille's heel with gratifying results for all onlookers.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

I doubt that Harper will be able to frame the next election along the lines of the Tories being tough on crime and terrorism and the Libs and Dippers weak, although he will, on the advice of his advisors from the south, try to do that. Canadians won't buy that simplistic reduction.

He is more likely to frame it as a contest between a resolute, decisive, delivers-its-promises, clean Tory government, and an irresolute, divided, corrupt Liberal Party. His insistence on the five priorities and on nailing them down in some shape and form is the foundation of his next election campaign.

However, he will not be able to control the election messaging this time around as he managed to do when Martin's flatfooted team were running the show. He will be facing the Liberal Party under a new leader, and if that leader is Bob Rae, Harper will have a tough time trying to avoid debating issues he would prefer not to be talking about. In this context, Rae's policy announcement, and his vision contained in it, will shift the battleground away from Harper's narrowly framed issues, to a broader context: what kind of Canada do we want?

Harper is weak on this issue because his Canada is a narrow, mean-spirited one, with market force paramount, and a weak federal government unable to launch initiatives because Harper will have firewalled the provinces against the central government.

In that debate, Harper will not be able to gain much traction with a warmed-over Bushian national security campaign. Rae will nail him; and Rae's acuity will enable him to use wit against a man who used to pontificating rather than debating.

Steve V said...

Maybe this debate plays well for Rae too, as I briefly mentioned. Rae is incredibly articulate on foreign policy so a conversation would play to his strengths, particulary as compared to the hollow Bushism's that Harper uses.