Thursday, January 15, 2009


I must confess, one of the more off base narratives I've seen making the rounds is this nonsensical notion that the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff are akin to Harper's Conservatives. Now, to be clear, it's fine to criticize, as I've done, when you see a particular policy that resembles the government line. The recent debate over Gaza is a clear example, it troubles me that Ignatieff has taken such a "firm" stance, that has won him accolades from surprising sources. However, viewing one issue in isolation, as representative of an over-arching similarity, is both intellectually dishonest and factually insignificant.

Michael Ignatieff is nowhere near Stephen Harper, and if I thought for a second he was, I simply wouldn't support him. Period. In reality, what first brought my endorsement of Ignatieff was a re-introduction, wherein I reviewed the words, the pedigree, the speeches, the policy presented, on my own terms, without some of the "conclusions" people have drawn, lifting bits and pieces, here and there, to create some sort of anti-progressive monster. In other words, what does it all tell me about where Ignatieff sits, rather than the interpretation of others, many with their own bias and agenda? What I found was a leader that shared many of the same values, possessed a boldness of thought to think out of box, and above all a intellectual curiosity that demonstrated the clear capacity to learn from experience, to entertain input and react accordingly. I actually saw the potential for greatness.

The other day, Ignatieff met with Layton to discuss the upcoming budget. According to Layton, the meeting went well, which assumes some "agreement". Now, if these two men can find some common ground, does that equate to Ignatieff being the same as Layton? Sounds silly, but that's exactly what I see, when people select an issue and run with it as indicative of totality.

Listen to an Ignatieff speech and compare it with Harper. Listen to Ignatieff speak on the environment, the less fortunate, the federation, the role of government, human rights, etc, and then compare it with Harper. Maybe Ignatieff will overlap Harper on certain points, but just as likely he will disagree in a fundamental way. My only point, criticize where warranted, that's my perspective, but don't extrapolate a branch as representative of the entire tree. Just because I'm disappointed with a particular policy, doesn't mean I now doubt Ignatieff as a far, far better option than Harper, doesn't mean the Liberal Party has abandoned it's left flank and embraced right wing policies. If I say "Ignatieff sounds like Harper", that is only an expression of disappointment on a particular issue, one that I happen to be passionate about. However, it is just plain wrong to take the next step and then argue that because of said position, there is no difference between these two leaders, because the next day you will see an issue like Omar Khadr come to the fore, and the clear distinctions will be reaffirmed.

I still like the new guy, I like him a lot.


WesternGrit said...

Excellent post Steve. I feel exactly the same way. I also find the Gaza reaction puzzling (but I may not know all the details, and I do think BOTH sides are equally stupid). I think we need to see the trees for the forest. Michaels books and intellectual discourse is exactly WHY I chose to support him back in 05/06. I don't regret it.

We need to bring "smart" back to Canadian politics and get rid of "knee-jerk, inflammatory, stupid". Cerebral, intelligent leaders have always shown Canada the best leadership, and the best growth to nationhood.

A lot of people forget that Mr. Ignatieff was one of the caucus driving forces behind the carbon tax idea... Does that make him a "socialist"? It will be interesting to see what the Conservatives call him during the heat of the campaign. Like every Liberal leader, his ideas are "a little bit of this, and a little bit of that", and not completely or extremely one way or another...

catherine said...

I like the new guy a lot too and I migrated from the NDP a couple years ago.

I see that Dyck, the NDP/Independent Senator, has just announced that she is moving over to the Liberals because she likes Ignatieff.

Steve V said...


On the carbon tax, one thing I always found puzzling, why Dion didn't adopt Ignatieff's initial policy, wherein any money raised from the tax was returned to the province it came from. Had that been included, it would have alleviated much of this "money grab" criticism, especially in the "west".

On Gaza, I'm really disappointed in the weak language, and now the complete silence. I understand part of the "why", but that shouldn't preclude anybody from criticizing, because you need to express your voice. Once you pull back however, you still have to keep your eyes on the real enemy.

Steve V said...


What I really like, about today and yesterday, this sense that Ignatieff is pulling people into the fold. "Poaching" someone from under Harper is terrific psychological warfare, get in their heads a bit, at the very least. Today's announcement sends another sign that this is a party that is attractive. Most of it is inside Ottawa stuff, but the media filter takes its cues from the tone, and these announcements certainly help Ignatieff's creds.

CuzBen said...

"Maybe Ignatieff will overlap Harper on certain points, but just as likely he will disagree"

I've liked Ignatieff so far on this front because he seems practical and genuine. I don't always agree with him but at least I know that what he says stands FOR something and not AGAINST anything. His willingness to listen before reacting and to admit that even this horrible Conservative government has a rare good idea (very rare) speaks volumes about his character. It shows that he understands that opposition is more than just opposing for the sake of it (Layton).

Oemissions said...

I prefer my politician to call a spade a spade.
Mr. Ignatieff, in my experience, speaks in flowery, complicated sentences leaving me wondering what he just said.
He was however, quite forthright about the GAZA situation:'Hamas has to stop throwing rockets"
Not a word or tear about the numbers of children and others killed and injured there. Nothing about the tremendous suffering and trauma for the people of GAZA.
No response from him about the Jewish intelligentsia declaring Israel guilty of WAR CRIMES.
When he voted against a BLOC MP's bill on labels for GE products I gave him an F on my rating scale as well as repeated the F-word several times. Percy Schmeiser is one of my Canadian heroes.
My nose smells an old boy immersed in all the political frat games.
I am fed up with this, up to my grey hairs with it, and will not tolerate it any further (whichever party's MP is behaving thusly.)
Pound on their desks, oneupmanship each other with smart alec quips in the house and block worthwhile action is ridiculous, boys.
Should be another interesting Convention in May, hay?

janfromthebruce said...

So does CHARLES MOORE in Ignatieff is more of a challenge for Harper, and writes for Telegraph Journal. He said, Harper's biggest obstacle to winning a majority now may well be that small-c conservatives like me can countenance the prospect of an Ignatieff Prime ministership as a tolerable alternative, and his brightest hope that Ignatieff's center-right instincts will alienate enough "progressives" to sustain vote-splitting on the left.
So this editor who has voted Harper conservatives sees a kindred spirit in Iggy with his conservatism.

However, there are issues and than there are issues. A massacre of trapped people isn't just an "issue." In an feeble attempt to underplay the severity of over 1000 deaths, makes the death and destruction in Gaza appear trivial. It is not.

This prominent person would challenge you and Iggy in his hardened stance:
It's interesting that Michael Ignatieff supports the rights of Israel to "defend itself," and act outside of its internationally recognized borders in Gaza but did not support the similar actions of Serbia to fight the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army inside Serbia's internationally recognized borders. Even the U.S. State Department declared the KLA to be a terrorist organization that had slaughtered hundreds if not thousands of Serbian and non-Serbian civilians. Such hypocrisy is a primary reason why the world is currently so unstable and why we are inching ever-closer to World War III.
Dr. Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.

Make no mistake, progressives will recognize the difference, no matter how much smooth talking Iggy does. He hasn't quite got the fake to the left and liberal dance on the right, and so even old PCers see their kindred spirit.

Anonymous said...

Seeing ignatieff refuse to endorse marijuana decriminalization at a recent town hall event in Vancouver has me worried. Is he actually going to backtrack on previous positions of progress that the Liberals had? He essentially refused to reveal his position on the matter that night, but his reluctance to even endorse decriminalization has me VERY worried.

Steve V said...

"tolerable alternative" is hardly a "kindred spirit".

Here's the deal Jan. I could care less, but how does one go past NOT AT ALL. Seriously, you spewed all sort of crap Dion's way, even though he's so supposed to the left of Ignatieff, so does it really matter in the least who leads the red party, because you see RED regardless. Post your tripe elsewhere, it's not like its persuasive anyways.

Steve V said...

"I prefer my politician to call a spade a spade.
Mr. Ignatieff, in my experience, speaks in flowery, complicated sentences leaving me wondering what he just said."

I actually find him quite clear and to the point. If you're looking for soundbites to describe a complex world, then I'm happy to say he's the wrong guy. I want thoughtful answers.


Any link on decriminalization?

Mark Francis said...


"On the carbon tax, one thing I always found puzzling, why Dion didn't adopt Ignatieff's initial policy, wherein any money raised from the tax was returned to the province it came from. Had that been included, it would have alleviated much of this "money grab" criticism, especially in the "west"."

Because it rewards provinces which pollute the most? Because you can't allocate an income tax reduction that way which is the central blank of a tax shift?

The problem wasn't the criticism, the problem was the lack of savvy behind the promotion of the Green Shift. Given that Harper's plan will also move money West to East, I don't think that was a fatal issue at all.

The Cons would just harp on some other made up issue.

Heck, it wasn't even clear that such a transfer would happen. A disproportionate amount of the corporate tax cuts were going to AB, and the price hikes in natural gas and diesel were going to be paid by consumers, most of whom don't live in AB/SK.

It was a made up issue. It was a gift to have Harper fostering a unity crisis, actually, but the savvy wasn't there to take charge of the issues away from Harper.

Steve V said...


Are you actually "rewarding" those provinces? What's the difference between revenue neutral for a province, and the country as a whole?

RuralSandi said...

I still maintain - wait until Obama takes his oath. Ignatieff is very good friends with Obama people - he can phone them any time for a chat.

Only a few more days. We'll then see what Obama's foreign policy will be. Hillary Clinton, at her hearing, expressed the human rights issue on Gaza. She's now been confirmed for Sec. of State.

I think Bush and his gang of idiots have a real thing against the UN (remember Bolton). Like it or not, the US policy is the one that affects the world the most.

Ignatieff has to be so careful - all the media are studying him right now more than any other politician - they're probably checking out the colour of his socks.

Steve V said...


That's another one of these little psychological jabs that must unnerve Harper. Harper will try to forge strong ties with Obama, because it frankly helps him politically. Knowing that Ignatieff has the ear of many in Obama's team, is a nice undercurrent. Ignatieff should make a trip to Washington, have some tea with old friends, leaked to the press of course ;)

Frankly Canadian said...

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ignatieff at one of those town hall meetings and was completely impressed with him. I have seen many other speakers in my day but the way he thoughtfully addressed every single question posed to him rather than just giving a standard run of the mill or evasive answer, that was truly impressive. He might not have given the answer you wanted to hear and at times he would have to get back to your question, however after recollecting his facts he got back to with a complete and accurate answer, at one point the must have had a dozen different conversations to get back to, but he got back to each and every one of them. Similar to what you stated in your blog post, I did not exactly agree with every point made, however he definitely shared the same values and ethics I strive for and believe in. Also this particular town meeting was in a ridding that hasn’t been held by a Liberal since nineteen seventy one, that to me showed courage. The way he conducted himself honestly and confidently he definitely gained my endorsement that day, he also struck me as someone with an extreme level of intelligence.
As for the relationship between Harper and Ignatieff you suggested in your blog, I believe it is Mr. Harper who has adaptively swayed to the left and is now more aligned with Mr. Ignatieff. The last Conservative budget was the largest spending budget to date, and if you remember when Harper was first elected he immediately discontinued most if not all the Liberal programs, only to re-instate them under another name, but they were still Liberal programs. As for the influence Mr. Ignatieff has had on the Liberal policies throughout the last few years, I again revert back to the values and beliefs that me and many other Liberals share and I would suggest that at least seventy percent of Canadians share, we all have input into policies if the party allows for that type of involvement.
Steve, by the way I loved your last blog post on how the last time parliament sat for anything constructive, being two hundred and twenty one days. I often wonder how many truly constructive days of sitting we’ve seen over the last three years? I seem to remember a lot of times when their was either nothing left to do or the other parties were not cooperating or … what ever. You have struck the nail on the head though, we are now facing a time when our economy needs the most attention, and we just starting the process now.

Anonymous said...

Some don't like Iggy for a series of actions and statement that he has made.
He voted to extent the war/farce in Afghanistan.
He's called Quebec a nation
His statement on Gaza of course,
The fact that he seems to have installed himself as Liberal leader and worked to undermine the coalition .