Monday, August 21, 2006

Meeting Michael Ignatieff

This past weekend, I had the chance to meet Michael Ignatieff at a small gathering of local Liberals. A combination of a stump speech and one on one discussions, it provided an excellent forum to get a handle on Ignatieff's views. It was also interesting to watch how the man carried himself, to see if all the "frontrunner" hype was justified. In trying to decide who to support for the leadership, Ignatieff wasn't really even on my radar, but after this meeting my list has grown.

Ignatieff was extremely impressive. Eloquent to the point of inspirational, Ignatieff commands the room with ease. All the criticisms surrounding citizenship are misguided, because one thing is clear- Ignatieff is passionate and genuine in his love for this country. Ignatieff's view of federalism is cohesive and speaks to a vibrant, healthy union that reaches beyond the "me" mentality that tends to dominate the discussions. I have no doubt, Ignatieff would be a forceful voice for federalism.

One of the great things about a leadership convention, the various candidates are constantly in discussion with the grassroots throughout the country. This condition has obviously benefited Ignatieff, because you can really sense that he is in touch with average Canadians. Ignatieff doesn't appear as the aloof professor, with the lofty mannerisms, but someone who has his pulse on Canadian concerns. There is a practicality to Ignatieff's message that I hadn't heard in past interviews. Clearly, the leadership process has borne fruit in re-connecting the elites to the grassroots.

I was particularly impressed with Ignatieff's emphasis on the environment. When he spoke about the issue, Ignatieff displayed genuine concern and offered a bold vision. Despite some of the criticism Ignatieff has received, he remains committed to a tax and incentive combination to move forward (the carrot and the stick). I had the chance to ask him how if his environmental ideas might serve as a divisive force, particularly in the oil patch. Ignatieff was unapologetic, saying there was a way to make it work that didn't disportionately hurt certain segments of Canada. Ignatieff spoke of meeting with the petroleum sector in Alberta to gauge their concerns and it was obvious that a great deal of consultation had gone into forming his policy.

In general, even on some of the issues where I disagree with Ignatieff, I still had to respect his conviction and his own sense of self. This is me, these are my views and I don't apologize. Consistency speaks to integrity. Ignatieff's opinions seem decidedly apolitical, spoken from the heart as opposed to focus group tested. I went to this event simply out of curiousity, I came out more confused than ever on who to support. One thing is clear, if Ignatieff does win the leadership, all Liberals can take comfort in the fact that this man has the potential to tear Stephen Harper to shreds.


Ted Betts said...

Great post, Steve. Thanks for sharing.

I had the same experience at a small gathering back in February. Despite his detractors (who don't realize that, win or lose, he's going to be at the cabinet tables so why get so nasty?), he is convincing people as they meet him and listen to him or see him listening to him.


Anonymous said...

I had a similar reaction when I went to see MI, at an event in Peterborough about a week ago. He sure draws a crowd.
He's compelling. Some have criticized his lack of political experience, but it seems to work in his favour.
No cheap talking points for him. He doesn’t need to fall back on that annoying political crutch.
It was inspiring, and I left convinced that I know much more about MI, his policies, his liberalism (L),and his love of country, now than I did last week.
Great Blog BTW. You’re on my daily reading list.

Larry Gambone said...

Isn't he Neocon-lite? Didn't he make statements about wanting to change our medical system to a more private one? Didn't he support Bush in Iraq? The danger with him is that Canada will tend to mirror the US - two parties with similar outlooks in just about everything. Of course, we still have the NDP, but it will be effectively marginalized. For democracy to survive in this country we need the Libs and Cons to have distinct policies.

Steve V said...


Actually, I should have addressed the Harper-lite angle because I specifically went in with that characterization in mind. If there are areas where the two converge, they get there from completely different values. Ignatieff demonstrated a real passion for social justice, traditional Liberal values that, quite honestly, makes the neo-con comparision look silly. I disagree with some of his positions, but I think he gets there honestly.


Thanks. I agree about the "cheap talking points", all his words seemed to hold weight beyond the easy platitudes.


I hate to say it, but had I not met the man, there would no chance that I would have considered him. I'm glad I decided to make the effort.

Anonymous said...

Larry, you are full of it - you are spraying buckshot with about as much accuracy as Dick Cheney, oh yeah right, it was 'bird'shot.

What you just said is an apt description of Harper, so you just shot your guy in the face.

Unlike Harper, Ignatieff has said we not only have to meet Kyoto, we have to exceed it. Harper, meanwhile, through his actions is telling us what he thinks of Kyoto, same as Bush. Harper wants to dismantle the federal gov't whereas Ignatieff is a federalist and focuses on Canadian Unity, considering it a priority. Harper hates 'the welfare state of Canada in the wrost European traditions'; Ignatieff believes a strong economy is essential for the support of social justice programs and advocates a stong alliance with European positions world over, specifically in the recent ME conflict.



Steve V said...

On Kyoto, Ignatieff said while we can't reach our targets (which is common sense at this point), that doesn't excuse Harper's abandoning the entire protocol. The read I took from Ignatieff, we should remain within Kyoto and do the best we can- if we fall short, we do so through our best effort, as opposed to simply throwing up our hands and doing nothing.

Larry Gambone said...

Anonymous, Harper is definitely NOT "my guy." If I thought Iggy was a real progressive I wouldn't be raising these concerns. I am not trying to insult him, I just have concerns about him as a possible leader.

Steve V. I am glad he has social concerns other than platitudes, but I do worry about someone who supported the war in Iraq. He did do that didn't he? I won't accept the answer that "Well, he changed his mind", since supporting that war shows very bad judgement, considering that virtually everyone who knew anything about the situation in hand was against it. If he is capable of such bad judgement once, he is capable of it again. This is my fear...

Steve V said...


Point taken.

Canadian Tar Heel said...



Thanks for the insight. I have not yet had the opportunity to meet the man, although I once heard him speak at a conference. I will definitely consider your comments.

Additionally, I would also like to know if you believe characterizing Ignatieff as a liberal hawk is a fair assessment.


Although I have not had the opportunity that Steve has had in meeting Ignatieff, may I propose another way of looking at his foreign policy?

Liberal hawks and neoconservatives sometimes have similar objectives. Both schools believe in strong foreign policy and world engagement. However, both differ in both means and reasons.

Neocons tend to emphasize hard power over soft power. They tend to believe that the ends justify the means. They look upon the UN as a discredited, corrupt and dysfunctional body, which tends to impede progress as opposed to promoting it (which to be fair it is). Consequently, unilateralism is a more readily justifiable. Motivations vary among the neocon scholars, and I’m afraid that I would not do them justice.

In contrast, liberal hawks value hard power, but believe that soft power can achieve similar results. They believe more in legitimacy with respect to world opinion – e.g., international law and multilateralism – but do recognize that unilateralism is sometimes warranted – e.g., Kosovo. Liberal hawks often base their arguments on moral grounds – e.g., foreign aid and human rights – which is often a key difference.

With respect to Iraq, liberal hawks, in general, believe that the international community should have dealt with Saddam a long time ago, for his oppression, unconscionable human rights violations and destabilizing nature. In this light, many would have supported or do support the Iraq war, but believe that it has been and continues to be completely mishandled. Most importantly, the most effective way to deal with international problems is not to go it alone.

Please excuse the crude generalizations. But, I hope they may provide another way of looking at things.

Steve V said...

Hi tarheel:

By your definition, I would characterize Ignatieff as a Liberal hawk. On Iraq, while I strongly disagree, Ignatieff approached the issue with human rights in mind, whereas the neocon arguments offered that reasoning as an afterthought. I am far more comfortable with the moral underpinning of the liberal hawk, although it's might better be a question of judgement.

Anonymous said...

If you "Far and Wide" are now considering supporting Ignatieff and are impressed with him then that should be a sign to all of his detractors that he is a true progressive.

Anonymous said...

Larry, you say..."Anonymous, Harper is definitely NOT "my guy." If I thought Iggy was a real progressive I wouldn't be raising these concerns. I am not trying to insult him, I just have concerns about him as a possible leader."

My response to you, (may I call you 'Gamby' or perhaps 'Gumby'?? Since you seem to think it is ok to refer to a Liberal leadership candidate by a nickname, I assume you are like GWB and fond of them yourself) that if you knew Mr. Ignatieff and perhaps had at the very least read a few of his speeches posted on his website, then you would know he is indeed a progressive. This habit of commenting on subjects they know nothing about, I have noticed, is a decidedly rabid rightie tactic, as is the tendency to attack, insult and then quickly express self pity and claim innocence or righteousness or both. Since you are displaying these characteristics, it was a simple matter for me to assume you were a Harper supporter. My bad.

OTOH, if you are indeed a progressive yourself, then it is much more understandable for you to be sending these 'concerns' in the direction of the Connies, as it is my own very progressive opinion that 'concern' for their leadership skills is much more warranted than the 'concern' you are showing for what you are saying is your own side. Again, my bad, please forgive if I mistook you for a Connie.