Saturday, October 10, 2009

Michel Ignatieff's New Theme Song is One of My Favourites

I love this song and thought it was a good one Michael Ignatieff (he hasn't adopted the song, so no law suits please) , as leader of the just left of center Liberal Party. Of course the clowns to the left are Jack Layton and the NDP, and the jokers to the right are Harper and his Reform-Conservatives.

Now actually, though I have been a little upset with Jack Layton the past few weeks, I really don't dislike him. We share philosophies on war and human rights, and I know he's a man of great compassion.

However, he appears to be campaigning for Stephen Harper these days, and I just don't get it. The Ref-Cons are the complete opposite of the NDP. What's he thinking?

As far as turning down the Liberal non-confidence motion goes, he did what he felt he needed to do. I can respect that. I'm not really so sure that the Liberals believed that this would trigger an election anyway. They just needed to change the dynamics in the house.

Since supporting the Harper government and trying to work with them, Michael Ignatieff has faced a barrage of personal assaults on his character, as he drifts by on our television screens constantly. Then to top it off, he had Jack Layton accusing him of propping up Stephen Harper, when he knew that he was the absolute worse thing for this country.

The Liberals as the Official Opposition can do what we pay them to do ... oppose the government; while Harper is facing his worst nightmare, having to be propped up by 'socialists'. Kind of funny don't you think?

I've read a few columns and articles this morning dealing with the projected demise of Michael Ignatieff, that remind us that this is not an election campaign and the leader of the opposition is never as popular as the Prime Minister, even when that Prime Minister sucks.

An opposition leader has a lousy job
Globe and Mail
Jeffrey Simpson
October 9, 2009

The consolation will be thin gruel for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Reading and listening to the negative publicity about him and his party these days, he might remember that the leader of the opposition is almost always less popular than the prime minister.

This state of affairs has prevailed in postwar Canadian politics. Only briefly and ephemerally have opposition leaders eclipsed the popularity of the prime minister – even when the PM's own popularity was low.

Think of Stephen Harper assembling the Canadian Alliance and Conservatives into today's party. He was far less popular in those days than the prime minister at the time, Paul Martin, who, it seemed, stood poised to win 200 or more seats.

All during Jean Chrétien's years, no opposition party leader held a candle to him. But remember when Mr. Chrétien took over the Liberal leadership and became opposition leader? He was “yesterday's man,” a has-been who couldn't compete with the sparkling new female prime minister, Conservative Kim Campbell.

Even when prime minister Brian Mulroney slumped in public esteem (his party dipped once as low as 20 per cent in the opinion polls), he was always more popular than Liberal leader John Turner.

During the 16 years of Pierre Trudeau, even in the worst of times for the Liberal Party, the prime minister was more highly regarded than the leaders of the opposition, Joe Clark and Robert Stanfield.

Being leader of the opposition is a lousy job, as all who have held the post can attest. The opposition leader lacks all the tools of power, promotion and fear that a prime minister possesses to impose or induce discipline. The official opposition, by definition, has lost and, as such, has within its ranks people who carry the grudges and scars of defeat.

Defeat is usually ascribed, fairly or otherwise, to the inadequate performance of the leader, as in the case of Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, John Turner, Stéphane Dion. For a new leader, untested by national electoral combat, the party holds high hopes that usually crash against the fact that the prime minister of the day remains stubbornly more popular.

A damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't dilemma confronts the opposition leader. If he puts forward bold policies, the government will try to tear them apart; if he merely criticizes, he will be accused of lacking intellectual content.

Seldom do opposition parties win elections by virtue of what they propose, although they can be discredited by proposing nothing or by making silly promises. Opposition parties win usually because they assist in the self-destruction of a government that makes repeated errors or finds itself offside with public opinion.

The leader of the opposition, therefore, has a much more difficult balancing act than the leaders of the NDP and Bloc Québécois. Every Canadian knows that those parties will not form the government, so their leaders can be relentlessly critical while putting forward policies that aren't taken seriously because they will not be implemented.

The leader of the opposition, by contrast, has to look like a prime minister-in-waiting, with credible policies, while simultaneously being and sounding negative. Once Parliament goes out of session, the media largely lose interest in and track of the leader of the opposition, who can wander around the country almost completely unheard and unseen, except locally, whereas the prime minister is “news” wherever he goes.

For months, the prime ministerial “news” (piano playing aside) has been the distribution of billions and billions of dollars, a politician's dream. How does the leader of the opposition, who cannot distribute a cent, compete with that? And how does he compete with tens of millions of government advertising to promote this spending in an overtly partisan way?

These observations are not designed to exonerate Mr. Ignatieff from his errors of judgment, such as threatening an election the country manifestly did not want, offering speeches devoid of serious content and mishandling the contretemps of who would run in a Montreal riding.

But anyone with a historical memory longer than yesterday's newspaper or talking-head commentary would remember the travails of Mr. Ignatieff's predecessors: the internal revolts against Mr. Clark and Mr. Turner, the unwillingness of too many Liberals to accept Mr. Dion's leadership, the unwavering antipathy to Mr. Stanfield by supporters of former leader John Diefenbaker.

Those with a memory would remember, too, how hard it has been for opposition parties, without the civil service at its command, to develop sensible, fully costed alternative policies – a challenge about which Joe Clark, of all people, once wrote a master's thesis.

Today's Liberal Party has forgotten, or is afraid to promote, what it used to stand for: a strong central government, an activist state, an engaged and creative foreign policy and, more recently, balanced budgets and debt reduction.

Unless the party reconnects with what once made it compelling for so many, although repellent to others, it doesn't much matter who the leader is.


Hopefully, this will be a wake up call, that despite the setbacks, we can still move forward in a new direction. I think we have the right leader, we are just up against formidable odds.

If Canadians feels they should just stick with the devil they know, we have to be an alternative to having to stick with any devil at all. Come out swinging Michael.

There was some good advice from an opinion piece in the Toronto Star. I think the Liberals need to regroup and decide on a strategy that presents a viable option to the Reform-Conservatives. Harper seems to have a knack for repressing his scandals, simply by suing anyone who dares bring them up. These may never hit the courts until after Harper is well out of government and by then it may be too late.


Ignatieff needs to change the channel
Toronto Star
October 10, 2009

Michael Ignatieff came back to Canada in 2005 casting himself as a man of ideas – an author, thinker, professor, public intellectual. Yet when he finally claimed the leadership of the Liberal party this year, Ignatieff recast himself as a prime minister in waiting – waiting, that is, for the economy to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Now, Ignatieff's world has been turned upside down: The economy is bottoming out and Harper's prime ministership is rebounding, while the Liberal leader takes a drubbing in the media and the polls. (One begets the other)

How did it come to this? Over the summer, Ignatieff deemed it impolitic to talk policy lest he make himself a target; he succeeded only in making himself invisible. By blatantly playing politics to trigger an election, the Liberals have only alienated voters. Bereft of policy, he has become an even bigger target for critics.

It's not that Canadians think Ignatieff is without substance. But they see someone putting style ahead of substance, tactics ahead of policy.

It is time for Ignatieff to change the channel: to be himself, and let the Liberal party be itself.

Ignatieff's biggest blunder was to put policy on the back burner. He delayed a thinkers' conference that had originally been promised for this fall. Now, it has been postponed until next year, leaving policy-making on hold and depriving the party of fresh ideas. Remarkably, there are still no firm dates for this event.

Recently, Ignatieff has given a series of speeches, notably on foreign policy and the economy. While welcome, they amount to restatements of past policies and general goals, not a bold vision that will resonate with voters and show the Liberals are serious about governing.

With his support eroding, Ignatieff has nothing to lose – and everything to gain – by going back to basics and rebuilding the party's platform. For there are major opportunities for the party to reinvent itself:

In the 1960s, a Liberal policy conference laid the groundwork for the Canada Pension Plan. Today, our pension framework has fallen short and needs a major overhaul; yet the Liberals are not making their voices heard on this key issue. (Stephen Harper wants to scrap the Canada Pension Plan)

On the environment, Ignatieff has called on the government to develop a policy for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just wait for the Americans to act. But he has not offered his own policy.

On the deficit, he has expressed concerns about how to bring it down, post-recession. But fearing Conservative attacks, he runs for cover whenever taxes are mentioned. This week, when a wire story suggested he might countenance a tax hike, he issued a panicky denial.

So far, the Liberals are offering peek-a-boo policy-making on the fly, not the adult conversation Canadians deserve. A thinkers' conference is no panacea, but it is an opportunity for renewal – and a way of showing Canadians the Liberals are serious about policy-making, not merely politicking.


I couldn't agree more. I know there's another scandal brewing with the infrastructure spending and misuse of tax money for partisan ads, that will no doubt give people pause, but we can't just let the Reform-Conservatives self destruct, without offering a better alternative. The Re-Cons still like to bring up the Sponsorship scandal, which by the way involved no elected officials and the groundwork for this, was actually created by Brian Mulroney. However, they can't pin that on Michael Ignatieff, because as they so often remind us - he was out of the country.

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