Monday, November 2, 2009

It's a New Day, A New Chief of Staff and a New Beginning

Michael Ignatieff has taken responsibility for the recent Liberal woes, but we now have to forge ahead. With a new chief of staff and a new outlook, I'm feeling optimistic.

In 2005 when Stephen Harper tried to take down Paul Martin, he was polling at 23% with 62% of Canadians saying they would never vote for Stephen Harper.

The good news is that Michael Ignatieff is not evil, so it's not about having to cover anything up. His career is an open book, not a state secret.

Liberal Party president says...
November 1, 2009

Alf Apps, the Liberal Party president, did an interview on CTV's Question Period today that I found useful and informative.... good questions, good answers. My colleague, Jim Travers, Star columnist, as well as my friend, Greg Weston of Sun Media, joined hosts Jane Taber and Craig Oliver in asking Apps about the state of the official Opposition. Here's the transcript:

CRAIG OLIVER: Mr. Apps, a couple of easy questions. How much trouble do you think you're in, exactly, and how in the world are you going to get yourself out of it?

ALFRED APPS (Liberal Party President): Well I don't think we're in that much trouble at all. I think that every opposition leader that I've worked with who's gone on to become Prime Minister or premier has gone through a rough patch after the initial honeymoon. And clearly we've been through a bit of a rough patch. But I think that if we focus on what we should be focusing on, and if the leader and the caucus and the party as a whole across the country do what they should be doing, I don't think that it will take us long to get out of this period of difficulty.

TRAVERS: Mr. Apps, as most Canadians know, this week Ian Davey was pushed aside as the leader's chief of staff. But it's my understanding that Mr. Davey was not the primary architect of the strategies which have gotten the Liberals into so much trouble, that those in fact were Mr. Ignatieff's decisions and calls. So how does replacing him, even with someone as competent as Peter Donolo, and well-respected here, solve your problem? How does it put you on the road to recovery? Isn't the problem with the leader, not with the staff?

APPS: Well, first of all, I'm not going to speculate as to whose advice led to decisions that have caused us some difficulty. What I will say is that Mr. Ignatieff has clearly taken responsibility and taken charge. I think there's two really important things about the decisions that he took this week, the first are, the first is that he got himself out of his comfort zone in terms of reaching out to people who hadn't been part of his inner circle, and the second thing is that he demonstrated to the party and to the country that he could attract real talent to the table. Peter Donolo, I'm sure if people were thinking of replacing the chief of staff, at the top of, you know, thousands of Liberals' lists across Canada, if that were the question, Peter Donolo was the choice, and the fact that he was able to secure him I think is a tremendous compliment or a tremendous testament to his abilities.

TABER: Yeah, Greg?

GREG WESTON (Sun Media): Mr. Apps, Mr. Ignatieff, in a speech in Toronto, made a reference to, he said trying times test the greatness of leaders. I think we'd all agree that Mr. Ignatieff has been through his share of trying times. It's hard to believe they could get any more trying, frankly. Why have Canadians not seen the greatness yet? What does he need to do?

APPS: Well, you know, it's funny, the media talk about these as, oh, times, it's the worst of times. You know I can tell you, I remember when the media had written off Jean Chretien, I remember when the media had written off Dalton McGuinty, I remember when the media had written off Stephen Harper, so I'm not sure that, you know, your perception of things in the long game is accurate. But, you know, I would say this, Michael Ignatieff, there's no question in my mind, if the country is looking for hope and for change, then when the time comes they're going to see that in Michael Ignatieff. And I think the fact that Peter Donolo is there to help him craft the content of his message and the substance of his message is just a plus. But Michael Ignatieff, I think, is absolutely going to be able to demonstrate at a time when Canadians have become very cynical about politics and very cynical about partisanship,he's going to be able to demonstrate what Canadians are looking for for 21st century leadership.

TRAVERS: If I can just follow up on Greg's question about leadership.You were part of the team, if you will, that went to Harvard and convinced Mr. Ignatieff to come home, and I wonder how much due diligence you did on some of Mr. Ignatieff's writings, and some of, particularly on his positions on the Iraq invasion and on torture, because there are obviously tremendous things in Mr. Ignatieff's CVs, but there are also some ticking time bombs there, some of which the Conservatives have made full advantage of, or taken full advantage of in their advertising, and I just wonder, did you see greatness where you should have also seen some flaws and some political dangers?

APPS: We, first of all, I should say that I, before I ever met Michael Ignatieff I'd read virtually everything he'd written, so there was nothing that came as a surprise to me. The second thing I would say is, when we went to get Michael Ignatieff, believe it or not, just like when I was involved in recruiting John McCallum, or Paul Martin, or Jean Augustine, or any number of prominent Liberals, including some for this next election, whenever it comes, I can tell you clearly and absolutely we weren't thinking about recruiting him for leadership, we were recruiting him for the team. The third thing I would say, really, really clearly, is that this suggestion that Michael Ignatieff has anything but a clear and unqualified position against torture is just a game being played by people. It's not supported by the record. And I'm not worried about what he's written at all. What he, those who actually read his writings in full, in context, are going to come across one of the most thoughtful thinkers about both international and domestic public policy that's appeared on the Canadian scene. So I've got no question about that.

OLIVER: Well many of us may agree with you about his being a brilliant thinker, but why aren't we seeing some result of that in terms of policy ideas coming out of his office, especially ideas which differentiate you Liberals from the Conservative government and Mr. Harper?

APPS: I find it amusing when the opposition party is in opposition that the media are constantly pressing us to lay out our wares, constantly put your big ideas in front of the public. The reality is the government has been elected to govern, and we will come out with a platform when Canadians are ready to make their choice because we're into a general election. Mr. Ignatieff has been very forthright in speeches on foreign policy, on the, on energy and the environment, and on a range of areas, including most recently issues affecting women, the general principles of which he's following. Now the big bold ideas that you want to see,the brilliant strokes that the media are looking for, why would we lay those out, why would we telegraph those to a government that has in its unbelievably cynical partisan way taken everything that's said, twisted it out of context, perverted the meaning, perverted the message? Why would we do that in advance when we haven't got a level playing field to lay those ideas out?

TABER: Mr. Apps, we have to let you go. Thank you very much for participating in our segment today. We really appreciate your time.

APPS: It was great being here. Thanks very much.

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