Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why Ignatieff should not be leader

I really agonized over writing something like this, because I honestly do like Mr. Ignatieff. But the fact of the matter is, putting aside whether or not he'd make a good prime minister, he is simply unsuited to be the leader of the opposition and the prime minister in waiting.

I don't think Mr. Ignatieff can win a general election. If he is elected leader, I hope that I'm proven wrong. But I don't like his chances.

First of all, the torture allegations. They are vile, baseless, and digusting allegations. It is unfair that Ignatieff now has a reputation among some people as the guy who supports torture. But he does have that reputation nonetheless, and you know, you KNOW both the Conservatives and the NDP, not to mention the Bloc, would use it against him mercilessly. They would perform that trick they do where they repeat something so many times that, in the eyes of the public, it becomes true. "The Liberal Party is corrupt." A ridiculous statement, given that all the facts show is that a few high-ranking Liberals were corrupt, who have been both kicked out of the party and some of them jailed. But nevertheless, "The Liberal Party is corrupt." There's no way to argue against it if half the public is dead-set against believing anything else. "Michael Ignatieff supports torture." I don't know about you, but I think that one's worse. And they'll do it, too. They will all assassinate the character of a good man over baseless allegations, just like they did to Paul Martin.

Second, his support of the war in Iraq. Now, I know Scott Brison also technically supported that war - but he was not nearly as vocal a supporter as Mr. Ignatieff. Ignatieff has used a lot of ink writing about his vehement support for the war, and even though I sort of agree with him, that makes it very easy for the NDP to take the anti-war vote. Too easy, in fact. I mean, the only thing that would make it easier to steal left-leaning votes would be if there was some ridiculous but nevertheless widespread belief that the man supports, I don't know, torture or something.

Third, I don't like his chances in Quebec. Quebeckers tend, more often than not, to vote for the favourite son. (Laurier, St. Laurent, Trudeau, Mulroney, Bouchard, Chretien, Duceppe.) He has to beat back both Harper and Duceppe in Quebec, which will be no easy task - Duceppe has the homefield advantage, and Harper is currently neck-and-neck with the current favourite son. An Albertan had enough trouble winning just ten seats in Quebec - imagine someone who hasn't even lived in the country for the past quarter-century!

And finally, I just can't see him being good for party unity. He himself is already the most divisive subject within the party - Iggy-boosters and Iggy-haters alike are very, very zealous in their defences and detractions. (Particularly the latter.) Yes, he does have Chretien and Martin people behind him, but really, will that matter if he creates an entirely new division based entirely around him? Given that he's generally estimated to have the support of about 25-30% of the party right now, how will that other 70-75% feel if he wins; more importantly, what if he only wins by a bare margin - what will the other half think? Obviously, you win some and you lose some, but there are enough people who just flat-out dislike Ignatieff that I can't see an Ignatieff victory being good for party unity, and we absolutely must be united going into the next election, otherwise we're toast. The pro-Iggy and anti-Iggy sides of the party can't be fighting their own battle DURING an election campaign - and we really, REALLY can't afford to lose the left of the party to the NDP. That's a ticket to third-party status.


At 6/22/2006 3:31 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Don Newman yesterday he asked Iggy about his environmental plan, and Iggy answers that we need to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA. In Canada. I am not making this stuff up.

At 6/22/2006 3:59 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think liberals should be attacking liberals...we need to stick together....let the best man win....or woman.....whoever ends up the winner we have to stand together....the convention should be move up to september immediately.....

At 6/22/2006 5:09 p.m., Blogger UWHabs said...

We definitely shouldn't be attacking each other, but we should still be allowed to point out information in other candidates.

I am personally of the exact same opinion as Blue Grit on Iggy here. I have nothing against him, and he seems like an incredibly bright and intelligent man, but I just think that his words will get twisted around too much to adequately defend. He's fine speaking to a room to defend himself, but once he's gotta do that to the whole country, it's gonna be tough to deal with.

I wish him the best of luck, and he might have been a great leader had he been am MP for longer than 5 months, but I just don't see him as the great saviour to the party.

At 6/22/2006 5:59 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iggy can't win an election.

No political experience and no real policy differences from Harper. The fact that he's been out of Canada for 30 years will kill him.

Smart guy and he'd be a great Cabinet Minister but he's more unelectable than Bob Rae.

At 6/22/2006 6:08 p.m., Blogger bigcitylib said...

Brison doesn't have a hope either, really.

Kennedy, Dion, maybe Rae (if Ontario forgives him). The others don't have a hope. (Actually, I don't think Rae has a hope either, but he sure looks impressive on tv).

At 6/22/2006 6:33 p.m., Blogger Kyle Carruthers said...

Thank you. I have been trying to say the same thing for a while. I would go further than BG and say that I dont like him, electable or not; but the electability is the biggest issue here.

At 6/22/2006 7:00 p.m., Blogger Czar Fran├žois said...

I recently went to a liberal consultation at University of Montreal in which Bob Rae supporters crush the competion by show of force, so I donot know about his "unelectability"... nevertheless I have never lived in Ontario so maybe i am mistaken. I have to say Blue Grit i was a little uncertain about some of your observations, but one which you hit right the nail "exactly" on the head is the divise nature of Iggy. I have said many time that i think that Iggy has the possibiliy to make a great significant civic contribution to Canada in the Liberal Party, but as Party Leader he would just be too divisive and that is exactly what we do not need right now. I would hope that some one like Iggy would step out of the Leadership race for that very reason. If he wins (which he has a good chance) it will be by a slim margin, and like a Roman Ceasar the knives will be out for him!

At 6/22/2006 7:08 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

My only concern is that he would divide our party even more.

We just don't need that right now.

As a Liberal, I just don't have the energy for any more internal wrangling.

At 6/22/2006 7:53 p.m., Blogger mezba said...

I dont think many borderline Liberals who will vote for the Liberal party will do so if Ignatieff is the leader. He is pro-Iraq, pro-torture (allegedly) and so on. Very easy to define and defame him. Plus, the big minus for me, he has been out of the country for years. He is too "American" in many people's eyes and what are his qualifications, really? Just someone who was a professor? WHat does he know about running the coutnry. This are the questions many people will ask and he will have to answer.

At 6/22/2006 7:59 p.m., Blogger Jarrett said...

The big problem I have with your assertion is the idea that Canadians considered Liberals, and Liberals alone, corrupt. I'm sure that the vast majority of the public feels that "all" politicians are corrupt. If anything, the NDP often comes across as the least greasy.

As for Paul Martin's character assassination, it was more like character suicide. Answering serious questions with allegations of a hidden agenda on something completely different; playing the abortion card apropos of nothing; threatening Canadians with a return to child labour if the Tories were elected; pissing away billions upon billions of goodies and then having the gall to talk about fiscal responsibility...

Those were just a handful of things that disgusted me with Martin. Don't lay it all on propaganda or simplism.

At 6/22/2006 8:07 p.m., Blogger Manitoba Liberal said...

Ummm, Blue Grit, you seem like a bright young guy most of the time, but this post coming from a supporters of a fringe Tory candidate like Scott Brison is on the verge of high comedy.

If Ignatieff is not electable, than Brison is 100 times worse. The torture allegations are of course laughable, but I doubt they would really stick in an election camapign, because unlike Paul Martin's history as a Canada hating tax avoider, there is no soild evidence accept for academic writing which can be spun any which way in a camapign by all sides and be ignored as a major issue.

The Iraq war support is a worse thing for him, but Brison has the same history, plus Brison has the baggege of supporting private health care and other libertarian economic nonsense when he was running to be leader of the Tories a few summer ago.

As for Quebec being a problem for Ignatieff I will agree that I doubt Ignatieff could really grow from what we have now, but Brison would as leader with his horrible French could well leave the Liberal Party with not a single seat in Quebec. Brison's French makes the jibbersh that Alexa McD used in the leaders debate look fluent in comparison. Brison would be a diaster.

Because Brison is a also ran that has no chance of winning the leadership he does not have to face question about party unity after a win like Igantieff does, but if Ignatieff's 25% leaves 75% of the party looking for someone else where does that leave the well over 90% of Liberals that have no plans on voting for a Tory crossover like Brison in Septemeber's delegate selection meetings?

If we really want to lost the centre-left to the NDP, all we have to do as a party is pick a Brison or Ignatieff as leader.

At 6/23/2006 12:30 a.m., Blogger Demosthenes said...

A nice piece, but one quibble: many of those "people" who believe that Ignatieff supports the efficacy of torture in all but name are, well, human rights experts.

The allegations are neither "vile", nor "baseless". They merely highlight what Ignatieff has consistently said: that he doesn't personally support torture because he believes it is uncivilized, but does believe that it's useful, that "coercion" doesn't amount to torture, that it might be necessary in those fanciful "ticking time bomb" scenarios, and that the proof that it's useful is that torturers keep using it.

(No, really. Read the Prospect article.)

Other than that, I agree with pretty much everything you've said, and will only add that the war in Iraq is the big divisive issue in the United States as well. This isn't unique to Canada, but hopefully the Liberals show more sense than many Democrats seem to.

At 6/23/2006 12:35 a.m., Blogger Demosthenes said...

By the by, Manitoba Liberal, if I recall correctly some "academic writing" about the non-nationhood of Ukrainians were a huge problem. They were the reason why Ignatieff had to resort to questionable shenanigans to get his nomination in the first place.

As one wag put it, "He'll need sherpas to carry all his baggage".

At 6/23/2006 12:38 a.m., Anonymous GayandRight said...

An election pitting Michael Ignatieff against Stephen Harper would be courteous, issues-based, and respectful. It would be the kind of campaign that academics love, but pundits would probably hate it for its dullness.

But I agree with the host, and most others here. Ignatieff won't win over his party (even though I think he'd stand a good chance in a general election). Look for Gerard Kennedy to win the crown, and then get trounced by Harper. He would, however, stay on to fight another day.

At 6/23/2006 2:26 a.m., Anonymous burlivespipe said...

I have similar concerns, but am not about to endorse them until I hear and read more from the candidate himself. It's very easy to distort the words and deeds of others -- the right aren't the only proponents of such tactics, but they are the masters -- and I think we can look at how people label my choice Bob Rae as unelectable. i have met and talked with quite a few ontarians, liberals all, who think Rae's past life was not a disaster, but featured missteps and terrible luck. He essentially was Canada's Jefferson Smith when the electorate punished David Peterson for misusing his powers as premier. That Peterson saw the economic storm clouds on the horizon, and that Rae tried to deal with it with part New Deal, part Hans Brinker, is just interpretations of history. I've heard people say that Rae Days were actually their favourite thing -- that when Harris came in, RD was seen as a kinder, thoughtful act. Not everyone, sure, has that same view. But take Rae's accomplishments throughout his political life and you have a very impressive record and man. I can't support an 'Anybody But...' rally, unless that person is Harpor.

At 6/23/2006 12:18 p.m., Blogger polarslam said...

I guess someone might write a "Why Brison should not be leader" post on a blog too, but it would be over 100,000 words and would be a waste of time because Brison has as much chance of winning this leadership as Joe Volpe.

At 6/23/2006 2:25 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brison can keep the left of the party from voting NDP?

There is more to being progressive than being gay and for equal rights and Brison fails most other progressive questions. He's a Tory in Liberal clothes.

After a diaster like Martin the last thing we need is another Blue Grit as leader of the party. Blue Grits like Martin, Turner and Brison always equal electoral failure.

At 6/23/2006 3:49 p.m., Blogger Olaf said...

The consensus seems to be that Iggy couldn't win an election because he's too scary for mainstream Canadians (eg for supporting Iraq/torture).

But surely, he could be no where near as scary as the scariest scarer that ever scared in Canada: Stephen "I scare people" Harper. You liberals have spend the past three years telling Canadians just how scary Stephen Harper is, even bordering on the ridiculous ("soldiers with guns... in Canadian cities..").
And look who's prime minister...BOO!


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