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Where did Michael Ignatieff go wrong?

Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald looks at why Michael Ignatieff failed to connect with Canadian voters.

To his baffled Harvard colleagues who can’t understand how a Harvard man can’t beat a University of Calgary man, ask yourselves this: Would any of Ignatieff’s books have won awards if the positions he took waffled as much as his comments to Canadians? Would he have been a popular lecturer? Of course not.

Those of us who had read his work knew he didn’t really believe that Israel was guilty of war crimes, but that he made a calculated decision to throw Israel under the bus to quell a political storm in Quebec while speaking French.

Bob Rae, who was also fighting for the Liberal leadership at the time (which went to Stephane Dion) called Ignatieff "the guy who’s changed his mind three times in a week," with regard to the Lebanese-Israeli war.

Then in 2009, when Ignatieff was Liberal leader, he put forward policies that he clearly didn’t give more than a passing thought to.

Ignatieff wanted Canadians to be eligible to take a year off drawing employment insurance benefits after working just nine weeks.

The very people that was supposed to entice -autoworkers losing their jobs -were outraged. Why should some student whose summer job comes to an end get to draw EI benefits for the same amount of time as that autoworker who has paid into the system for decades?

For years, Ignatieff waxed poetic about how valuable the oilsands were to all of Canada, and then during the campaign, instead of supporting his very valid views, he spoke of how he would place a moratorium on development of our "dirty oil" and bring in a cap-and-trade system.

Ignatieff didn’t resonate with voters because he was a sycophant. He said what he thought people wanted to hear and thought Canadian voters are too stupid to know good policy from bad.

I am not really sure if that was it.  Early on the in the election, Canadians tuned into Ignatieff and seemed to like him and his platform.  Even out west, people seemed to like the Liberal platform, yet didn’t vote for them.  Part of me wonders the impact the horrible state of the Liberal Party’s grassroots in parts of Canada played a part, the other part of me wonders if his attempt to bring down the government last year had an impact.  While in Ottawa it may have played well, the rest of us in Canada were really tired to it.  So Harper brings out a budget that isn’t that bad and before it comes out, Ignatieff is saying his is going to bring down the government.  Meanwhile the rest of us are thinking, “Aren’t government’s supposed to fall on really big issues and mistakes, not on the Opposition Leader’s rhetoric?”. 

I don’t watch a lot of Canadian television and the Conservatives don’t advertise on History Channel so I don’t know if I saw the “just visiting” ads and I don’t think I was influenced by them but after Ignatieff said he be was bringing down the government in 2010, he sounded like a political opportunist, meanwhile Layton who occasionally propped up Harper (and “Made Parliament work”) seemed more and more like the government in waiting.  As that happened, I found myself ignoring Ignatieff more and more.

So what’s your reason for not supporting the Liberal Party?

3 Comments

  1. Johanna says:

    I must say, I’m a bit disappointed by your post today. I agree that it’s become clear that Ignatieff lost at the popularity contest. However, what no one seems to be willing to remember – you today included – is that the Conservative government was not brought down over the budget. It was brought down for being in contempt of parliament, in the first such bringing-down in our parliamentary system’s history. And I think we have the 4th oldest democratic parliament in the world, so that’s a pretty long time I would say.
    In a way, it’s like the whole HST issue in BC. At this point, a lot of people don’t care if the HST is better or worse in the long term. It’s that the government brought it in after it had promised not to, and against a lot of voters who did not want to see it.
    In politics, it should be about more than just the results, no?

  2. Everyone is disappointed by what I write around here sometimes.

    You are right that it was about contempt of parliament but that was political posturing more than anything and I believe that was a big part of it. The contempt of Parliament was cover so they didn’t have to admit to bringing down a government over a relatively positive budget which for months the Liberals said they would bring down the government over the budget, despite having never seen it.

  3. Dave King says:

    The Liberals had no follow up on the Contempt of Parliament thing. There was not one word on what they would change to fix the problems, just we’re not Harper we’ll do better. Right.

    Ignatieff exaggerated the importance of some platforms, like the $1000 a year for collage students, calling it a “Revolution”. Oh and he said that he wasn’t exaggerating when calling it a “Revolution”. I have a daughter at UBC. $1000 is nice but it’s not a Revolution not even close. So I think that goes with the statements in the article, it was hard to trust the guy and that really undermines the vote for us we’re not Harper argument.

    Early on he was evasive about the coalition thing, he should have been up front with it and said it’s better than a government that has contempt for parliament. The whole Red door thing was a disaster. Again no practical follow up on the contempt issue. No wonder people forgot about it.

    Tried to defeat the government way to early, and didn’t have a strong strategy for defeating it this time. We’re down in the polls, lets defeat the government assumed that the issue was people just weren’t listing and all they had to do was make some news. That shows a contempt for the Canadian people.

    - Peace

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