Tag Archives: Norman Spector

Is Michael Ignatieff the next Tony Blair?

Apparently I am not the only one not impressed with the Michael Ignatief tour.  According to Thomas Walkom, even when things are going well, all is not well.

Most of all, however, he emphasizes that he is at one with his audience. “Everything good that happened to me happened because I had a publicly funded education in Ontario,” he says.

In fact, Ignatieff attended high school at Toronto’s elite and privately funded Upper Canada College. In 1994, he referred to his UCC time as “the most successful single period of my life.

I was going to look and see if he was talking about elementary school but I had Norman Spector’s thought in another browser tab and he pointed out that he had attended the Upper Canada College since he was 11.

It’s a well-known fact that, from the age of 11, Mr. Ignatieff attended Upper Canada College — which is about as elite an education as you can get in our country. So well-known is this fact that it’s hard to believe the Liberal Leader thought that he could get away with the kind of little white lies that are the specialty of crowd-pleasing politicians. Indeed, the truthfulness of Mr. Ignatieff’s remarks is already being called into question.

Perhaps the Liberal Leader’s statement was a slip-up, which would be understandable and forgivable given his gruelling schedule. Or, could it be that in using the words “publicly-funded,” Mr. Ignatieff was not referring to a public education as most people in Hagersville, indeed most Canadians, would understand the term?

Mr. Ignatieff may have been referring to a little-known program at the Department of Foreign Affairs that has taxpayers picking up the tab for educating the children of diplomats posted abroad, including when the diplomats are back in Canada. Perhaps this is what he meant by his “enormous good fortune.”

Wikipedia descibes Ignatieff’s early education this way

Ignatieff’s family moved abroad regularly in his early childhood as his father rose in the diplomatic ranks. But at the age of 11, Ignatieff was sent back to Toronto to attend Upper Canada College as a boarder in 1959.

The quote hit me hard because I immediately thought back to this article in June 2006 issue of The Atlantic about Tony Blair.  Now normally Liberals would be glowing over a comparison between Michael Ignatieff and Tony Blair but not this one.

Tony Blair Whatever ruses Blair has adopted have come all too naturally to him. At one point when the WMD issue was blowing up in the Prime Minister’s face (if nonexistent weapons can be said to blow up), John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, confronted the unruly MPs from his party, telling them vehemently, "The Prime Minister does not lie."

But he does. Or, at least, he has repeatedly said things that were not the case, often enough to suggest that he has genuine difficulty with the concept of objective truth. Some of his lies are trivial. Politicians like to add color and glamour to their résumés, and Blair was simply doing that when he claimed that as a boy he had been a stowaway on a plane bound for the Bahamas (for which there was no independent evidence), and had watched Jackie Milburn playing soccer for Newcastle (he would have been too young). It was much more alarming when Blair told a television interviewer that he had voted to ban fox hunting. The point was not the rights and wrongs of that highly contentious and emotive issue; it was that at the time the Prime Minister—or rather, the Member for Sedgefield—had never voted in the Commons on the matter one way or another.

This tendency to embroider, to persuade, and then to forget has repeatedly misled others and placed them in false positions. Blair claims to have learned from Bill Clinton, and in this regard he is a true pupil. When a politician takes a particular line, let’s say by insisting that he did not have sexual relations with "that woman"; when he expects his colleagues to toe the same line and aver publicly that they believe him; when he then abruptly changes his story and admits that he did after all have an "inappropriate" relationship—then those colleagues are, in the hallowed phrase of Irish politics, left with their arses hanging out the window (not a posture Madeleine Albright can have found very dignified in the summer of 1998).

I hate it when politicians do this.  Despite my frustration with Ignatieff’s performance as leader, I thought he would be able to offer a compelling vision of Canada that would bring out the best of the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Conservative Party… and who knows, maybe he will be the time the election arrives but mistakes like this, whether intentional, a result of a character flaw, or just fatigue, make it hard to rally behind him right now.