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February 3, 2010

Ignatieff is Harper's biggest asset

Scott Stockdale

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I read with dismay Chris Selley's article in the National Post. He said, "Mr. Ignatieff has been around long enough for Canadians to know that he's not going to excite them," Jeffery Simpson signed in the Globe and Mail, "The issue then is whether he can intrigue them - not by his persona but by his ideas."

This is ludicrous and it seems that while many have scratched the surface, nobody has caught the severity of the situation: Canadians are never going to vote for Iggy, no matter what his policies are. As long as he's the Liberal leader Canada is going to be a one-party system and Mr. Harper can do whatever he pleases.

Harper and his supporters know this. That's why the National Post is tempering its criticism of Iggy. They know that Iggy is the biggest asset Harper could ever hope to have.

He's the only person in Canadian politics I'm aware of who makes Harper's personality look appealing. 

Iggy's not another Trudeau. He's another Turner.

A loser that Harper and his ilk can toy with. Even the Liberals themselves have an inkling of this, as rumors of a party revolt against the leader (as happened with Turner) continue to circulate.

There are many reasons for this situation. Jeffery Simpson wrote years ago, "Canada has had x number of Prime Ministers; none more passionate than Pierre Elliot Trudeau." Could anyone accuse Iggy of being passionate about anything other than himself?

Whenever I mention Trudeau, the most common response is: “He was arrogant” and yet Canadians voted for Trudeau over and over again.

Iggy is also arrogant, so one has to wonder what the difference is. There will never be an Iggymania, as Mr. Simpson touched upon.  Iggy gets annoyed when someone disagrees with him. Trudeau, on the other hand, would just shrug his shoulders.

More importantly - as Michael Bliss wrote in his book Right Honourable Men - Trudeau, although from a wealthy background and aristocratic in manner, was actually Canada's most populist prime minister.

Years later when questioned about his governments' atrocious financial record, which Michael Bliss said was fiscal irresponsibility unparalled since the days of Laurier, Trudeau said: “Yes but more people were lifted out of poverty than ever before.” Trudeau had a great deal of sympathy for people that Iggy doesn't even understand, or care to. One commentator said he's a man who would rather have his hand kissed than shaken.

During the Meech Lake debacle, Global News was interviewing people in the street asking the question: “Why is there this renewed fascination with former Prime Minister Trudeau?” A university student said: “He was the only one who had a vision of Canada.”

Has anyone ever suggested that Iggy has a vision of Canada?

He can't even present a coherent policy of much less important issues, as he continually flip flops from one stance to another.

If he were a true patriot he would step down as leader and give the Liberal a chance to elect a leader who at least has a chance of forming a government.

Although not in the same position as Iggy, Jean Marchand is the closest precedent I can think of who was willing to sacrifice his own personal ambitions for the good of the party and the country.

After Pearson announced that he was retiring, Marchand told Trudeau that there should be a candidate from Quebec and that while he felt that he could easily win the leadership of the party, his English wasn't good enough to get the support of English Canadians, so Trudeau was going to have to be the candidate.

I've always felt that John Turner was the biggest asset Mulroney ever had. Looking back, Mulroney really wasn't very anything, other than slippery, as even Conservative supporters now admit.

But Canadians just didn't have the stomach for Turner.

John English said that in politics personality trumps policy and we continue to see example of this over and over. Many people would agree that Al Gore was better qualified to be president than George Bush, but Gore didn't have the personality that resonated with many Americans.

Currently, it's becoming more and more evident that President Obama is just a showman repeating what his advisors have told him.

At the beginning of the campaign Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the nomination. She had the big name and big money behind her, while Obama was an unknown first-term senator.

While erratic, the Democrats felt that because voters knew she would have her husband to temper her excesses, she could win the presidency. However, the problem with Mrs. Clinton was that the more people saw of her the less they liked her.

I was fond of telling my students in China that American political commentators say that Bill Clinton was the most talented politician of his generation; and I think this was largely because he could be charming (when he needed to be). Meanwhile, his wife charms no one.

The Chinese have a joke about the Clintons: They're driving along and the car breaks down. As the mechanic is fixing it, Bill says: “You see, if you'd have married him, you'd be fixing cars right now. Hillary replies: “No, if I'd have married him, you'd be fixing cars right now; he'd be the president of the United States.”

Scott Stockdale is a freelance writer based in Toronto. 

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