Canadian Liberal leadership race

2006-09-03

in Books and literature, Canada, Politics

Despite having lived in Canada for more than twenty years, and being interested in all matters political for much of that time, I really don’t know a great deal about Canadian politics. This is especially true of the raft of individuals who comprise Canada’s political elite; I could definitely tell you more about, say, Tom Daschle and Barack Obama than any of their Canadian equivalents. References that people like Tim, Tristan, Spencer, and Emily make regularly leave me with no idea of what they are talking about. That probably has something to do with a lifetime in which I have skipped straight to the ‘international’ section of the newspaper, followed by ‘United States,’ and then ‘science.’ I rationalize it to myself on the basis of the general hope that Canada will muddle through on its own and that if something really spectacular is going on, I will hear about it anyway.

In a bid to partially reverse this long time trend, I have decided to learn a bit about Michael Ignatieff: at least to the point where I can endorse or reject him as a possible leader for the federal Liberal party and, by extension, a possible Prime Minister. To that end, I am now reading his book Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. It seems to be more about the world in general than about Canada specifically, but it should at least lay bare some of his assumptions and modes of thinking.

To those much more aware of this contest than I am, which of the other potential Liberal leaders are worthy of some examination?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria Kowalewski September 3, 2006 at 4:14 pm

There’s an interesting interview with Ignatieff in this week’s Straight (40:2019). Terry Galvin calls him a “left-wing intellectual icon.” (p.16), pointing to the fact that Ignatieff has spent a large part of his career in academia (Harvard, apparently). I’m attracted to the idea of having an intellectual/academic run our country. I’ll pass you a copy of the article if you can’t find one.

Milan September 3, 2006 at 4:37 pm

Victoria,

Ignatieff’s intellectual credentials will certainly create an odd contrast during joint press conferences with the present American president.

Is this the article you mean?

Victoria Kowalewski September 3, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Yes. Strong work, lad.

Milan September 3, 2006 at 4:45 pm

Interesting article. It increases the extent that I feel I could support Ignatieff.

He would certainly make a fascinating contribution to electoral debates. We need someone who will be able to keep Harper from securing the majority government he has been working to convince Canadians that he is worthy of.

Brett September 3, 2006 at 5:46 pm

To tell you the truth I am not really impressed with Ignatieff. For those who dont know he backed the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. That right there is enough for me to remove my support. He has also made some very stupid comments in the last few weeks. He was quoted as saying that he “wasnt losing any sleep” over the deaths of Lebanese civillians at the hands of the Israeli military machine. He was also quoted as saying that he wasnt interested in staying in politics if he wasnt victorious as the new Liberal leader. The more I hear the more Im starting to realize he is both an opportunist and a closet hawk.

Unfortunately none of the other leaders really impress me. Bob Rae and Stephane Dion are his two toughest opponets in my eyes.

Milan September 3, 2006 at 6:03 pm

“He was also quoted as saying that he wasnt interested in staying in politics if he wasnt victorious as the new Liberal leader.”

I don’t see this as a problem. He would really be wasted as a backbencher, or even a cabinet minister.

sasha September 3, 2006 at 6:31 pm

I too am reluctant to support Ignatieff, in part because of his disturbing oppertunism, but also owing just to my general sense of the man. Ofcourse he has been well covered by the CBC of late, and I find him disturbingly far right for a liberal candidate – much more so than even Martin, who represented a right-ward shift for the party. Life in the states (he hasn’t lived here in ages!) seems to have influenced him towards a general neolib approach to government: vaguely pro middle class and environment, but far more so pro unregulated market. Not the man I’d want to trust with Canada’s health care system, for example. For those more right-leaning Liberals though, by all means.

Personally, I’m pulling for Bob Rae. Knowing my political tendencies, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you.

Milan September 3, 2006 at 6:48 pm

Sasha,

Which of the Liberal leadership candidates do you think has the best chance of securing at least a minority government in the next election? I really know nothing at all about the candidates aside from Ignatieff, who I have been reading up on for less than a day.

sasha September 4, 2006 at 7:06 pm

I think it’s too early to tell Milan – none of the candidates have particularly established themselves as yet, and in the end it comes down to the party.

The Libs are pretty much guaranteed a certain vote share here – if not enough for a minority, then certainly close – so what really matters is how they as a party handle the current crisis of reputation. We don’t exactly do the strong, charismatic, individual leader thing here (c’mon, Cretien x3??) so it doesn’t really matter who they select as leader so long as it’s not a member of Martin’s old, corrupt guard.

Remember, it’s not as though Canadians particularly elected the Harper government, but rather instead that they punished the old Liberal government. Can we elect a Liberal minority next time? Maybe, but only if people either decide Harper’s gov’t needs punishing or that the Libs have suffered enough.

At least Bob Rae has proven, as the former NDP Premier, that he can get elected in Ontario. When it comes to winning a Canadian election, that’s the most important thing you can do.

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