Ignatieff on track to win


in Canada, Politics

Michael Ignatieff seems to be well ahead in the ongoing Liberal Party leadership vote. I would be happy if he won; he certainly seems to be an interesting man, and I think he would inject some high level debate into Canadian federal politics, regardless of how well the Liberals perform in the next election. I also think that if he is able to develop an overall governing platform, the support of his party, and the support of Canadians in general, he would be able to forge a good successor government to the problematic present conservative minority. He may also be the kind of man who can rebuild Canada’s role in effective peacekeeping, diplomacy, and foreign aid – all of which suffered under Harper, Martin, and Chretien governments.

Once Emily gets back to Oxford, I shall need to borrow another of his books, returning the copy of Blood and Belonging I finished recently.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 1, 2006 at 9:49 pm

Note to self add:

“An Ordinary Man” by Paul Rusesabagina

to non-fiction, non-thesis reading list.

Tristan Laing October 2, 2006 at 3:17 am

He’s pro torture.

Tristan Laing October 2, 2006 at 3:17 am

The best liberal candidate is key dryden. He’s the only one with no baggage and no torture.

Milan October 2, 2006 at 3:20 am


I think he was confounding by the ticking bomb scenario. Read some of his books, and you will see that he is a decent seeming person.

R.K. October 1, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Have you seen that The Economist is podcasting?

Brett October 2, 2006 at 9:42 am

He supported the Bush administrations decision to invade Iraq. Enuff said I reckon. Regardless if he is a decent person, such backing shows a lack of sound judgement. If he had been Prime Minister at the time of the invasion, would we be there now?

Milan October 2, 2006 at 11:12 am


Again – perhaps more attention must be paid to the man’s reasoning. On at least one occasion, he visited the Kurdish region in Iraq. I take it he welcomed Saddam’s overthrow not for the reasons the Bush administration originally did it, but as a means of removing a truly unsavoury fellow. I don’t mean to be an Ignatieff apologist, just suggest that we can’t evaluate him on the basis of a binary of supporting/not supporting a particular issue.

Milan October 2, 2006 at 5:02 pm

It seems Ignatieff has won the contest for delegates. At last count, he had 1252 to Rae’s 832, with only 60 left to count.

Edward October 3, 2006 at 4:59 am

I worked very briefly with Ignatieff’s campaign, so I’m probably not a good source of unbiased opinion. The guy speaks with reckless pomposity (which might not go over very well with the Canadian public), but he does have some interesting ideas – good or otherwise. Contrast this with Chretien, Martin, and Harper who really didn’t/don’t have any ideas…

With the Iraq issue, at least the guy had the balls to say something different. I can’t imagine that he hadn’t run it through his head that he might one day run for the Liberal leadership. He must’ve known that Canadians (heck the world) wouldn’t agree with the Bush’s Iraq invasion. But he had a line of logic and he voiced it. I mean, oh my god, the man had an opinion and expressed it!

We aren’t saying that Ignatieff is the best thing since sliced bread. But look at the other candidates: who else would you prefer to have as Liberal leader (and presumably at some point, Prime Minister)? Dion? *shudder* Bob ‘Rae Days’ Rae? *double shudder* Gerrard Kennedy is still in the game, but I would say barely.

Ignatieff is clearly going to lead on the first ballot, but he probably won’t win on it. A leadership convention is a bit of a circus, so if there is any substantial anyone-but-Ignatieff movement, Ignatieff will still lose. I’m surprised nobody has speculated much on the role that Paul Martin might play. Given that there are so many automatic delegates and that most of the Liberal machinery (riding presidents, etc.) is still loyal to him, he could be a factor if he wanted to be. Probably not, though; the guy wants out!

Mike Kushnir October 3, 2006 at 7:23 am

Milan, I agree with you that Ignatieff seems like a fairly decent guy, but the Liberals should also look at if he’s electable or not.

He’s not going to do Canadians much good by being in opposition, especially if Harper’s Conservatives win a majority.

I’m not convinced that Ignatieff could win an election. I’m not saying that he can’t do it; I just don’t see it as likely. My feeling is that he’s perceived as cold, foreign and distant.

In addition, it is worth noting that every dropped-out candidate so far has placed their support behind Rae.

My money is on Ignatieff, but my hopes are with Rae. I think that he has the best chance of pulling it off.

On an aside, it’s interesting to look at the Grits’ history. They do (electorally) well when they elect a Quebecker as leader. Could Dion pull it off? Probably not, due to his legacy of being Chrétien’s lapdog, but he definitely has the skill, experience and poise to be Prime Minister…in time.

Mike Kushnir October 3, 2006 at 3:31 pm

Actually, regarding my comments on Dion, I’ve thought about it and realized that I’m on crack.

There’s no way that he’d make a good Prime Minister or Opposition Leader. It would only be slightly better for the Grits than making Bill Graham’s job a permanent one.

. October 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

If Torture Works
Michael Ignatieff

“We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are. This is the best I can do, but those of us who believe this had better admit that many of our fellow citizens are bound to disagree. It is in the nature of democracy itself that fellow citizens will define their identity in ways that privilege security over liberty and thus reluctantly endorse torture in their name. If we are against torture, we are committed to arguing with our fellow citizens, not treating those who defend torture as moral monsters. Those of us who oppose torture should also be honest enough to admit that we may have to pay a price for our own convictions. Ex ante, of course, I cannot tell how high this price might be. Ex post—following another terrorist attack that might have been prevented through the exercise of coercive interrogation—the price of my scruple might simply seem too high. This is a risk I am prepared to take, but frankly, a majority of fellow citizens is unlikely to concur.”

the witch doctor October 27, 2008 at 12:33 am

This is amazing. A person who supported the Iraq War and argues in favor of torture is summed up as a “decent guy”. He’s praised because he “had the balls to say something different” and because he voices his opinions.

Milan October 27, 2008 at 1:20 pm

If you read the article linked immediately above, you will see that Ignatieff is not in favour of torture.

He did support the second Iraq war – out of humanitarian concern, he says – but has subsequently said it was a major mistake to do so. Whether that reflects poor judgment or not, I am not entirely certain about.

Even though we are now in the midst of the post-Martin leadership selection redux, I must admit to knowing little about the other candidates, John Manley aside.

the witch doctor October 28, 2008 at 1:57 am

Well it’s good that he’s not in favour of torture. But supporting the Iraq war out of humanitarian concern obviously reflects poor judgement.

. October 30, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Zizek on torture:

“In short, every authentic liberal should see these debates, these calls to ‘keep an open mind’, as a sign that the terrorists are winning. And, in a way, essays like Alter’s, which do not openly advocate torture, but just introduce it as a legitimate topic of debate, are even more dangerous than explicit endorsements. At this moment at least, explicitly endorsing it would be rejected as too shocking, but the mere introduction of torture as a legitimate topic allows us to court the idea while retaining a clear conscience. (‘Of course I am against torture, but who is hurt if we just discuss it?’) Admitting torture as a topic of debate changes the entire field, while outright advocacy remains merely idiosyncratic. The idea that, once we let the genie out of the bottle, torture can be kept within ‘reasonable’ bounds, is the worst liberal illusion, if only because the ‘ticking clock’ example is deceptive: in the vast majority of cases torture is not done in order to resolve a ‘ticking clock’ situation, but for quite different reasons (to punish an enemy or to break him down psychologically, to terrorise a population etc). Any consistent ethical stance has to reject such pragmatic-utilitarian reasoning. Here’s a simple thought experiment: imagine an Arab newspaper arguing the case for torturing American prisoners; think of the explosion of comments about fundamentalist barbarism and disrespect for human rights that would cause.”

. April 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Canada’s Liberals
The Ignatieff revival

Apr 23rd 2009 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition
At last, a credible opposition leader. Now he needs a few policies

WHEN Michael Ignatieff, the interim leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, bounded to the stage at a packed fund-raising meeting last month, the choice of musical backing was a 1970s rock hit called “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. That was an unsubtle message from party organisers that great things are expected from Mr Ignatieff, a former journalist and Harvard academic. Yet the song was also appropriate for a less flattering reason. More than five months after the Liberals, the main opposition, dumped Stéphane Dion and replaced him with Mr Ignatieff, the new leader has yet to set out where he and the party stand on many issues.

There is plenty of time for that, insists Mr Ignatieff. Details will be revealed “little by little”. For now Liberals are relieved that their new leader is hauling them back to political competitiveness after losing the last two federal elections to Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister.

In the second of those, in October, Mr Dion presided over the party’s worst showing ever. His final gambit was to try to topple Mr Harper’s minority government just weeks after the election by forming a disparate and stillborn coalition with the separatist Bloc Québécois and the leftist New Democratic Party (NDP). Mr Harper survived by shutting down Parliament for seven weeks, Mr Dion departed and Canadians quickly became more exercised by recession and job losses than by party shenanigans in Ottawa.

. September 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Jeffrey Simpson
On truth, fear and broken political promises

As an intellectual, Michael Ignatieff didn’t have to settle for a world of rationalizations

An intellectual lives in truth, or in the pursuit of it; a politician lives in truth’s shadows while pursuing power.

A person can be intelligent in politics, but cannot be an intellectual, because an intellectual, if true to world of ideas, must be fearless, whereas a politician usually lives in fear of defeat for himself, party or government.

Intellectuals who move into politics must begin to make compromises with the truth, to move around its edges, to forget the core of what it means to try to live in truth and to settle instead for a world of rationalizations.

It is fascinating, therefore, to observe the transition of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff from a fine public intellectual to a politician, and in particular the playing at the edges with truth of the kind he would deplore were he not in public life.

A small matter, really, but a revealing one occurred the other day when, having said the country should “wait and see” how he, as prime minister, would deal with the deficit, Mr. Ignatieff referred to his party’s record of ending deficits under prime minister Jean Chrétien and finance minister Paul Martin. “We dug the country out of it without raising taxes,” he declared. “We did it before. We’ll do it again.”

Alas, this was not so. In the famous 1995 budget that put Canada on the road to eliminating the deficit and set the stage for more than a decade of balanced budgets and prosperity, Mr. Martin raised taxes on corporations, financial institutions, tobacco and gasoline, and made other corporate tax changes and alterations to retirement plans that added about $1.5-billion to Ottawa’s coffers each year.

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