Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Iggy visits the Steel City

Ignatieff was here today for a 'get-to-know-me' session with some area Liberals. It was relatively informal, set in a neighbourhood pub. It would seem that he is hitting the circuit pretty hard with these sorts of events.

The evening started on some rocky footing. Ignatieff was held up in traffic (read: is a politician) and so arrived more than 1 1/2 hours later than he was scheduled. When he did begin with the cursory tributes, he neglected Russ Powers - the recently deposed Liberal candidate for the riding, who was present. So the tenor of the room was not a friendly one when he launched into his address.

Generally speaking, this was standard Ignatieff fare. He paid tribute to Laurier, condemned the provincial vision of Stephen Harper, emphasized that the Liberal party is not an election machine but a national institution. All stuff that you have heard before.

If there were any noteworthy comments, they came (as they often do with Michael) during question time. The discussion today was generally process over policy. Ignatieff spent some time on the past divisions in the Liberal party. I imagine this is partly spurred by the fact that the Hamilton Liberal scene has come to symbolize a party divided and defeated. He made clear that he doesn't "have a dog in any of the old fights." He was asked how he would avoid such a situation arising again. His responded that Liberals should be made to understand the cost of refusing to get along with eachother. That cost, according to Ignatieff, is a decade of PM Stephen Harper.

He was very critical of the party executive and the way that it conducted the 2006 campaign. He said that by the end, he wasn't even sure of what his party stood for. He said that he only received the completed platform a week before the end of the election, to which Russ Powers quipped "That early?" Surprisingly, he suggested that PM Harper's 5 points served as a useful template to be followed. This stood in contradiction to an earlier comment, when he criticized the 5 points as being emblematic of a "small vision".

He took questions about the party's grassroots policy process. He felt that the policies that began on kitchen tables and worked their way painstakingly through the appartus eventually ended up in the shredder. He called this a waste of members' time. This is what one would expect from someone speaking to an assortment of self-important party businesspeople and Young Liberals. Nevertheless, this did appear to be an issue he has felt strongly about since he observed the 2003 policy convention.

Finally, Ignatieff outlined his notion of how to rebuild the party in Quebec. Here, he made an interesting comment. He argued that Quebec Liberals simply need to take pride in what they are. This is something he doesn't feel has happened in some time. Quebec Liberals should be unapologetic and unwilling to compromise the basic principles of their existence. This boldness will appeal to Quebecers.

Nothing groundbreaking, but it is interesting to feel him sway a room.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was an hour and half late because the toronto Libersls he was meeting with (and getting big bucks from) were more important!

12:25 PM  
Blogger Zac said...

Nice to know that we're appreciated.

But either way, I did find his praise of Harper's "five point agenda" odd.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I find the 5 point agenda disapointing frankly, but I'm not surprised as he had hinted as much in a McLeans interview recently:

"I'd like to be a politician, the public figure who promised little and delivered what he promised, to the degree I possibly can -- not 25 priorities but three -- and try to be someone at the end of this game about whom you could say, 'Well, I don't like that guy very much, but he did what he said.'"

I understand not wanting to create dissallusionment, which is the focus of that quote, but at the same time I disagree. That is what Mike Harris said, where it doesn't matter what you do as long as your consistent. That's not liberalism to me. For example, if you have 3 priorities how easily is environment left off, or in the harper case aboriginals etc etc. Sure you shouldn't overcommit and I think Ignatieff wants to get real change that's good. But there are worse things than deliberation, and to me a misconstrued policy is pretty obviously one of them. I think Martin was unfairly maligned in that regard. Its the CONTENT of the decision that matters more than its process, ultimately.
Ignatieff does talk in a sense about doing what he believes over popularity which is good. But mentioning it again at MAc and directly tying it to Harper seems mistaken, that a govt can't have more than a few priorities. There is an ocean between overpromised ineffectiveness and 3 priorities.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think he praised harpos 5 points, he said it was a begining, only 5 points is the mark of an amateur, poitics exist on more than 5 points, as a matter of fact, the red book is the predecessor of the 5 points, sorry harpo, we were there first, little copy cat...

12:25 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

To sum the thing up, a 5 point-type approach is good politics and bad governance. I would've thought that someone intent on colouring the Liberal party as national institution rather than an election machine would prioritize good governance.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

No, the Red Book is a book, that's the opposite of narrow priorities. Its criticized for its breadth not the other way around. In fact, its the template Harper and apparently now Liberals are using to argue against.

4:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home