06.29.2011 09:26 AM

I Am Canadian?

Interesting piece.

Why, you might ask, was he compelled to write now about this issue? Is it in fact even an “issue”?

For him, I can testify, it was. He deeply despised those Conservative “Just Visiting” ads, and my sense was that they wounded him on a personal level.

At the time, I recall thinking that the little political tableau was replete with irony: one leader was a Canadian who had lived in the United States, and desperately wanted to prove he was Canadian.

The other leader was a Canadian who lived here, but who desperately wanted to be an American.

The self-hater won. Happens a lot, in my experience.


  1. Halden says:

    He was always to hawkish for me but that is a well written piece that he should have written and spoke in the campaign.

  2. Sean says:

    “Young Canadians know which way the world is going, and they want to be out there, at the heart of the action. They are thinking about what a good life looks like and they know a good life might take them beyond our borders.”

    – this is a cute thing to say, but it is absolute hokum. This is precisely the kind of out of touch nonsense that landed him in 3d place. Extremely few young Canadians are pondering academic careers abroad. Far more are getting drunk in their parents’ basements watching MMA.

    • Ted says:

      Who’s talking about academic careers.

      The reality is that for many careers, and more and more careers, travel and work abroad is already a reality, especially those who want to be leaders in business, and the younger generation look on this as an opportunity.

    • Richard says:

      What a strange thing to say. I think a comment like that says more about you than it does about the vaunted “future leaders of tomorrow.” He didn’t say an academic career, he said a good life has the possibility of becoming a citizen of the world. In my younger 20’s I spent a good deal of time pondering ideas like signing up for various UN missions and overseas election monitoring. I applied for a few such postings. I was never selected to live out the opportunity but would have loved the experience. I was far from the only one with such interests, and a few of my friends indeed were fortunate enough to get to go abroad and broaden their horizons.

    • Curtis in Calgary says:

      Hey there Sean. Sounds like you’re more a little threatened by academia and academics. (I suppose the Reformatory mind control propaganda doesn’t simply wear off on election day.). Not one word was written indicating that “… young Canadians are pondering academic careers abroad.” The closest phrase that might loosely be interpreted as such is “… a summer teaching English in Tanzania …”. That is quantitatively and qualitatively different.

    • Sean says:

      uh huh… David Frum announces this summer that he is going to run for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. I expect Ted, Richard, Curtis and Craig will give him full throated support because of all his international experience. I expect you four guys to take out memberships, make donations, put up lawn signs. Surely all his international experience will be a great comfort to all those worrying about mortgages, student loans, pensions, job security etc.. Anyone who thinks this is a bad idea is xenophobic / quasi racist / anti ex pat / anti education. Are we missing anything?

    • Chris says:

      I know a dozen or more people just from my small town (pop 7000) that are working in foreign countries in mining, gas exploration, international development, teaching and trades.

    • Philippe says:

      Get your caveman head out of the gutter. Only a conservative orangutang can think that spending time abroad learning about the world is a bad thing. To hell with learning, science, evidence-based decisions… let’s hang in our village and tell the world what to do because we, and only we know what’s right and we are the chosen righteous ones. We are better at everything… to hell with them Tinkerbell Europeans – we have nothing to learn from them.

      Moron… It’s because of people like you we have the government we have that makes me embarrassed to be Canadian.

      • Sean says:

        uh huh…. did anyone actually say that “spending time abroad learning about the world is a bad thing”. I certainly didn’t. I only contend that most Canadian’s don’t give a shit.

        • The Doctor says:

          It doesn’t matter Sean. Philippe wanted to launch into an anti-conservative rant, and you just happened to be there.

          • Philippe says:

            So the Conservative spin-machine DIDN’T seek to convince Canadians of Igantieff’s “un-Canadian’ess” because he spent much time abroad? It makes so little sense that spending time out there in the world can be used against you as a potential leader (when it’s in fact an advantage as far as decision-making goes) but somehow that’s what the Conservatives convinced the Tim Hortons crowd of. It had a huge effect on the election – Canadians did give a shit. He spent time abroad = bad… he’s different and doesn’t understand us. The sad thing is that Igantieff was terrible at tackling the subject head-on and defending himself a la Obama. Instead of being hush-hush about his time abroad and appearing defensive about his loyalty to our country, he should have flaunted his internal experience as a great thing.

            There’s been a kind of isolationism coming from the Cons in the recent past… it’s similar to the Republican way of vilifying the way everyone else does things (try praising anything the French or Germans do as a US Presidential candidate… there goes any chance at election). It’s a disturbing trend and in my opinion based on a ton of ignorance. It plays well to a percentage of the electorate and the Cons maximize that to perfection. It appeals to the worst in people… but their anti-elitist acting gig will catch up to them sooner than later imho.

          • The Doctor says:

            I don’t really disagree with anything you say there. My main point is that if you want to engage in an anti-Conservative rant, you should go find a Conservative to rant at.

            Also, though, calling people’s patriotism or Canadianness into question is hardly the exclusive preserve of Conservatives. Lots of Liberals and Dippers accuse Harper of being a wannabe American, etc.

      • Raymond says:

        Orangutang? Don’t you mean ‘Orangutan’?

        Maybe people saw through the veneer of a man desperately trying to parachute into the big chair after a 1/3 century LOA from all things Canadian.

        • The Doctor says:

          I also note that in the Planet of the Apes movies (of which WK is a huge fan), the Orangutans are the intelligent apes in the leadership positions. You really should have selected the gorillas for your analogy . . .

  3. Bil Huk says:

    he knocked on more doors than i did, but most in my circle of contacts had a WIDE array of reasons why the Liberals didn’t get their vote. Sure, the imprinted ‘just visiting’ propaganda had an effect on some, but there’s been a 4 election negative tragectory to Liberal results that was merely continued by the Iggy led Liberals.

    Just visiting clearly got under his skin, but i think “they think you’re an american” was just the most at hand reason why some canadians didn’t vote liberal. If he had been in this country for 30 years, then it could have been “he’s too arrogant”.

    Could have things been different with a different leader? Sure. The better question is could have things been different if the same effort in finding the right leader was spent on grassroots and policy development.

    • The Doctor says:

      That was basically my reaction to WK’s post as well. I can totally appreciate why those ads bothered Ignatieff at a very personal level. I cringed every time I saw those ads, I found them so cheesy and distasteful. But the implication that they were THE reason, or even the primary reason, why the LPC got stomped in this election, is IMO off-base or at least unproven. There were so many other factors, and WK himself has written some good stuff lately about that. The LPC has been dead in the water from Western Ontario to Vancouver for some time now. That has nothing to do with “just visiting” ads. Those ads also had little if anything to do with the LPC’s relative weakness and lack of seats in Quebec. And the LPC had a consistent problem of clearly differentiating their basic policy stance from the CPC’s — to me, a classic example of this was the economic stimulus package.

      Of course we’ll never know how the LPC and Iggy would have fared sans the CPC attack ads. But hey, we’ll also never know how Stockwell Day might have fared without WK mocking him courtesy of the cute dinosaur doll, Stock ridinga SeaDoo and Rick Mercer’s Doris Day campaign either.

      • Cath says:

        I tend to fall into this camp also. We have to remember that neither Iggy or his advisors did little to debunk the definition the CPC war room created. It worked, in part.

      • Bil Huk says:

        doc has a good point on Stock. sorry for rhyming.

  4. Bil Huk says:

    “could have things”? Oie vey. Sorry

  5. Africon says:

    I have lived on 3 continents and feel richer for it.
    I made sure that my children experienced other cultures and countries to “complete their education”. A few months in Greece would do most Posties a world of good.
    The more Canadians that have some international experience ( aside from joining some G20 protest somewhere ) the better for our Country, imo.
    Curiously the one exception to this appears to be in the world of politics though not in Diplomacy.

    I do not think that Iggy lost only because of his life abroad but I do think that – “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war. ” John Lyly – could also be applied to Politics.
    He lost because his team let him down and because Apps is a doofus.

    • Lance says:

      He lost because his team let him down and because Apps is a doofus.

      Yeah, Apps is a doofus, but come on, stop making excuses for chrissakes. The leader bears SOME responsibility for his loss, don’t you think?

      There is nothing wrong with living life abroad, but to want to run the country after being gone for so long? What did he really know about us? He couldn’t personally identify with anything we’ve been through as a nation for the last 30 or so years; he simply wasn’t here to be able do that.

      I can understand a person immigrating to this country and not being able to identify with those experiences right away, or even ever. But the guy suddenly decided to come back because it potentially would have been a benifit to him, otherwise, he would have come back long before being offered the leadership of the Liberal Party. People could see right through that, just like a sieve. It was a huge credibility issue for him – THAT is why he lost.

      And as for this pap that our country is only better off if more Canadians go abroad, well, excuse me, that is just nonsense. There is more than enough here in Canada to impart a rich life experience, for us AND the country. People coming HERE is what makes our nation “better”, not the other way around.

      • Rob W says:

        “And as for this pap that our country is only better off if more Canadians go abroad, well, excuse me, that is just nonsense. There is more than enough here in Canada to impart a rich life experience, for us AND the country. People coming HERE is what makes our nation “better”, not the other way around.”

        That is complete hogwash! You are creating a false dichotomy. Why does it need to be one or the other? We, as a nation/country benefit by understanding our home and native land AND by learning about the world beyond our shores.

      • Africon says:

        I agree Lance that, of course, the leader does bear a lot of responsibility.
        I do not mean to say that there is not enough here to impart a rich life experience but I do think that by seeing how the rest of the world lives we can learn a lot and most of all appreciation for this country of ours.

  6. Joey Rapaport says:

    Interesting read… Even though I’m glad he lost the election, not glad he lost his seat… Parliament has lost, we need more smart people in government, not 19 year olds making 170k/yr at an ‘internship’…

    He wasn’t leadership material, but would be an asset in cabinet, Conservative or Liberal!

  7. Pedro says:

    We shall think deeply about MI after their essay.

  8. Merrill Smith says:

    “I was away a long time in Britain and the States, it’s true, but I kept coming back, writing for Canadian newspapers, broadcasting on the CBC, summers teaching at Banff, lectures everywhere, writing several books on Canadian themes. I kept my Canadian identity up to date, just as I kept renewing my passport.”

    Why didn’t he counter attack with this as soon as the attacks started? Why did he just let the Tories define him? I was never a great fan, but I’d rather have Ignatieff at 24 Sussex than the guy who’s there for another 4 years.

  9. TDotRome says:

    “Some won’t come home again, but others will, because they realize being away made them more Canadian, not less.”

    I feel like I’m fairly-well travelled, and this is about a true a statement that anyone can make. Too bad the unworldly citizens of our country don’t see that.

  10. Mandos says:

    I am a Canadian who has been for most of the past decade pursuing a (technological/scientific) professional path in the USA because the opportunities to do so in my field in Canada are very slim, partly because the government support required for the leading-edge things that I am trying do has become increasingly more slim, ironically, than American funding. I am, in the reasonably near future, due to move to Europe because the situation there is, again, oddly even better, for the time being.

    I can say that being in the USA has only strengthened rather than weakened my identity as a Canadian, and I say this as a child of immigrants who is largely not really favourable to nationalist feelings in general. Where I was indifferent to, e.g., the monarchy in Canada, I have come to appreciate some of its benefits. I remain philosophically opposed to hereditary political power symbolic or no, but living in the USA has shown me what not to replace it with, and what merits it has.

    I would like to move back to Canada if the kind of industrial and governmental support for the things I do returns, but especially under the oilarchy of Harper I am not holding my breath.

    • Pedro says:

      Get some education in history and politics Mandos.
      Especially if you believe that Mr. Harper has installed an ‘oilarchy’ (?).
      Was that a purposeful dis-spelling of the word?
      I would hope that your technological/scientific professional path demands strict spelling and grammar correctness.
      Otherwise our health is in some peril.
      Good luck outside of Canada.

      • Mandos says:

        I was intentionally using the neologism “oilarchy”. As in “oil-archy”. Would you have preferred “petro-sheikhdom”?

        BTW your comment about spelling and grammar correctness makes me laugh, because the scientific and engineering literature is rather poorly edited and the grammar and style are quite often execrable. This is particularly thus since much of it is written and edited by people who learned English as a second language and sometimes not very well.

    • Mandos says:

      I ain’t gonna give up my pseudonym so easily 🙂

      Very many areas of R&D started out government-supported, particularly the basic underlying research. Private investors are too-risk averse to do things that may have no payoff except for a small number of very large/monopolistic entities which are often government-protected/sanctioned directly or indirectly. The electronics industry grew up around MIT and the like—government grants all the way. A great deal of basic research in medicine/pharmaceuticals happens this way. Stanford and Berkeley lie at the heart of Silicon Valley. The whole country of Japan is a case in point. My own line of work is in an area that has an associated and lucrative industry, but there’s a lot of basic research that won’t happen without a government push. You don’t know what will stick that you throw against a wall. Perhaps someone will invent a cheap solar panel in Ontario, and we will reduce our dependence on finite naturally-occurring reservoirs of chemically stored energy… If they don’t elect Hudak.

      If you want a technological society, there is a role for government support. I will not use the word “taxpayer” because I will not succumb to the misconception about money and the purpose of taxes embedded in the language you use.

  11. Big Old Goofy Man says:

    The massive ego explains why he lost blaming everyone but himself.
    What’s with the rose?

  12. Bruce Marcille says:

    It hurt his feelings? Come on! This guy was drafted by Apps and his coterie and had no business in Canadian politics. What bothered this Canadian was not that he travelled and had spent most of his life abroad, it was that he returned to Canada (other than summer vacations) only to take the highest office in the country. Where was he during the language battles, the debates on wars and taxes, the constitutional battles, native and women’s rights?

    Personally, I am not a Chretien fan, but the man connected with Canadians. Ignattieff was like an organ transplant, and to expect the body politic to absorb it as its own was stupid of Apps and his henchmen.

  13. CQ says:

    Being Canadian is more than a document. Born and living throughout my entire life – bordering Ignatieff’s Etobicoke riding – I am ashamed and angry(!) every time that I find myself ignorant of significant real Canadian history in all varied matters! And it happens every damn year.
    There are already enough ex-pats living right here at home.

  14. dave says:

    How does a guy from Toronto become a Habs fan?

    (That’s the real question.)

  15. Mark in Ontario says:

    I have lived and worked for years on 5 continents. It was very enriching. I didn’t expect that when I came home Canadians would want to elect me to be their Prime Minister, though. I understand that to aspire to leadership, it takes years if not decades of patient preparation, and especially living in Canada among Canadians to truly understand my fellow Canadians and to earn their willingness to support me politically.

  16. Cromwell says:

    Iggy lost because he sucks. To prevent future disasters befalling the Liberal Party of Canada, the douchebags who convinced him that he was the new Liberal Messiah should have their party cards burned at a ritual humiliation ceremony and banished from membership for life.

    • allegra fortissima says:

      What a marvellous command of the English language, Cromwell! I am sure we’ll all enjoy your 1950’s philosophical comments on future posts…

  17. Rick says:

    Mike, you lost. And as leader, it is, first and foremost, your fault. Accept it.

    It’s an awful, myopic, stupid column, especially given the innate intelligence of the man writing it. He simply doesn’t seem to have the first idea why he lost.

  18. mrburnsns says:

    Growing up in the Maritimes I would argue that his time spent in the US and UK was a non-issue there. Bad roads and expensive plane tickets meant that most folks travelled to the U.S. rather than the rest of Canada. Our teachers, parents, cousins, friends and significant others were born in the States or had U.S. citizenship.

    I do agree with his point that living abroad really does reinforce how wonderful a place Canada is – and I can understand how badly the criticism would have stung. It would have been especially hard coming from the U.S. where it is often necessary to defend Canadian policy or practice on a frequent basis.

    I think there is no question being a “person of the world” helps when developing policy, but he would have been much better to serve as an opposition critic or minister for several years prior to running for the leadership. That would have at least eliminated some of the “carpet bagger” criticisms. However the larger problem in my opinion was his proximity to Conservative policy on almost everything else. Shades of grey is often valid policy, but he always seemed to be lecturing on why the status quo was a good idea, rather than representing change from CPC policy.

  19. allegra fortissima says:

    Oh Gord, do you really think Michael Ignatieff needs your pity? LOL… he doesn’t need any pity at all. The Liberals lost the election and guess what – the world doesn’t end. Mr. Ignatieff is back to his old profession as a university professor, and this is great for him and the many students who will be attending his classes and lectures. Spare us from your unctuous spit, Tulk, nobody is listening in any case.

    • Tiger says:

      Reply at the bottom.

      The agenda? Ignatieff wants history’s good judgment. Better to be the honourable victim of a treacherous attack than a hopelessly bad pol.

  20. Look in the mirror before you say things like that.

  21. “The other leader was a Canadian who lived here, but who desperately wanted to be an American.”

    Finally, someone said it.

    Thank you.

    • Welby says:

      Who had only been out of the country once before he became Prime Minister and approaches all foreign affairs matters from an ideological point of view

  22. Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    I just tried to upload the G & M article to my Facebook page and got this message “An error occurred with The Globe and Mail – Connect. Please try again later.” Obviously, a plot by the “Harper Government” to jam the airwaves and prevent further distribution of this great op-ed by the best PM we’ll never have. Hmmm…the makings of a conspiracy theory.

  23. Tiger says:

    @Gord: here’s the agenda — Ignatieff’s fighting for history’s judgment.

    Ignatieff doesn’t need our pity. He’s got a darned good job at U of T, can stay there as long as he likes, and probably could go back to the States if he wants (but probably won’t, because that will mean that “just visiting” was right, and he wouldn’t want to give the Tories that satisfaction).

    Anyway, the guy was just a bad politician — it was clear from his flopping around on the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 that Harper could beat him like a drum in a head-to-head election.

    Now he’s headed back to be an academy-based public intellectual, which is something he was very good at. If he can lose the bitterness (tough, that), he’ll be just as impressive as he was before the ill-fated political foray.

    Looking forward to the Peter Newman book, anyway.

    • The Doctor says:

      I agree with much of your post — although I think it’s difficult to determine just how “bad” a politician he was, because I think he also got a lot of bad advice from a LPC braintrust that was locked into a bit of a bubble mentality, and he had the bad fortune of inheriting a LPC that had a lot of serious problems. And that decision to trigger an election while 10 points back in the polls etc. was really stupid in that context (as WK has so well explained to us).

  24. Joe says:

    I’m glad Iggy learned of the world from first hand experience but did he learn anything of Canada from similar circumstances. My grandmother came to Canada in 1928 and by 1958 had lost the language of her youth. Should she have expected to go back to her home country and lead it?

  25. Tiger says:

    It’s interesting that Kinsella and Hebert both foresaw the possibility of a Liberal smash-up — fourth place, less than 40 seats. (The idea was Duceppe might be Leader of the Official Opposition again.)

    They didn’t see the Orange Wave coming in Quebec (few did!), but they saw what dangerous waters the Grits were heading into.

    I agree that structural factors were at play here, but I think the 2006 leadership race revealed significant weaknesses in Ignatieff the politician, and they just weren’t fixed. The two big tells, for me, were the Lebanon thing (be for it, be against it — either choice is defensible — but don’t be “not losing sleep” one day in English and talking of a “crime de guerre” the next in French), and the Quebec nation thing (which required Harper to come up with a double-talking resolution that was the present-day equivalent of “an independent Quebec in a united Canada”).

    Say what you will, the successful leaders are able to make a decision and make it stick. This will sometimes involve turning on a dime and breaking promises, but so be it — thinking of Chretien on the GST, Harper on income trusts, Trudeau on price controls. (Don’t necessarily _like_ the decisions, but the decisions were made, and that’s the point.) Ignatieff was more Martin-esque as leader, and it killed him.

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