11.27.2011 01:00 AM

In today’s Sun: is the party over?

Peter C. Newman, having just been asked why Michael Ignatieff never became prime minister of Canada, muses.

“He was an impressive man,” says Newman, as he waits to go on to a Sun News talk show. “But he was the wrong man.”

The wrong man. That, in sum, is the verdict you are left with when you read — as I did, quickly — Newman’s impressive new book, When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada. Ignatieff was brilliant, erudite, accomplished and decent.

And, mostly, the wrong man.


  1. pomojen says:

    There’s a pit in my stomach after reading this. I wonder what will happen to Canada now that the centre is untended, unrepresented. It’s like the crown jewels of the country (medicare, charter rights, cpp, right to choose, equal marriage…) have been left on street corner and I’m watching from a window, wondering when they’ll be vandalized or stolen.

    Jesus, merge already you dumbasses,

    • Dan says:

      you do realize that medicare and the cpp were NDP/ccf policies. the charter was inspired by the first bill of rights passed in saskatchewan under tommy douglas.

      you should just be a new democrat.

      • pomojen says:

        I am. And I realize that. And that’s why I vote for them. Partly.

        It’s the empty space the Libs left behind that is worrisome to me. I also mourn the loss of the PCs. I don’t like extremes. And the jewels, no matter who crafted them, are still on the sidewalk. Felt like they were safer when the pendulum had a smaller range to swing in.

        So, I want them to merge. Because I am practical more than anything else and I see greater damage coming to this country if we don’t have a united progressive alternative.

        • Dan says:

          I sort of agree with you. I don’t think a two party system is good for the country, for so many reasons.

          Without the Liberals, we either have the corporate cash flowing into the conservative party assuring them of dominance, or we have the corporate cash flowing to the NDP corrupting them. The Liberals offer that avenue for Bay Street types who see no need for a more fair economy, but don’t agree with the racist/sexist/homophobic wing of the conservatives.

          We also end up with a do-nothing system. Especially if the conservatives have their way with the senate. Half the MPs say up, the other half say down, and the senate blocks whatever the decision is. coalitions are more likely to get things done, and represent the largest number of voters too.

          Ideally we’d have three or four parties, with proportional representation, plus a threshold of some kind to keep the real fringe elements out.

  2. Anne Peterson says:

    Brilliant, erudite, accomplished and decent. What a wonderful shock that would have been to Canadians. And we let ourselves be fooled with a bunch of propaganda. Smarten up everyone!

    • VH says:

      But we weren’t fooled by a “bunch of propaganda”.

      The Ignatieff experiment was arrogant beyond belief by both the inner circle of the Liberal party and by the man himself.

      First the idea that a few well connected insiders can see someone give a speech and then decide “we’ll make that guy the next PM” and actually believe that their will is enough is …. arrogant beyond belief. Apparently, they felt there was no need for the person to actually, you know, be a real politician or actually show the ability in the past to successfully fight for whatever it was they’re supposed to be fighting for.

      Second, someone who chooses to leave his own country and live in two other countries for most of his adult life and then believes that he out of the more than 30+ million people available is the best person to lead his home country is …. arrogant beyond belief. Apparently one doesn’t need to have lived with and understand the issues and people that one must lead when you’re “brilliant, erudite, accomplished and decent”, you can just catapult yourself into the highest positions of power based on your ability to debate with 20 something college grad students.

      Those are the facts. You can choose to ignore them but it’s not propaganda.

      • Cath says:

        What’s happened since then to begin to counter what Newman suggests? “Newman is kind to the Ignatieff loyalists — Ian Davey, Jill Fairbrother, Brad Davis, Mark Sakamoto, Alexis Levine — who helped propel Ignatieff into the Grit leader’s chair. They were passionate and full of ideas, he observes, and utterly devoted to their man.

        When Ignatieff cruelly dismissed most of them, Newman suggests, and replaced them with mercenaries — Peter Donolo, Pat Sorbara and others — he made a mistake. He should have stuck with the young people who got him to where he was.”

      • Jim Hanna says:

        It wasn’t “well connected insiders”; Ignatieff spoke at a Bienniel Liberal Party convention. And the Ignatieff that spoke at that convention was a real politician, and defined Liberal Party principles better than anyone I’ve ever heard personally before (or since). And if he stuck to that theme, he would have done a lot better. As for the rest; remember he didn’t come down from Harvard to run for leader; he left to run as an MP under a then Liberal government, where the best he could have hoped for would be to be a cabinet minister (where he could have done his time)…as fate would have it the opportunity to run for leader came sooner than anyone had expected. And even then he lost, the first time.

        As for why he came back, I’ll give you this: he needed to give people a better reason; he needed to be passionate – he needed to be a lot like the guy I saw at that convention.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      I have the greatest respect for Mr. Ignatieff…..but I have to tell you, having heard him speak a number of times live, and a number of times on tv and online, I always came away underwhelmed….A speaker should have the ability to inspire, as M. Chretien did with his folksy appeal, and with a passion that was palpable. I feel the same way about Mr. Rae, who has the same ability to connect with his audience. Mr. Ignatieff, despite his brilliance, erudition, accomplishments, and decency, unfortunately fell short in this regard, imho.

      • Dan says:

        there’s really nothing inspiring about “empire lite” and “the lesser evil”. unless you count all the people he inspired to join the new democrats.

  3. smelter rat says:

    Unfortunately, Canadians elected the wrong man. In spades.

  4. CQ says:

    Impressive? He talks the talk upon others rather than walks the walk from his own. And not so very well to judge by his parachuted riding & party leadership election failure.

  5. Brammer says:

    @pomojen – I agree completely.

    The Cons and Dippers are going to be pre-occupied with out-centering the other. More of the status quo.

    We need a complete re-boot from the ground up. Be bold, take chances, have a vision, walk the grass-roots talk by making convention resolutions binding on the party. Let’s elect the leader by popular member vote, hell, let the general public vote on it too. Con attack ads against a populist leader would amount to attacking Canadians. Stark contrast to the bullseye of the Ignatieff coronation.

    We have many Canadian institutions to be proud of, and the Liberal party has nothing to lose.

    • Jim Hanna says:

      We can move toward making convention resolutions more binding on the party, and caucus, and I think we should open up party nominations even to open primaries; but having the party leader elected by a primary process just hastens the centralization of power that is a root cause of the alienation the public has been facing; a move that will make party membership itself rather unimportant; and, with the other two initiatives (candidate nominations and resolutions) risk an inevitable power struggle that may render the party completely unfit to govern…

  6. ed_finnerty says:

    He supported the Iraq war. The LPC should have known that nominating him would aleinate a large part of the base. Own goal and suicide.

    Good bye LPC

    • Ken says:

      No one gives a flying frack about that. I’ve never been an Iggy fan, but Iraq was simply not an issue for any of my fellow non-Iggy fans that I’ve ever heard. Not much of an issue for the rest of the country, either: they elected Harper.

      • Dan says:

        note that harper’s vote increased by one percent against ignatieff.

        the new democrats were the main beneficiaries of this moron. the amount of activism for new democrats increased as his star rose. the best thing for the new democrats is if the Liberals picked another guy who agreed with harper.

      • Kevin_B says:

        I don’t agree. It was evidence of bad judgement.

  7. Michael Bussiere says:

    The party was neglected under Chretien. I paid my annual dues, and never so much as received a membership card. The only time I heard from anybody was when the Martin people started to badger me for support. No contact = loss of participation.

    That being said, a huge shift towards greater engagement occurred under Ignatieff. Pay attention LPC, it’s not just about winning elections, it’s about being an active and engaged membership who will donate, get out and work, and feel like a part of the greater whole. That being said, I don’t buy the obit piece by Newman.

    • barry says:

      In a recent news article, LPC president Apps was appealing to disaffected grassroots Liberal party members to return and save the party in a “now or never” appeal. Is the LPC still a going concern?

      Seems like the only people on board the S.S. Liberal is the officers while the crew have abandoned ship. Must be difficult for interim Captain Rae to man the ship with a skeleton crew, and if he abandons the ship that will most certainly be it’s final demise.

      I don’t think Apps can entice past federal Liberal supporters to return with scare tactics. What is required is a complete renovation, and even then the final results are dubious, sorry to say.

  8. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    As someone who once belonged to the CPC, I do understand that the LPOC, from a party structure standpoint, does need to do things differently. I do, however feel that the ideas of the Liberal Party are what has made Canada the country the best place on earth to live, warts and all. I want to see everyone in this country progress, and I certainly dont see it happening with the CPC, whose members, by and large, want to see Canada return to the 1950’s. A great time if you were white, male and straight……..not so hot if you were a woman, aboriginal or gay……

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      The GLBT community certainly didnt vote for Mr. Harper……..Van Centre…..Liberal…….Toronto Centre….Liberal. You know as well as I Mr. Tulk that programs and policies that do not sit well with your party’s agenda are gone or will soon be on the chopping block….gun registry….gone…….Canadian wheat board…..gone……core funding for womens rights/equality groups……gone…….funding for Toronto and Vancouver’s Pride Parades……gone……..
      Kelowna Accord with First Nations…….gone…….
      Cutbacks in funding for research on climate change, and ozone depletion, and large cutbacks at the Ministry of the Environment and Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans …..and as has been discussed ad nauseum on this fine forum …….I suspect abortion and same sex marriage will be on the block soon enough too…….through private members bills and “starving the beast”…….Anything and everything that offends the sensibilities of the Fundamentalist religious right(those who really run the show in the CPC) will be attacked soon enough……

  9. Chris says:

    From TSN:

    Related to the Grey Cup “Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Official Opposition interim leader Nycole Turmel are both in the sell-out stands of about 54,000 people to watch the game.”

    Where is the Liberal Party Representation?

    • Chris says:

      Crap I eat my words – Evidently Mr. Rae was doing something important for democracy

      Liberal Leader Bob Rae co-chaired the National Democratic Institute observer mission in Morocco to supervise that country’s November 25, 2011 Parliamentary elections.

    • CQ says:

      Toronto Elite doesn’t believe in sport. That’s why the local U of T football team went 2-78 between ’98 & ’07, why the Leafs had missed six straight seasons’ playoffs, and why the Raptors, FC, and Blue Jays are each hapless. I’m more happy watching a non-simucast U.S. movie starring Matt Damon, and The Amazing Race 19, on CTV Toronto instead than that night-time football game on TSN.

    • smelter rat says:

      Hopefully in Ottawa working.

  10. barry says:

    I believe Ignatieff departed bitterly with that exact same sentiment….the LPC let him down.

  11. barry says:

    Newman’s book could have also be entitled “No Hope – the Final Demise of the Liberal Party of Canada”.

    They say in politics, once you are on a downward slide it’s near impossible to reverse the bad momentum. The West is gone, Ontario is going, Quebec has gone whacko, and the Maritimes are insignificant.

    The challenge for the LPC faithful is how can they be resurrected, and quickly because the NDP and CPC will do everything in their power to grind the remnants into dust.

    Big name Liberals fled for the corporate boardrooms and will never return to the federal fold. What is left is extremely meager.

    Liberals like Kinsella fled the federals and joined the provincials, where there was hope. Will it be up to Liberal provincial politicians to resurrect the LPC, or are they satisfied with Harper at the helm?

  12. Mandos says:

    This is just a symptom of the larger crashing and burning of the neoliberal paradigm, which was to paper over the contradictions and the real conflicts in global society. Something that had worked very well for the Liberals in the Chretien years, but isn’t working any more anywhere else. From now on, it is going to be about class conflict and choosing sides. Until you can tell us what side of the 1% or the 99% Liberals are going to be, there’s no point. The centre died 2-3 decades ago, it’s just taken this long for Canada to notice.

  13. Tiger says:

    Ignatieff was the wrong fit for the Liberals as leader. Maybe he could have been their Minister of Foreign Affairs. But his ideas cut against the views of the base of the party, and trying to straddle this divide made him look weak and directionless.

    I think he’d have done better as a maverick member of the Tories — again, for Foreign Affairs.

    As for the Liberals’ structural problems — they’re very real, but Chretien did win majorities even after they had all manifested themselves.

    Take the 2000 election: 51.5% of the vote in Ontario, to 38% for the combined PC and CA vote (23.6% CA + 14.4% PC) and 8.3% for the NDP.

    That’s not a trivial win.

    1997 in ON: 49.5% LPC, 37.9% combined C, 10.7% NDP.
    1993 in ON: 52.9% LPC, 37.7% combined C, 6.0% NDP.

    Granted, Chretien’s majorities came from him being able to win 99% of the seats in Ontario rather than the 75% he’d’ve won without a split right. (Seat-counts much like what the CPC just won in Ontario in 2011.) But a win’s a win — these would have been Liberal governments all the same.

    It wasn’t inevitable that the Liberals would crash and burn when the right united — it took some bad Liberal leadership and some very smart moves by the current prime minister.

  14. Jay says:

    Libs cannot recover.


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