“My leader? My leader?”
The person who kept trying to get Michael Ignatieff’s attention in this, let’s call it, unique way hadn’t been chosen as a Liberal candidate in a heavily Jewish riding yet.
Still, there was nothing this person would have loved more than to carry the banner for the Canada’s Natural Governing Party even as the Liberals hurtled toward what would become their worst election result ever in 2011.
Now, while these days, Michael Ignatieff is spoken of with revulsion if at all, I actually think that’s unfair. Ignatieff’s problem was that he was painfully unsuited for the pageantry of Canadian electoral politics. As leader, he was ultimately responsible for what happened, but someone must have convinced him that after Stephane Dion’s turn at the helm, anyone who could string a sentence together in English would wipe the floor with Stephen Harper.
Well, I’d finished watching his speech. He wasn’t wiping the floor with anything but his own sweat, but he was trying, with his shoulders pumping up and down as he tried to force as much enthusiasm as possible into his voice, with his arms flailing like a wacky waving inflatable tube man.
And if there was anything lacking in Ignatieff’s performance, he wouldn’t have known it from the tent full of amped-up Liberals. These were deep red Kool-Aid drinkers, who had driven in from all over the Greater Toronto Area and would, I suspected, have crawled across boiling concrete covered with broken glass to be here. For them, any criticism, any questioning of the Liberal Party was—and still is—not just harmful, but dangerous.
So, I did not call him “My Leader”, but instead, a respectful “Mr. Ignatieff,” as I proceeded to spend the next five minutes trying to get him to explain why I should vote for him and his party. (At no point did any tour director or minder whisk him away, by the way, as would’ve probably happened if it was Trudeau.)
Would he commit to a clear position on the Middle East, or on anything, other than “Stephen Harper is the worst”?
Reader, he would not.
I haven’t written a lot about the Liberals this campaign. I thought I would have a lot more to say about them. I legitimately thought they were going to put forward some wildly left-leaning policy proposal—defunding the RCMP, for example—and that Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives would shout themselves hoarse about how the Liberals were engaging in the dreaded “identity politics.”
That hasn’t happened. Instead, it should be obvious to you why voting for anything other than the Liberals is a bad idea—because the other parties are bad, and the Liberals are, by process of elimination, good.
This isn’t what Liberals usually do. To be honest, this feels more like what the Conservatives usually do. More to the point, this is how Conservatives usually talk about Justin Trudeau. “Oooooh, how I hate him with his socks and his fake feminism and his taxes. I can’t imagine anyone voting for him!”
Now—Justin Trudeau is not Michael Ignatieff. If anyone could win a campaign based on “Erin O’Toole will turn Canada into The Republic of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale,” it’s him.
And, I can already hear the marshalling of the Liberal forces, ready to demand why that isn’t enough for me. But maybe, just maybe, one of them will leave a Facebook comment on this article giving one good reason why the Liberals are the best choice, on the party’s own merits.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.
LISTEN to the first 18-minute election episode of The CJN’s podcast Bonjour Chai