Sadly, the Liberals now have a leader who may be a stronger communicator than Dion but lacks all of that former leaders more human qualities. I have yet to see anything that persuades me that he represents an alternative to Harper. He is an ego bloated opportunist and a hawk. All international evidence of the moment would seem to indicate that the world could do with a few less hawks in the halls of power. The big issues facing the Reformacons under Maximus Steve are the budget and the economy. With the Munchkin of Finance set to table a new budget and set fiscal policy that will return us to massive deficits, it remains to be seen if Steve's cowardly vacation was enough to instill or kill confidence in his minority government.
The Liberal's reptilian new master has hedged his bets on the idea of the coalition, I for one would not support him as the leader of a coalition. He attained his leadership without a vote and while a coalition is a valid possibility in theory, I'd be loath to see Ignatieff named Prime Minister without facing the people in a proper election. My sense is that he sat on his hands and hung Dion out to dry when the momentum toward forming a coalition was building, to attempt to assemble one at this time would be a crass move. If the Liberals are going to defeat the Cons, then they had best be prepared to explain to the country why it is better to further suspend useful governance for the period of yet another expensive campaign.
"Canadians tell Liberals they want us to be ready to offer a smart, compassionate alternative to the Harper government when the time comes, whether it be now or later," he said.
And there be the rub. To my reckoning Ignatieff is certainly an alternative to a Dion or a Rae but not much of an alternative to Harper. The current crop of Liberals is salted with foetus fetishists and crackpots that see no wrong in Israel's murderous policies against the Palestinians. Ignatieff would have had us in the thick of things in Iraq had he been in charge at the time and his ruminations on torture are on the record. I'll grant he's smart but I contest the notion that his version of the Liberals represent either compassion or an alternative to Harper's Conservatives. Pulling the party to the right and declaring it the center makes them no more than the other side of the same coin.
Ignatieff might pretend to represent the interests of compassion but his own words betray him. In the January 5, 2003 edition of The New York Times Magazine, Ignatieff writes:
Iraq lays bare the realities of America's new role. Iraq itself is an imperial fiction cobbled together at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 by the French and the British and held together by force and violence since independence. Now an expansionist rights violator holds it together with terror. The United Nations lay dozing like a dog before the fire, happy to ignore Saddam, until an American president seized it by the scruff of the neck and made it bark. Multilateral solutions to the world's problems are all very well, but they have no teeth unless America bares it fangs.
Cue the trombones! I have sincere reservations that the great intellectual has honestly retreated from his imperialist leanings for any purpose other than that of personal ambition. We've had enough politicians willing to say anything they think will get them the power they crave. It was Ignatieff that corralled 23 other Libs to vote in support of extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan in 2006, earning him a handshake from Steve Harper.
Ignatieff is smart and ambitious to a fault. As the wheels of government prepare to start spinning once more, he is busy scheming the next steps in his ascension to power. I doubt very much that he will bring down Harper's minority in the absence of any glaring provocation in the budget. The clever politic is to leave Harper and Flaherty holding the bag for the ongoing multi-car pileup that is the economy.
Moreover, Liberal strategists see little upside to Ignatieff taking the reins of government at the start of what is promising to be a deep, severe recession. They'd rather let Harper take the blame for the economic pain.
Ignatieff did his part Sunday to ensure voters know who to blame.
"After a decade of Liberal surpluses, where are we? We're facing a deficit projection of $40 billion. This deficit is squarely Mr. Harper's responsibility," Ignatieff said in a brief, low-key speech to caucus.
"He spent us down to the red line in the good times and so we face the hard times . . . with the cupboard bare. This is his responsibility, not ours."
While that is all very clever on the part of Mr Ignatieff, it bears noting that he did not return to Canada until 2005, after a quarter century abroad. It hardly falls to him to claim that decade of surplus when he was living and working elsewhere and heavily engaged in the politics of foreign lands. Which in no way justifies the foolhardy behaviour of the Cons who slashed federal revenue streams and spent like drunks trying to buy votes. Harper is very much on the hook for his economic and policy failures but Iggy certainly has no right to pretend association with the economic successes of Prime Ministers Chretien or Martin.
"There is fear in the land. There's anxiety and worry in the land," he said.
Echoing the message that has worked well for president-elect Barack Obama in the United States, Ignatieff added: "We know the only antidote to fear is hope, and this party will be the party of hope for all Canadians."
There's fear all right, fear that there isn't a leader or a party worth endorsing. Fear that our politicians have climbed into bed with the lobbyists, industrialists and contractors and they either can't or won't climb back out. Fear that today's stewards of the land will not act with the courage necessary to stem the sacrifice of our environment on the altar of greed. Fear that power hungry ghouls like Harper and Ignatieff will spend the wealth, health and hope of Canadian folk to protect and secure the power and prosperity of the very bastards that threw the world's economies into turmoil. Fear that fear is what we will have to look forward to for the foreseeable future, where our families, homes and jobs are at permanent risk.
Mr Ignatieff and the current incarnation of the Liberal Party of Canada do not represent hope. They are the status quo in a red sweater instead of blue.
Ignatieff's refusal to be pinned down on the precise measures he wants to see in the budget drew a rebuke from the Prime Minister's Office. Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said premiers, business leaders and economists have all offered specific advice but "we're still waiting for concrete suggestions from the Liberals."
Everything old is new again. Singing songs about smart, compassionate alternatives is not the same as actually delivering something smart and compassionate. Borrowing the neighbour's slogan of hope is not the same as engendering same. Here's what I hope Mr Ignatieff, should the Harper government fall, you'd bloody well better not fuck things up any worse than they are. You'd bloody well better think twice about all your clever prattle in support of imperialism and coercive interrogation, wars of choice and wars against civilian populations. You'd bloody well better work your haughty tail off to earn our trust and shed what seems a fitting sobriquet, Michael the Bloody.