Saturday, May 02, 2009

Oh Dear God, He Thinks He's Trudeau

Michael Ignatieff pulls most predictable Liberal card

In a speech at the Liberal party convention, Michael Ignatieff has taken to comparing himself to Pierre Trudeau.

Quelle Suprise.

The comparison of the Liberal leader of the day to the prototypical Liberal political myth has become so utterly predictable that one has to wonder if Canadians ever bother to take notice anymore.

"You have to indulge an old guy like me, but this is the feeling that I felt in 1968 at the great convention that chose Pierre Elliott Trudeau as our prime minister," Ignatieff crowed to an under-attended Liberal convention. "I had a feeling for the first time in my life that I wasn't a spectator, that I wasn't a bystander, that I was there, in my tiny way, making the history of my country. And this is what the Liberal party offers you, that sense, that belief, that faith, that together we make the history of this great country."

Funny that Michael Ignatieff would feel like more than a spectator at the Liberal convention at which he became leader. But the thousands of Liberals across Canada who just witnessed Ignatieff get amalgamated as leader without anything other than the preliminary pretences of a leadership campaign, it's likely that fewer Liberals share his sentiments than he would like Canadians to believe.

Ignatieff seems rather quick to overlook the fact that, unlike himself, Pierre Trudeau had to win the Liberal leadership. The 1968 convention he alludes to required no fewer than four ballots to elect Trudeau leader. Trudeau's leaderhsip was actually the most contested in Liberal party history.

Trudeau overcame Mitchell Sharp, Paul Hellyer, Robert Winters, Allan MacEachern, and Ernst Zundel (yes, that Ernst Zundel) to win the Liberal leadership.

Ignatieff's ascension to the leadership of the party, meanwhile, was abetted by the withdrawal of Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc from the leadership contest.

There's a world of difference between the two.

Even with the Liberal embrace of the one-member-one-vote system, Liberal leadership races will mean absolutely nothing in the absence of actual competition.

Ignatieff also falls far short of Trudeau on one other key count: Trudeau was unafraid to run and govern based on big ideas. As The Economist has previously noted Ignatieff has yet to take a stand on any particular issue that suggests that he stands for anything -- not even his own ideas.

It's far from shocking that Ignatieff would be so eager to hoist himself up to Trudeau's status. Trudeau's legacy -- for good or ill -- has been the Liberal party's most successful election tactic. The number of Liberals gutsy enough to try to identify Ignatieff as "the father of Canada" is equal parts bemusing and befuddling -- apparently they've entirely forgotten about a man by the name of Sir John A MacDonald.

Mythology has been the strong point of the Liberal party for decades. It's unsurprising that Ignatieff would ignore historical context to try to appeal to it now.

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