Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tories Get Ignatieff's Man

Chris Alexander spurns Liberals to join Conservatives

Michael Ignatieff wanted him. Michael Ignatieff didn't get him.

In what comes as close to a blockbuster announcement in Canadian politics as any, Chris Alexander, Canada's former Ambassador to Afghanistan, has rejected an offer to run for the Liberal party in favour of joining the Conservative party and contesting the Tory nomination in Ajax-Pickering.

Should he successfully secure that riding's nomination he will face off against Liberal MP Mark Holland -- an individual who, for a time, seemed to aspire to claim the long-dormant mantle of Jack Pickersgill.

When Holland fought the 2008 federal election against Conservative candidate Rick Johnson in that riding, he won with 44.3% of the votes in that riding. Johnson claimed 37.8%.

In other words, that riding is within striking distance for the Conservative party -- particularly for a dynamic young man who, at age 34, was named Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan (by a Liberal government nonetheless, which must be adding some sting to Alexander's rebuff) where he reputedly decided Canadian policy while touring in an open Jeep.

If that sounds disimilar from Stephen Harper bunkering down in the Afghan hills with Canadian special forces during his visit to Afghanistan, it shouldn't.

Considering that policy on Afghanistan seemed to be the sticking point between Alexander and Ignatieff -- Ignatieff is said to have concluded his meeting with Alexander by declaring that the Liberal party would end Canada's combat mission in 2011 -- one may think that Alexander's decision is a little odd, considering that the Conservatives are also committed to ending Canada's combat mission in that year.

But Kelly McParland may have the missing link, so to speak. He notes a recent policy speech given by Ignatieff.

"Our Canada will play a role in Afghanistan after 2011," Ignatieff told the Canadian Club. "A different role focusing on a humanitarian commitment to help rebuild the country and strengthen hard-won gains."

McParland notes that perhaps Ignatieff's seeming insistence that Canadian humanitarian workers would remain in Afghanistan without Canadian military protection worried Alexander -- as well it should.

Then again, Peter MacKay has also made some comments that suggest Canada may remain active in Afghanistan after 2011. Like Michael Ignatieff, he isn't tipping his hand any more than he seems to think he needs to.

Which leads one to wonder if Alexander knows something about the Conservative party's plans for Afghanistan than the Canadian public does.

Either way, Alexander's decision is great news for the Conservative party. Foreign policy is sorely lacking in the Conservative party, and with Dr Eric Hoskins settling into a new role in Ontario's Queen's Park, the foreign policy-star candidate field in the next election has just made some room for him.

Then again, as Sue-Ann Levy's experience shows, being a star candidate isn't necessarily enough in urban Ontario.

In the meantime, Michael Ignatieff will have to contend with an influential new rival in regards to foreign policy and, in particular, Afghanistan.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

The Liberal Scarf - "Tory Secret Agenda on Afghanistan?"

Yaya Canada - "Whiz Kid Warrior"

From the archives:

November 26, 2008 - "Stop the Double Talk on Afghanistan"

September 17, 2008 - "Tory Eyes Blind to the World Outside?"

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