April 24, 2011 | 4 Comments
All week, I’ve been looking forward to today for two reasons. First and above all, today is Easter Sunday. It is the day that makes me a Christian. Our belief in the resurrection is largely what distinguishes Christianity from other faith traditions. And so, on this day, I celebrate and rejoice. (And I get to stuff my face with good food and tasty treats.)
The second reason why I’ve been looking forward to today with so much enthusiasm is relatively much less significant but still important: today the Liberal Party aired its long-anticipated and highly-promoted television special called Michael Ignatieff’s Town Hall for Canada. It is a 30-minute infomercial on Michael Ignatieff featuring interviews, personal reflections, and clips from partisan rallies.
I tuned in with high expectations. Truth be told, I expected to love it. And I did. It was outstanding.
The television special was designed to highlight the very best attributes of the Liberal leader: his intellect, his moving oratory, his nuanced views, his compassion, and his conviction about what makes Canada great and what can make Canada even better.
On the technical side, the production was masterfully designed, skillfully edited, and wrapped up in the tightest little package the Liberal Party could hope for as it kicks off the final leg of this election campaign.
But something troubled me about the 30-minute video. In fact, I was deeply troubled.
At about 26:10 of the video, Michael Ignatieff makes his summation, his final argument to the Canadian people about why he would make the best prime minister:
I’ve not been a career politician. Mr. Harper’s done nothing else but be a career politician all his life. Jack Layton’s been a career politician all his life. I’m not a career politician.
And so begins what Michael Ignatieff believes is the most compelling reason why we should choose him. It is what he and his team see as the home run, as the winning argument for voting Liberal: career politicians are bad for democracy; career politicians don’t bring new ideas to government; career politicians are beholden to entrenched interests; career politicians are bad for Canada; vote for me because I am not a career politician.
But far from being the best argument for the Ignatieff candidacy, this is actually the very worst argument the modern Liberal Party could ever make. Because by denigrating the Stephen Harper and Jack Layton’s respective careers as longstanding public servants, Michael Ignatieff is likewise firing a shot at the bow of Jean Chretien, himself also a career politician who led the Liberal Party to great electoral heights since unseen in Canadian politics.
Chretien spent over four decades in elected office. He was first elected to the House of Commons at age 29, then became a junior minister in his early 30s, rose to the full Cabinet by his mid-30s, won the Liberal leadership in 1990, and later served as prime minister for over a decade. So if anyone can be labelled a career politician it is Jean Chretien.
Now back to Michael Ignatieff’s piercing criticism of career politicians during today’s Town Hall for Canada.
One of two things must be true.
Either Michael Ignatieff believes he’ll make a better prime minister than Jean Chretien by virtue of the fact that Chretien was a career politician and Ignatieff is not.
Or the Liberal team somehow did not make the connection between Jean Chretien’s vaunted service to Canada for over four decades and Ignatieff’s derisory comments about Harper and Layton’s long respective careers in politics.
I’m not sure which mistake is worse.