View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Michael Ignatieff Fight or Fly? – Cornwall Ontario – June 11, 2010

Cornwall On – Michael Ignatieff is faced with some pretty tough choices over the next few weeks, but they can be summed up by fight or flight. Either way, in the short term it will significantly cripple the Liberal Party’s ability to take on the Conservative government.

Yesterday’s affidavit by Warren Kinsella will bring some of the bloodletting into the open. For someone such as myself, who fought a united and strong Liberal party for so many years, it was fascinating to watch it unravel on the CBC last night.

There was Kinsella’s affidavit and as the show progressed a second one came in from another Liberal and Al Apps the Liberal Party President was trying to counter them through emails to the host. This is indeed the age of instant communications.

Clearly Liberals have not learnt anything from the Conservative experience as we spent years engaged in this type of internal warfare. It got us precisely where they are now, in Opposition.

The coronation of Ignatieff when he replaced Dion is at the heart of the matter. There was so much media hype about what a great leader Ignatieff would be that no one could possibly live up to it. Not unlike the hype surrounding Obama.

It would have been better for the party to have had a decisive leadership campaign and have one person emerge as a clear winner. Many of those party members who supported Rae must have felt cheated out of what they saw was theirs to win, namely the leader’s crown and the perks and rewards that go with it.

Ignatieff must now decide what he will do. Contrary to the phony public relations exercise where Ignatieff had Leblanc and Rae at his side (better to see the knives), there is clearly a campaign on to destabilize his leadership. Caucus revolts over immigration, Rae’s public musing about a coalition, Rae’s comments in Afghanistan etc are the most visible symptoms.

At times like this the Leader’s office takes on a bunker mentality as the staff circle the wagons to protect the leader. This always becomes a negative for the incumbent who begins to see enemies everywhere, and ends up trusting only his own instincts and rarely seeks or accepts the opinions of others. Caucus leaks, public musings by high profile party members also telegraph to the public that this leader and his party are not ready to govern.

If Ignatieff decides to fight he has a few weapons at his disposal. He can shuffle his shadow cabinet so that his critic’s profiles are reduced. He can move MPs he distrusts into the farthest reaches of the Commons, well out of camera range and he can reduce their Question Period profile to zero. That won’t stop the back stabbing though nor the leaks or whispered off the record comments from caucus to the media.

And of course he can also say to hell with this nonsense and go back to Harvard. But he has an ego and I don’t see that happening in the short term. No matter what he decides to do, he would be wise to wear a steel jacket to deflect the knives of his so called friends. Et tu Brute?

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.


  1. He could forestall “Et tu Brute” and adopt the Roman solution by falling on his own sword. And the idiots who brought, backed, and installed him could follow suit. Clearing the way for the LPC to start over with people of sound judgment who are in touch with the real world.

  2. Ignatieff is an idiot and needs to go, just like McGuinty! He’s playing games with our politics just as bad as Harper is. And this is all on the backs of Canadian society. I am really not impressed with the last few years in politics since Harper took over. Its all finger pointing and such. And Im sick of it.

    Hmmmmmm… Music to my ears this article,

  3. PJR, unfortunately as evidenced in the last party leader election for the Liberals, there are obviously NO people of sound judgement who are in touch with the real world in the Liberal Party!

  4. If Michael Ignatieff did return to Harvard a fresh breeze might blow through Canadian politics – a number of us would have an alternative to our current political thinking: “Do I vote NDP, or should I go Green?”

  5. Stan, I wouldn’t go that far. On the other hand, nobody can deny that the hare-brained Conservatives continue to spend Canadians deeper into debt with their comical efforts to showcase Canada to the world. And Mr. “Accountability” Harper doesn’t care.

  6. You always have an alternative……vote Conservative!

  7. Murray Dobbins (Canada’s Deepening Crisis in Democracy – suggests a coalition government, one that is actually planned by Liberals and NDP (maybe the Bloc would want in?) before the election, in which there would be agreements on issues that would lend to such a coalition’s confidence and cohesion (unlike the last debacle). Neither the Liberals nor the NDP seem able do it alone.

  8. I personally can’t see the NDP and Liberals ever merging. It just doesn’t make any sense. I can see a coalition; 100%, and if that’s what it takes to retire Stephen Harper the sooner the better.

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