The popular columnist, Chantal Hébert, writing for the Toronto Star says, “To follow the 2011 Liberal election campaign has been like watching a plane crash in slow motion.” She, like myself and so many others, are bewildered that Michael Ignatieff and his strategists deliberately chose the timing of the election, and brought this debacle upon themselves—clearly and un-forced error on their part.
Ms. Hébert writes, “Michael Ignatieff and his strategists chose the timing of this battle as long as six months ago.” And according to her, “Even from the sidelines, it [Liberal election campaign] has become a stomach-churning experience.”
I’ve seen classic miscalculations by politicians in the past—do you recall David Peterson’s snap election in Ontario, less than three years into his mandate—but Ignatieff forcing this election has the potential to be a Canadian political party leader’s greatest mistake.
And, apparently, Mr. Ignatieff still has not learned.
In a last-minute effort to salvage some degree of respectability for his legacy, he’s turned to former prime ministers, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Ignatieff wasn’t in Canada during their terms in office, so perhaps he can be forgiven not knowing Chrétien and Martin were not nearly as popular with Canadian voters as he thinks.
In 1997, Chrétien barely won a majority with only 38.4 per cent of the popular vote and almost lost his own seat—and depended on the divided-right to win that and his last majority in 2000. As to Paul Martin, he did even worse in 2004 when he won just 36.7 per cent of the popular vote and lost the Liberal majority, ending up with only 135 seats.
But I suppose, to Liberals, Chrétien and Martin are heroes, notwithstanding their party’s involvement—during their term as leader and finance minister respectively—in the most egregious money scandal in Canadian political history. To most Canadians, “AdScam” remains a dirty word that defines the worst in Canadian politics.
But the Grits are forgiving souls. Remember Beryl Wajsman? He was one of 10 people “banned for life” by Paul Martin for being linked to the sponsorship scandal. By 2009, Maclean’s was reporting that Wajsman was, apparently, forgiven and was once again in the Liberal party. Wow, 2005 to 2009, must be the shortest lifetime ban in history!
Wajsman is so thoroughly forgiven, he has even consulted on policy issues and speechwriting for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. According to the Maclean’s story:
“He’s [Wajsman] an influential guy, and has been very helpful in re-cementing some of those old ties, within the Montreal Jewish community but also with labour and community leaders. He is one of many organizers and opinion influencers who Michael [Ignatieff] has successfully wooed back and is helping get it back together.”
But I digress.
Throughout this election campaign, media pundits at CBC and CTV and in Toronto newspapers have gone to great lengths to tell us how well the Liberal leader has been doing. Chantal Hébert—even as she endures her self-described “stomach-churning experience” watching the Liberal campaign—tells us:
“His [Ignatieff’s] campaign has been a model of discipline and relative grace under duress.” and that Ignatieff “has turned out to be at least twice the campaigner that his predecessor [Stéphane Dion] was.”
This is the kind of cheerleading from the mainstream media I find so offensive. You hear this sort of praise for Ignatieff’s election effort repeatedly on the news networks. But it flies in the face of the polls. How can a campaign be well run if it doesn’t resonate with voters—this has to be some sort of oxymoron. Simply put, if a campaign fails to meet its objectives, surely it cannot be termed a well run campaign.
The Liberal campaign run by Michael Ignatieff is looking more and more like an unmitigated disaster, with no highpoints at all. As Hébert aptly puts it, “They [Liberals] approached the election with the mindset of a governing party but the physique of a third party.”
To conclude, I leave you with these warm words from Chantal Hébert, “For the Liberals, things could still get worse.”