Liberal Meme Watch

Liberal Meme: Stephen Harper is not the internationalist that Michael Ignatieff is, the latter more worldly, well-traveled and well-lettered. Stephen Harper has tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage through a style that eschews Canada’s traditional “nuanced” approach and “honest-broker” status.

Today’s sighting of this Liberal meme: Susan Delacourt’s blog

Susan Delacourt publishes screenshots from the UN webcast and CTV newsnet that show the differences between the audiences that Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the President of Switzerland received at the UN. As you can see from Delacourt’s blog, PM Harper’s speech wasn’t very well attended while Obama’s speech and that of the Swiss President were packed.

You see, as the tipster (one presumes) that sent Susan the screenshots would argue, Michael Ignatieff would have packed the house and could convince the world to welcome Canada back to the the cocktail parties in midtown Manhattan!

However, the presumed tipster neglected to send other screenshots of the audiences received by other leaders. These pictures would have helped put things in more context:


China – a permanent member of the UN security council and most populous nation


Iraq – certainly the focus of much international attention over the past few years


Malawi – larger audience. Why? Switzerland preceded Obama’s speech and Malawi followed it. (delegates were probably still gathering their briefcases before ditching the Malawi speech)

So the audience sizes are more related to the ability of the US to draw a crowd. Isn’t context important? If Canada was snubbed, was China snubbed, was Iraq snubbed?

Most notable previous use of the media to falsely push this Liberal meme: Stephen Harper snubbed at the White House! (do check out the link)

You can almost sense the Ignatieff envy.

Senior Liberal compares Harper government policy to Nazi collaboration

Ron McKinnon is a former Liberal candidate and is the current Liberal President of the Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam Federal Liberal Association. He wrote this on his blog yesterday:

This week the Harper government revealed plans for dealing with refugee vessels, citing concerns of human smuggling and trafficking.

In this vein they want to work more closely with foreign governments to stop those boats at the source. But, since we’re talking about refugees who, by definition, are fleeing persecution, such sources are arguably the very governments they’re fleeing. This brave new policy is sordidly familiar, akin to collaborating with the Nazis to stop the flight of Jews.

Does Michael Ignatieff condone these remarks from this senior Liberal?

Mario Laguë

A terribly sad day in Ottawa. Michael Ignatieff’s Director of Communications died this morning in a motorcycle accident. Here are the statements from the party leaders. I met Laguë once. There was a kindness and quiet about him. My thoughts are with his family.

Michael Ignatieff:

“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning that our Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Ottawa.

“A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal advisor to me and the entire Liberal team. A man of great integrity and spirit, Mario served his country in many capacities with honour and dignity. Whether as a public servant under Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, Ambassador to Costa Rica or in his most cherished role as a husband and father, Mario brought a bright light to everything he did.

“While we will miss Mario’s extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary caucus, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, loved ones and the many, many friends and colleagues that knew him.”

Stephen Harper:

“I was very saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing today of Mario Laguė, Director of Communications for the Leader of the Opposition.

“Throughout a varied and distinguished career, Mr. Laguė served his country with dedication both in Canada and abroad. His numerous roles included serving as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Director of Communications, as Quebec’s Delegate in Venezuela and in Mexico, as Canada’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, and as Assistant Secretary to Cabinet – Communications and Consultations in the Privy Council Office.

“Mr. Laguė will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally and who worked with him throughout his career. His devotion and service to his country are his legacy.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of grief.”

Jack Layton:

I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the sudden death of Mario Laguë, Director of Communications to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. On behalf of all New Democrats, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Laguë’s family, friends and colleagues.

Beneath the political fault lines that we find ourselves negotiating each day, there is a foundation of deep respect among those who devote their lives to public service. No matter what political stripes we may wear, we all feel this loss profoundly.

Mr. Laguë was a man of gentle strength who devoted decades to building a better country. We admire the consistent integrity he brought to his work, whether he was advising a Quebec premier or Canadian prime minister, or representing us all overseas as a Canadian ambassador.

We reserve a special place in our hearts today for Mr. Lague’s wife and two children. I know so well that a political career is always a full-family endeavor. They too have given much. And as we mourn with them today, we do so as extended family.

In case Liberals have short memories on their own remarks re: Helena Guergis

Today, former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis revealed that the RCMP has cleared her of any wrongdoing in their investigation of her. The investigation was said to begin after the Prime Minister’s Office referred information that it had obtained to that arms-length agency. After referral the RCMP decided to initiate the investigation, it now seems that they have cleared Ms. Guergis.

For their part, the Conservatives say that the issue of writing a letter on behalf of a constituent with possible business connections to her husband still looms and is under review by the Ethics Commissioner.

Up until her ouster from cabinet by the Prime Minister and investigation by the RCMP, Ms. Guergis had a string of bad news events which raised questions from the Opposition about her competency and ability to represent Canadians in cabinet.

When she was ejected from cabinet and kicked out of caucus, the Opposition took an about-face to demand why she had been removed. Now that she has been cleared by the RCMP, expect this line from the Liberals and NDP to be renewed.

Despite her being cleared by the RCMP, the PMO says that Ms. Guergis is still not welcome back in caucus. If the Liberals take her into their own ranks, will it reek of hypocrisy? The following comments were made before the RCMP investigation was announced. Does Guergis have the confidence of Michael Ignatieff?

The latest EKOS poll

Big news today in Ottawa is the new Governor General appointee and the EKOS poll showing Liberals flirting within 0.3% of their worst polling result in recent history. At 23.9% the Liberal Party of Canada has no fared so poorly since December 4th, 2008 when the country put the Conservatives into the Canadian polling stratosphere as Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe tried their bid for a coalition government.

The coalition attempt was a dark time for the Liberal Party, a once mighty Canadian political institution now reduced to banding together with socialists and separatists in an attempt to remove their unpopular leader while gaining power at the same time.

Stephane Dion never led a non-coalesced Liberal Party so unpopular as the current Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff if these latest numbers are to be believed. Dion was never believable as a Prime Minister but he was a likable fellow. Unfortunately for Michael Ignatieff, one can see him as Prime Ministerial, however he’s not very likable. In a conversation with a senior Liberal last year, it was explained to me that Ignatieff suffers a sincerity gap. Is he believable? Does he fight for things he believes in? What is it that he believes in?

Here’s the breakdown of the EKOS poll:
CPC 34.4%
LPC 23.9%
NDP 17.9%

This is the lowest level of support that I can remember for the Liberals during a non-event. Indeed, these numbers come in after the G20 where Michael Ignatieff was MIA as a political leader in reaction to events.

If we take a closer look at the numbers too, we learn that they might actually be skewed against the Conservatives.

The EKOS poll’s polling sample included
404 French speaking (31% of weighted sample)
1312 English speaking (69% of weighted sample)

Out of Canada’s, only about 21% are francophone (of population).

EKOS’ poll finds support for Conservatives to be lacking among francophones:

CPC support
English speaking 36.3%
French speaking 13.5%

LPC support
English speaking 30.6%
French speaking 18.5%

If francophones were over-represented in EKOS’ sample, is the news worse for the Liberals?

Michael Ignatieff’s Summer Roadtrip off to a bad start

Michael Ignatieff has gassed up the RV, packed the cooler, and is hitting the road this summer to meet “the Canadians”. Most details are still sketchy, but we hear that he is meeting with voters and bringing them a message of hope and inspiration.

Take for instance, Ignatieff’s recent meeting with undecided voters party faithful at a conference in Vancouver. Here’s one Liberal blogger’s take:

At the Policy Matters conference in Vancouver today Michael Ignatieff took to the stage, speaking on the hard work that lies ahead for the Liberal Party. Though for the most part his words roused the audience of party faithfuls, one statement left an uncertain and questioning resonance with the crowd.

In the latter half of his speech, Ignatieff said, “Before you speak, think, if you’re not going to say anything to help us win, shut up!” Preceding the last two words was a slight pause, and with their utterance, a strong loud emphasis.

Following Ignatieff’s statement the awkwardness was palatable, speaking to two members afterwards, both felt unsure of the Liberal Leader’s need to be so harsh. Another Liberal pointing out that it was not as if Ignatieff was speaking to some opposing Party, or that these Liberals did anything that deserved such a rebuke.

Telling Party members to shut up if they have a different position of the party or any criticism of it, is sensational and rude. At a time with Liberal support is at almost record lows, the Leader shouldn’t be so disrespectful to the people he so dearly depends upon.

It’s ok to start your summer tour in your comfort zone, among your friends, even if the experience is, well, um, uncomfortable.

If this is how it goes among party members, some of whom are skeptical of their leader, we can’t wait to see how it goes among the unconverted skeptics.

So we’re talking merger?

The news over the past few days has been Liberal-NDP merger. This is all talk and serves to undermine Michael Ignatieff as leader of the Liberal Party. Over the past month, there’s been renewed talk of coalition between the Liberals and NDP and this was spurred on by a couple of polls indicating that a Michael Ignatieff led coalition would lose to Stephen Harper, a Bob Rae led one would tie and — just for fun — a Jack Layton led coalition would win. Another poll was released to suggest that a majority of Canadians would support a coalition party against the Conservatives (you gotta love those leaderless ideal-leader poll questions!)

The problem is, however, is that the electorate wouldn’t be asked as they were by their friendly dinner-time-calling pollster friends. Michael Ignatieff has explicitly said (at least in his latest iteration) that he would not run as a coalition during the next election and that the numbers post-election would govern his choice.

When we ran against the coalition (extra-writ) in December 2008, what most Canadians found offensive about such a proposed coalition was that the separatist Bloc Quebecois would be given a veto on government of Canada decisions (as a partner to government). Furthermore, an election result returned just six weeks earlier would have been overturned. While constitutional, most Canadians felt that such a move lacked moral authority; Stephane Dion had dismissed any talk of coalition during the election campaign and then was ready to form one after the ballots were counted. A coalition was forced upon Canadians without consultation or consideration, but worse, it was done so after it was explicitly stated that it would not happen.

Fast forward to today. Michael Ignatieff’s problem during any future election will be the big question mark placed upon him by voters (helped by the Conservative Party) that asks if he has different intentions in his mind than what he utters from the stump. He’s been for the coalition, then against, then for one if necessary but not necessarily, then against, then for but only after Canadians decide against his party. Canadians rejected Stephane Dion because they were unsure of his uncertain carbon tax (and leadership) during tough economic times. Now, a question of political instability still looms and Michael Ignatieff is doing nothing to firm up confidence in his leadership.

Make no mistake, coalition talk (and merger talk) at this time serves no other purpose than to undermine the leadership of Michael Ignatieff. In fact, winners from such musings are Stephen Harper, Bob Rae and Jack Layton. Michael Ignatieff has had few perceived victories since taking the helm of the Liberal Party. His now famous “your time is up” bellicose utterance to Stephen Harper is now a cliche in Ottawa circles. The summer season can spell death for opposition leaders as they clamour for the media spotlight and Michael Ignatieff is about to embark on his summer tour with no gas in the tank. Consider that while Michael Ignatieff was trying to find his feat during prorogation, Stephen Harper hosted the world at the Olympics. While Michael Ignatieff uncomfortably flips burgers with all of the enthusiasm of a dyspeptic turtle this summer, Stephen Harper will be hosting world leaders at the G20/G8 summits and the Queen during Canada Day to boot. Michael Ignatieff will emerge this summer a faded version of his grey self or with Rae’s daggers in his back.

And now there’s talk of merger with mere weeks of Ottawa spotlight left for Michael Ignatieff? This is nothing more than to give the party something to chew over while they consider their leader’s long-term viability. The Liberal Party will not merge with the NDP. The party’s grassroots put up with enough as they told their Central-Nova activists to stand down against Elizabeth May during Dion’s cooperation deal with the Greens. One cannot imagine 308 (times 2) riding associations trading horses for the right to run their chosen candidate — most have already been nominated. Consider too that the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political party of western democracies over the past 100 years. A mere four years out of power is no time to get desperate, lads.

Rae’s real prize is convincing the left that he can lead them to power, but as leader of that historic Liberal Party. With Rae in the Liberal top-spot, Liberal-NDP switchers will go Liberal leaving the NDP a shadow of itself. Is merger on the table? No. But talk of a merger sends a signal to all that the Liberal Party is not content with itself and when you do the math it’s a question of leadership, not its constitution.

Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion

So there I was watching the National on CBC. It’s been quite a few days of discussion, at least in Conservative circles, about the partisan affiliation (or appearance of as much) of pollster Frank Graves and his call for the Liberal mainstream to take up war against the Conservative horde. I hadn’t seen the National in a few weeks so I thought I’d give it a fair viewing.

Cue the top story of the day according to the CBC: abortion!

What we learned from the top story? That Canada’s long standing position on abortion faces “reversal” with CIDA minister Bev Oda’s pronunciation on the topic today. Canada will not help fund third world abortions as part of an initiative of maternal health.

But is it a reversal? There is actually no legislation from Parliament on the issue. There is no law restricting it, no law promoting it. Canada’s position if it can be stated, is that there’s NO position.

Yet, we learn that Canada’s non-position is about to be reversed. No, not that it’s taking a firm position on its domestic policy with respect to abortion, but that Canada will continue to not fund third world abortions. This is a reversal according to The National. Nevermind that Canada’s non-position domestically is not even a fair lens through which to view our international status quo position, it’s a “reversal”.

If from that you’ve sorted it all out, perhaps you’re on the right side of Frank Graves’ culture war. But me? I’m sitting on the sideline scratching my head.

Let’s add some more confusion. The Liberals and media frame the Conservative position as “out of step” with that of the UK and the US. Let’s set aside that when the US didn’t fund third world abortions it was called the “Bush” position rather than the “US” position. But hey why not check the United Nations position on abortion:

From the United Nations Population Fund, paragraph 8.25 states:

“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women’s health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.”

and just to drive the point home:

Does the UN provide funding for abortion?

No. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the main United Nations body involved in population issues, does not support or promote abortion in any country, nor does it provide assistance for abortion services or abortion-related equipment and supplies. It strictly abides by the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which states that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”. UNFPA works to prevent abortion through family planning, and helps countries to provide services for women suffering from the complications of unsafe abortions. The Fund helps developing countries to establish national reproductive health programmes and reduce maternal illness and death, as well as in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNFPA also helps countries compile reliable demographic data and carry out censuses. As the largest international source of population assistance, UNFPA is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.

So, where’s the headline? Harper doesn’t change status quo but “reverses” an undefined policy that is by not only undefined but by the definition of “undefined”, irreversible?

Or is the headline “Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion”?

Consider this: Perhaps the real story is that Mr. Ignatieff — having defined himself as “Mr. Internationalism” and a leader who would “regain Canada’s place in the world” — now is out of step with the very embodiment of internationalism that all DFAITers pine after.

But perhaps this internationalist position isn’t as fashionable to Mr. Ignatieff is it? If it were, we think he’d be all over it like soy milk on Kasha.

Now, that I’m done watching the National, I better turn the channel. The Hour is on and its George on George. Strombo woopin up the audience for his next guest, George Galloway.

The culture war is underway.

Liberals on Quebec healthcare

April 8th, 2010, Michael Ignatieff:

To that end [Ignatieff] welcomed the provincial Liberal budget idea of looking into new ways to finance the health-care system — possibly through new fees. He said the provinces have to be allowed to advance ideas on their own.

“We have to be open to letting the provinces experiment within the framework of the Canadian law,” Ignatieff said. “We have to protect universal access to the health system. The government of Quebec knows it.

“I salute the fact it is launching a debate that is important for all Canadians.”

April 7th, 2010, Carolyn Bennett:

The Zombie of Health Care Policy: User Fees

Dr. Bob Evans has called user fees the ‘zombie’ of health care policy – just when you think that the evidence has killed them dead – it rises again. It is like a bad video game…. user fees keep coming back from the dead.

The government of Quebec has said in the budget speech that it will enter into consultations re this user fee proposal. It should be rejected based upon evidence alone.

I am concerned that the budget document states: ‘In that respect, the Canada Health Act should not impede the search for solutions that will ensure long-term funding for our health care system.’

I would interpret that to mean that they KNOW this is OUTSIDE the act …

The backlash in Quebec has begun…. we need all Canadians to educate themselves and immunize themselves against this ‘zombie’ of health care policy. It may like a simple fix but it is bad policy – bad for health outcomes and bad for the solidarity that we have in Canada to help one another when fellow citizens bear the burden of sickness.

UPDATE: Ignatieff flip-flops… April 14th, 2010, after caucus:

Quebec’s proposal to charge $25 for a visit to the doctor would violate the Canada Health Act, according to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff who departed sharply Wednesday from earlier indications that he was not opposed to the idea.

“I want to make it very clear that our party, and I personally, am a passionate defender of the Canada Health Act and we understand that provinces are facing substantial challenges facing the financing of their health care systems but we wanted to say that . . . if the government of any province were to introduce user fees it is our belief that that would be in contravention to the Canada Health Act and we would oppose it.”