Iggy skips out of economic conference to go back to Harvard?

“If I am not elected, I imagine that I will ask Harvard to let me back” — Michael Ignatieff to the Harvard Crimson published November 30th, 2005

Given Michael Ignatieff’s recent troubles in the polls it appears that he is retreating to his safety zone.

Here is the October 15th media advisory from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce listing Michael Ignatieff among the distinguished speakers to discuss “Canada’s competitive edge and economic prosperity” on October 21st. Michael Ignatieff is scheduled for the 8:10am timeslot where the Liberal leader is scheduled to discuss, “Canada on the world stage: keys to success”.

But here is today’s updated schedule for the same event:

Bob Rae is now listed in the 8:10am timeslot and Michael Ignatieff is off the schedule. Why would the Liberal leader skip out on a discussion about Canada’s future economic prosperity? The economy is the #1 issue to Canadians and Mr. Ignatieff has been trying to outline an economic agenda so that the Liberals can compete with the Conservatives in the next election, or at least outline their agenda before the next budget. So, did the Liberal leader have a better offer?

It appears that he did.

Michael Ignatieff is scheduled to speak on a panel at Harvard to some friends at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy on Wednesday October 21st. Ignatieff is scheduled to speak on a panel titled “Why Human Rights Matter: Human Rights as Public Service”.

UPDATE: Now, we learn from David Akin that “OLO calls to say organizers jumped the gun Iggy staying in ottawa”

How did “organizers [jump] the gun” when Ignatieff was scheduled to speak at a conference, but then days later he is removed and replaced by Bob Rae? It appears that the schedule change could have been deliberate to fit Iggy’s opportunity to return to Harvard to give a talk to his fellow Crimsons.

This incident is reminiscent of Michael Ignatieff’s jaunt to the UK to deliver the Isaiah Berlin lecture in the summer while some Canadians wondered why he wasn’t politicking at home.

Stephen Harper skipped out on a crazy Muammar Gaddafi speech at the U.N. to return to Canada to discuss the economy and he got an earful from concerned Liberals. Until just minutes ago, Michael Ignatieff appeared to be skipping out on a Canadian economic discussion to fly to the US to speak on a human rights panel.

Another senior bureaucrat leaves government to join Ignatieff

UPDATE: Ms. Beckton emailed me insisting that this story is absolutely not true and that she plans to take her retirement in a politically neutral manner. I put in a call to a friend in Mr. Ignatieff’s office and the Liberal leader’s office has no knowledge of Ms. Beckton’s plans. I called Ms. Beckton and she informed me that this has been a nasty rumour that has been spreading on the Hill for about ten days concerning her retirement from public service and it probably stems from her letter of retirement to Minister Moore. The rumour was likely constructed by other partisan actors and spread as truth (thus despite my double and triple sourcing of this story in various departments). I foolishly was perplexed by this, “How can this be untrue when everyone else talks about this as fact?” The first person I should have called – despite their senior rank in the government – should have been Ms. Beckton. I apologized to Ms. Beckton and she was too kind. I wish her the best in her retirement. My hope is that this blog has developed a new threshold and sensitivity between unconfirmed rumour and fact and that it will remain accountable to you, the reader.

ORIGINAL POST: I’ve learned that Clare Beckton, the head bureaucrat and the coordinator of Status of Women Canada – the department headed up by Conservative Minister of State Helena Guergis – will leave the public service to join Michael Ignatieff’s office.

Ms. Beckton has received a letter of offer from the office of the leader of the opposition and the political department at SWC is shocked to learn of her departure.

This poaching of a senior bureaucrat comes months after Ignatieff was able to draw another highly placed public official to turn to politics. Kevin Chan, the executive assistant to former Clerk Kevin Lynch, was a student at Harvard when Dr. Ignatieff was there as a professor.

Like Chan, Beckton has a connection to Harvard. A source close to Beckton suggested that she’s an old Harvard friend of the Liberal leader. Her bio at the SWC website confirms her attendance at Harvard, earning an MPA in 2005.

An official in Stephen Harper’s government when asked about the news explained that the government had no knowledge or insight as to how long Ms. Beckton had been planning the move. Further, Beckton plans to move to Ignatieff’s office in three weeks time, while holding a position overseeing government files and the minister’s strategic direction for the department.

Conservative Party ad: “Michael Ignatieff: Just Visiting”

Within the last few minutes, the Conservative Party of Canada finally rolled out an ad defining a message track about Michael Ignatieff. Take a look:

The main message from the Tories here is that Michael Ignatieff has been out of the country and is only back in the country for his own ambition. The “Just Visiting” line is a good one because it will ring true to many Canadians and their perceived sense of commitment to country. In fact, Michael Ignatieff has already tried to pre-emptively blunt this form of attack by writing a book titled True Patriot Love wherein he outlines his mother’s family’s commitment to this country.

Narrator: Why is Michael Ignatieff back in Canada after being away for 34 years? Does he have a plan for the economy? No, instead he’s running attack ads hiding the fact that he hasn’t offered any economic ideas… just attack ads. With no long term plan for the economy, he’s not in it for Canada… just in it for himself. It’s the only reason he’s back. Michael Ignatieff: Just Visiting.

It’s interesting to note that the Conservative Party has framed “Grit Girl” Youtube vidoes as Liberal attack ads. Most observers note that the professionally produced though anonymously released ads are most likely being churned out by the Liberal Research Bureau or by Liberal HQ. Usually the videos first see wide distribution on the blog of Ignatieff’s war room captain Warren Kinsella.

The image is strong and cynical. It show an image of the Liberal leader simply drifting by and transitory. The Conservatives are also accusing the Liberals of running attack ads. The ad touches upon the #1 issue in the economy successfully underscores Igntieff’s main negative. Some observers will remember that Ignatieff once mused that if he didn’t ascend to the Prime Minister’s Office that Harvard would likely take him back.