Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/3/2009 (2990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Michael Ignatieff had much more to say in the interview he did with me this week than I could fit into the story in today’s paper. That is one of the downsides of the print edition, but the bonus of having a Web site and a blog is that I am not limited by things like space.
Here then are some excerpts from the interview that didn’t get published:
On the economy and Stephen Harper:
"There’s been a pattern of not levelling with the Canadian people. Just rolling up his sleeves, getting in front of the camera like the president of the United States does, and saying ladies and gentleman, boys and girls here is what’s going to happen. We’re going to have two or three quarters of negative growth in this country. Okay? We are going to have serious problems. We are going to get out of it and here’s how. Never once has he addressed the Canadian people that way. That’s what leadership is and he’s not showing it. Basically he is waiting for the Americans to dig us out of trouble but the reality is we’ve got to take measures here."
On that dispute over infrastructure money, what is being spent and on what:
"Last year in the 2007 budget, he allocated $4 billion for infrastructure. They had that money the whole of 2008. If they had put that money in the economy there would be fewer construction workers unemployed right now. We discovered that $3 billion of that money wasn’t spent.
It’s that kind of stuff. Actual Canadian workers have lost their jobs because they didn’t do their job. that’s what the message is that has to get through.
Don’t misunderstand me. I will never run down the Canadian economy. I will never run down the hard work of Canadians. What I am running down is the performance of the government. They’ve got to do better.
I’m not going to blame the bureaucrats. They’re in charge. It’s they’re responsibility. If you book infrastructure money in a recession you darn well spend it. If you’re not spending it you’re not doing your job.
On wooing the aboriginal vote in Manitoba:
"I think it’s very very important that we regain ridings where there are substantial aboriginal votes. I’m meeting with Chief Evans while I’m there. I’ve been up in Nelson House. I’ve seen tremendous communities. They have tremendous problems but they’ve always felt the Liberal party was a better partner for them than the Conservatives. For me it’s education, education, education, education, education and more education. For urban aboriginals, for reserve aboriginals, for the whole population. the biggest challenge for Manitoba in 15 years is making sure that fantastic aboriginal population, and the Métis population as well. . .they have to feel we’re with them."
At the end of the day will any of it make a difference in Manitoba for the Liberals? Will Ignatieff be able to help the party climb back up from the depths of one seat, and 19 per cent of the popular vote?
Not yet, says Shannon Sampert, a politics professor at the University of Winnipeg. And she has some pretty compelling reasons why the Liberal fortunes may be limited for the time being.
1. The power of incumbency. The Conservatives have nine seats in Manitoba now. Only two of them (Vic Toews and Inky Mark) have been in office for more than four years and it’s likely at least seven of them will run again in the next election. Defeating an incumbent MP is difficult unless a party is tanking in the polls and voters have a strong desire to boot the leader. The polls at the moment show gains for the Liberals but there hasn’t been any real shift away from the Conservatives. In fact much of the Liberals gains seem to be coming at the expense of the Greens and the NDP.
2. It’s the economy, stupid. Everywhere else but Manitoba it seems the news about the economy is bleak. And when the economy is hurting, whoever is sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair gets the blame. So in southern Ontario, heart of any party’s dream of winning government, it would be surprising if there wasn’t more backlash against the Conservatives. But in Manitoba, while things aren’t entirely rosy, we are still bucking the trend. The economy is still growing, jobs are still flowing, people are still spending money. And there is unlikely to be a surge of anger at the government that would propel people to find someone else to vote for.
And while the outcome of the last election had at least something to do with voter turnout, Sampert points out that the election fatigue and political disinterest among the general public right now means people who didn’t vote last time aren’t likely to get off the couch any time soon without some burning issue to propel them off their duffs.