Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Does "Progressive" Mean to Michael Ignatieff?

I've been pretty forthcoming in my criticisms of interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. I've been disappointed in his endorsement of the illegal war on Iraq after 9/11. I've felt really let down that a Liberal leader could take such an unbalanced, one-sided position on the Israeli-Palestinian problem, tantamount absolution for all and any Israeli excesses. I've been troubled by his contradictory support of the Athabasca Tar Sands and his apparent lack of understanding of the environmental dimensions of that catastrophe. I've been worried by this nagging sense that the interim Liberal leader will pander for votes.

Several months ago I read Mr. Ignatieff's self-description as "progressive" yet what I've seen in him so far has been bereft of anything progressive and disturbingly close to neo-conservative.

But could I be wrong? Is there something genuinely liberal about the interim Liberal leader, something unquestionably progressive? I'm looking for more than just a little shiny bauble here or there. Is Michael Ignatieff truly liberal? Is he truly progressive? Is he really in the right party?

What do you think? All supporters and defenders of Michael Ignatieff, here's your chance to come to his aid.


Anonymous said...

All supporters and defenders of Michael Ignatieff, here's your chance to come to his aid.
The silence is deafening....

Why did you have to actually pose a question? Could you not have made it easier and just let the sycophants rap about how great a leader he is just because?

The Mound of Sound said...

Now, now CWTF. I really want to hear from someone on MI's side about whether the Liberal party truly needs to be liberal, as in progressive, or whether reclaiming power is all that truly matters.

Ian said...

Perhaps a better question is the LPC truly progressive and if not, then maybe they have found their hero.

Anonymous said...

First we have to define what the Liberal Party stands for besides just "being in Power" at all costs.

Until then it is just a gaggle of wanna be's with no policies.

Tis easy to criticize - much harder to offer realistic alternatives.

Methinks Mr. Ignatieff is just an Opposer and NOT a Proposer of policy.

Being a critic is so easy anybody can do it - even all of us bloggers.

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your criticisms, some of which I share. What I'm hoping for - but not getting - is someone from the Iggy camp to explain Ignatieff, how he fits into the liberal mold, and what a Liberal Party will look like with Ignatieff at the helm.

Beijing York said...

You won't see me defending Ignatieff. From October 2003 edition of the New York Times (6 months after the invasion of Iraq), some bon mots from the human rights expert (and note the company he keeps):

For the liberal intellectuals of this generation, the war in Iraq has required nuanced positions. Michael Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a self-styled ''liberal centrist,'' focused on the human rights issue: if liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein saved opponents of the regime from torture or death, that in itself justified the war.

The political philosopher Michael Walzer, the editor of Dissent magazine, was ambivalent, but directed much of his anger at the rigid politics of the anti-interventionist left in the face of Sept. 11.

Christopher Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair who had disapproved of United States intervention in the first Persian Gulf war, was excited about Americanization as a revolutionary force. Calling himself a ''Paine-ite,'' he saw the new war as an uprising against an illegitimate state.

The writer Paul Berman forcefully expressed the opinion that not only was President Bush justified in his prosecution of the war but that he had dragged his feet. Terrorism, Mr. Berman wrote in his book ''Terror and Liberalism,'' is a form of totalitarianism; the war in the Middle East is a war to defend liberal civilization.

How does the war look seven months later? Mr. Ignatieff hasn't changed his mind. ''Would you prefer to have Bremer in Baghdad or Saddam Hussein?'' he asked, referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in Iraq. ''For me the key issue is what would be the best result for the Iraqi people -- what is most likely to improve the human rights of 26 million Iraqis? What always drove me crazy about the opposition was that it was never about Iraq. It was a referendum on American power.''

The going has been tougher than he expected, Mr. Ignatieff said: ''I freely admit, the one thing I didn't anticipate was hit-and-run guerrilla attacks. The regime didn't fall when the statue came down.''

But this is hardly a propitious moment to oppose the war, he was quick to add. ''Anybody who wants the people who are shooting American soldiers in the backs at night to win ought to have their heads examined,'' Mr. Ignatieff said, referring to a recent Gallup poll showing that two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships. ''Do I think I was wrong? No.''

Emphasis mine.

An excerpt from another interesting profile:

"Stemming from his dramatic, first-hand accounts of countries struggling with conflict, Michael's expertise in human rights, security and foreign affairs has made him a valued adviser to a number of national governments and a respected contributor to prominent international commissions and working groups," boasts his website.

We will take him at his word.

Arguably, it was his opinion that mattered most last spring when he influenced the Commons' vote to support Prime Minister Stephen Harper's extension of the Canadian Forces' mission in Afghanistan to 2009.

Let's examine Ignatieff's best-known work, beginning with "The American Empire," written for the The New York Times Magazine in January 2003 and later included in Empire Lite. "The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are money, free markets, human rights and democracy enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known," he wrote exuberantly. "It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its freedom and independence by revolt against an empire, and like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere."

Four months earlier, U.S. President George W. Bush had unveiled his National Security Strategy of the United States, which abandoned the Cold War policy of containment and adopted pre-emptive strike and regime change. A 180-degree shift cast in cold and neutral tones. First came the invasion of Afghanistan; Iraq would soon follow. Ignatieff viewed this new manifestation of empire-building through rose-coloured glasses, writing with apparent sentimentality about Bush's desire to lead the world to "free markets and liberal democracy."

He cast Bush as John Wayne. Not for Ignatieff the greasy world of Orwellian misinformation and doctored reports to the UN Security Council. Instead, he wrote: "The United Nations lay dozing like a dog before the fire, happy to ignore Saddam until an American president seized it by the scruff of the neck and made it bark."

His friends said he was "naive." He didn't believe them.

Ignatieff adopted the good/evil terminology of Bush and an administration of hawks. The choice, he wrote, was "between two evils, between containing and leaving a tyrant in place and the targeted use of force, which will kill people but free a nation from the tyrant's grip."

In Harper's Magazine, editor Lewis Lapham was quick to respond. He noted that Ignatieff was a human rights professor who travelled to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

"And what did he learn, the professor, from his poking around in Afghan tents and Balkan graves? If nothing else, how to write sententious and vacant prose, most of it indistinguishable from the ad copy for an Armani scarf or a Ferragamo shoe," wrote Lapham, adding that Ignatieff's views "fairly represent the attitudes currently in vogue among the marketers of the country's preferred wisdom."

Emphasis added.

Another scathing review that hints at what we might expect from Ignatieff on the domestic front:

Ignatieff spends considerable space marveling at how the French, Germans, and radicals who had been critical of U.S. support of death squads and juntas were now dragging their feet in approving and participating in the new democracy thrust of U.S. foreign policy. These strange creatures aren't willing to take Bush's word for it, and have not been convinced by the holding of elections in Iraq and Afghanistan under conditions of occupation and ongoing pacification (and in Iraq, after Bush's valiant struggle to prevent democratic elections and then to make them unworkable). They may have noted the hypocrisy in Bush'sinsistence on Syria's ending its occupation of Lebanon as a necessary condition for a truly free election in Lebanon, while ignoring that requirement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Ignatieff never mentions this double standard, which he has internalized in the same manner as Bush, as well as the editors of the New York Times.

Ignatieff states that "much of European support for Bush in Iraq came from the people who had grown up behind the wall" in Eastern Europe. Ignatieff confuses governments with people: polls in Eastern Europe showed consistent majorities opposed to the Iraq invasion, with the toadying governments lining up with Bush for their own political-financial reasons. When the Turkish government refused to go along with the Bush war plans, based in good part on the fact that 90 percent of the populace opposed such cooperation, Wolfowitz criticized the Turkish armed forced for not doing something to rectify this situation. This expression of the Bush team's devotion to democracy has of course hardly been featured in the media, and has never been mentioned by Michael Ignatieff.

Ignatieff does deal with some domestic criticisms of the Bush policies in his attackon the Democrats for insufficient commitment to freedom abroad: "The Michael Moore-style left conquered the Democratic Party's heart; now the view was that America's only guiding interest overseas was furthering the interests of Halliburton and Exxon. The relentless emphasis on the hidden role of oil makes the promotion of democracy seem like a devious cover or lame excuse. The unseen cost of this pseudo-Marxist realism is that it disconnected the Democratic Party from the patriotic idealism of the very electorate it sought to persuade."

Notice that Ignatieff doesn't stop to evaluate whether those material interests (Halliburton, oil) had any influence at all on Bush policy; he does that nowhere in this article, whose thrust is that Bush is seeking democracy for no other reason than that Jeffersonian spirit of altruism. We may refer to his treatment as "pseudo-Hegelian imperialist apologetics," [3] which he offers in a pure form, with no discussion at any point of whether democracy promotion might in fact be "a devious cover or lame excuse."

Ignatieff claims that the failure to get on the democracy bandwagon was costly to the Democrats because of the "patriotic idealism" of their constituency. Later he repeats that "Judging from the results of the election in 2004, a majority of Americans do not want to be told that Jefferson was wrong." But polls have showed that the crucial Bush support was rooted heavily in a perceived national security and terror threat, and an associated fear, along with the stress on selected "moral values," not a desire to bring freedom to Iraqis or anybody else (see John Harwood, "Terrorism Worries, Not 'Moral Values,' Decided Election," Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2004; "'Security Moms': An Edge for Bush?," Business Week, Dec. 1, 2003). That fear was cultivated and exploited, so not only is Ignatieff wrong on the facts as to public support of the democracy crusade and why Bush won, he is a de facto supporter of an ongoing corruption of democracy at home.

I have barely scratched the surface of the crude rhetoric, misreading of history, and rank apologetics of this terrible article. But several observations and conclusions are in order. One is the sorry intellectual and political condition of the United States in which a man can write such drivel, get it published in the leading newspaper, and hold a chair in "human rights" at a top university (Harvard). This reflects the immense leeway given to an intellectual or journalist who adheres to the national party line or deviates from it only to the right; he or she can write absolute nonsense, make numerous misrepresentations, and get away with it. [4] The mainstream and rightwing are very tolerant of abuses by one of their own; it is only dissidents who have to be extremely careful with the facts and avoid rhetorical excesses.

Emphasis added:

The Mound of Sound said...

As ever, thanks BY. My god but the man is stomach churning. Reading those reviews (and especially the quotes) leaves little doubt that Liberal support for MI is based on recovering power from the Tories, not about advancing liberalism in Canada.

Harper pulled the political centre to the far right. Iggy now wants to bring the LPC hard alongside Harper's conservatives. Between the two of them they should manage to effect a seismic shift in Canadian politic.

I do challenge anyone who calls himself Liberal to read those reviews, Michael Ignatieff's own words, and then explain how a fellow who thinks like that belongs in the Liberal party, much less at the helm.

Mark Richard Francis said...

The LPC braintrust is thinking there's more to gain grabbing from the right, than from the left.

So far, I see no policy cred here. Just the same mushy median poll-driven crap previously uninspirng Liberal governments have delivered.

Whatever America does, we'll do second. I predict Iggy will get in when Harper's used up the last of his cred. This is Canada: Government by the runners up.

This reminds me so much of what's happened in Ontario: Out with Harris/Eves: YAY! In with... McGuinty. "Slightly better than what was."

My LPC membership is lapsed, I think. I'm too disinsterested to even check. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

What is even more disheartening is that with our system of elected kings it matters not what the majority in the caucus, the party or the country think about Afghanistan or anything else. The only policy viewpoint that matters is the Prime Minister's. When you pick your leader, you choose your policies.

The Mound of Sound said...

I regret, Mark,that I have to agree. The guy who penned the opinions set out in Beijing York's comment may be the interim Leader of the Liberal Party but he's no liberal leading the Liberal Party.

Beijing York said...

As bad as McGuinty may be, I don't think he is to the right of US Democrats. Ignatieff is more of a Lieberman Democrat than anything else. He praised Reagan for creating the odious National Endowment of Democracy (NED), which is best described briefly as follows:

Former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, created the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1983, during a period in which military violence took the place of traditional diplomacy in order to resolve international matters. Thanks to its powerful ability of financial penetration, the NED's goal is to weaken governments that would oppose the foreign hegemonic power of Washington. (2) In Latin America, the two targets are Cuba and Venezuela. [Haiti should be added to that list.]

Harper, through Steven Fletcher (democratic reform junior minister), is trying to set up a similar organization. Discussions so far use the same buzz words that Ignatieff admires so much so I'm sure he won't oppose it.

I have scoured the intertubes and I cannot find a single article, statement or analysis of what Ignatieff stands for on the domestic front.

On the foreign front, we can expect:

- extension of Canadian participation in Afghanistan

- little if any intervention on rendition, torture, etc

- unconditional support for Israel; US missile defense shield; potential "pre-emptive" attacks on Iran/Pakistan/Syria/Sudan; NATO; World Bank/IMF; etc (anything that supports US hegemony)

- disregard for multilateral agreements and UN resolutions if the US is not on board

Frankly, I doubt he gives two sh*ts about proposed Budget attacks on labour, women, and unemployed. Nor do I think he cares about lowering environmental protection standards, relaxing foreign investment rules, increasing deregulation, and introducing greater privatization of public goods and services.

IOW, on the domestic front, I suspect he is like Paul Martin on steroids.

MrvnMouse said...

I'm shocked SteveV wasn't all over this post like stink on poop.

He's been pretty good at making sure there is always one pro-Iggy comment on every even tangentially Iggy-related post.

susansmith said...

That's why under Empire Lite Iggy, he will extend the liberal Afghanistan position from 2011 to beyond and be doing that golden handshake with Harper in the middle of the Common's Floor - again.

This is an elitist who has adopted American Liberalism which is even more right than conservatives in Canada. He is a crusader for "free markets" not "fair markets", thus for the exploitation of the "other" for the "use" of the "few".

It is no wonder that the "Iggy lovefest" by the MSM such as G & M, canwest, and TorStar is happening, good loving corporatism at the basis of their very existence.

Deep integration with the US will be the main plank of the liberal party, and finally Iggy will be finally at home in both of his worlds - literally and figuratively.

Thank BY for posting on Iggy. It's more scary than I thought.

susansmith said...

Also much thanks to disaffected Lib for posing the question - only takes courage my friends to make a better world - asking the tough questions is the start of critical thinking - thanks Mound of Sound.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm mildly astonished. This wasn't intended as a forum to criticize Michael Ignatieff. I genuinely hoped that some Ignatieff supporters would give some assurances that their guy is genuinely liberal, hopefully even progressive.

Plenty of folks have read this post but not one word has been said in Iggy's favour.

It's discouraging.

Altavistagoogle said...

Tony Blair was no right wing zealot. Neither was Hilary Clinton.

The fact is Sadam Hussein had more enemies than friends. Left or right.

By the way, how many countries did Bill Clinton bomb? Let's see: Somalia, Serbia, Irak...

Ted Betts said...

"Plenty of folks have read this post but not one word has been said in Iggy's favour."

Well, frankly, when the only thing you ever post about the Liberals or Ignatieff or pretty much anything about Canadian politics is the same line about Ignatieff, and you've heard our answers and obviously ignored them... why bother? I've done it enough times.

I'll ask you a question though which I have asked but never seems to get answered.

Why does anyone consider Obama to be progressive or liberal? And don't give me the line about US relativity. We have the Conservatives barking up a storm about how much alike Harper and Obama are in their views and politics (clearly not in personality or charisma) and I think they make a good case. Other than opposition to the war in Iraq - which is not really a left-right ideological issue, especially considering the number of movement conservatives opposed to the Iraq War from the first - what evidence is there that Obama is progressive?

Clearly he is less progressive than Ignatieff, but the Canadian "progressives" give him a free pass for being to the right of Harper.

Beijing York said...

I for one never claimed that Obama was progressive, even within the ranks of what constitutes the Democratic Party. He certainly is articulate, charming and politically astute. On certain issues he is less progressive than Rodham Clinton (SSM, reproductive rights, death penalty), on others more progressive (less corporate welfare).

Ted, how can you say, Clearly [Obama] is less progressive than Ignatieff...? It's certainly not clear to me. If some one could point me in the direction of explicit policy position held by Ignatieff, well then we might be able to assess whether Ignatieff is more progressive than Obama. But as it stands, it's far from clear.

Ted Betts said...

Fair question, BY.

I guess my answer is that, aside from Iraq (which as I said I don't really see as a left-right issue on ideology although it has been accepted as one), I can't really think of any policy in which Obama is more progressive than Ignatieff so to me it is clear.

The four issues you identified - equal marriage (strongly in favour), reproductive rights (strongly in favour), death penalty (strongly against)and corporate welfare (not as pro corporate welfare as Obama, but then again, after the stimulus package, who could be more pro corporate welfare than Obama?)- he is decidedly more progressive and liberal than Obama.

To that I would add gun control, education ("If you have the grades you get to go"). We'll see on the environment if Obama is as progressive as Ignatieff; seems like he is though.

On Afghanistan, Ignatieff wants more direction and wants out by 2011. Obama is pushing for an Iraq style "Surge" into Afghanistan and even Pakistan.

On health care, Obama wants a corporate solution to national health care, not an institutional progressive solution. Obama is definitely more progressive, but somehow "more progressive" gets translated into "progressive" whenever it suits a Canadian attack on Ignatieff. Sad really.

The Mound of Sound said...

Ted, you're comparing apples and oranges, but it's a nice dodge. American society and Canadian society are miles apart on the social issues you identify as making Iggy more progressive than Obama. American society is far to the right of our own and the relative progressivism of its politicians is meaningless unless it's taken in that context.

It's not at all clear that Iggy truly "wants out" of Afghanistan by 2011. His qualified remarks to Obama showed he's anything but adamant on it.

SSM? That was already decided long before Iggy had to take a stand. What's his alternative? Move to repeal same sex marriage? Give us a break.

Death penalty? That's laughable. Not just his leadership but his seat in parliament would be gone if he didn't toe the line on that one.

But what of those issues where Iggy has chosen to mark his turf - his one-dimensional policy on Israel and his unwillingness to acknowledge all the environmental disasters associated with the Tar Sands (not just carbon)?

Whenever he's ventured into uncharted waters Iggy veers hard right. That's where you're going to discover the real nature of the man, not in his willingness to embrace long settled issues.

Ted Betts said...

"Several months ago I read Mr. Ignatieff's self-description as "progressive" yet what I've seen in him so far has been bereft of anything progressive and disturbingly close to neo-conservative.

But could I be wrong? Is there something genuinely liberal about the interim Liberal leader, something unquestionably progressive?"

Mound, were you being disingenuous when you said that and asked that then? You asked for genuinely liberal views, you've said you've seen "nothing" progressive about him, and then discount the obvious things that fill up most of his beliefs and change the question to one about marginal issues.

These are core progressive issues. That is what defines someone as progressive or not. Not issues on the margins. And those issues are not dead - far from it - and they are very much the defining line.

As to the Obama comparison, your relativity is revealing. It is also not accurate. There are a lot of Americans who are far more left/liberal/progressive than Obama, even within his own party, even within his own cabinet, let alone the Michael Moores and Ralph Naders out there. Equal marriage is just the most obvious example of where Obama is far to the right of Ignatieff, gun control and death penalty being two other primary examples. Obama refers to God way more than any president that I can remember, while Ignatieff is a longstanding non-believing secular humanist. I just don't get those who want to claim that Obama is progressive but Ignatieff is not based not on actual views but because of a border.

I think you can see clearly now why no one - but me, silly dupe that I am - took you to be serious in asking your questions. You have made up your mind about him and, like a lot on the far left, there is nothing that will shake that view from your tree.

Beijing York said...

My examples of where Obama's "progressive" credentials are in question apply to the US context where, as MoS has correctly pointed out, the goal posts are much further to the right.

Many of the values you list as being Ignatieff values are the values of most Canadians. Those values support Canada's longstanding policies that resulted from us being a far more mixed economy and secular nation than our neighbour to the South.

It is only a very small, but unfortunately gaining, movement of extreme social conservatives who are demanding a repeal of SSM, the abolishment or containment of abortion, the reinstatement of the death penalty, the introduction of morality based censorship, etc. And unfortunately, the Liberal tent seems large enough to have a few social conservative zealots in their midst.

I personally would like to know where Ignatieff stands on the following domestic issues:

1. Privatization of crown corporation and government services

2. Public Private Partnerships as a mechanism for infrastructure building and services delivery

3. Environmental Impact Assessment regulations

4. Protections of our water ways

5. Intensity based carbon caps and carbon sequestering

6. Labour force protections (including collective agreements, back to work legislation, EI, pensions and pay equity)

7. Universal childcare measures

8. Land and treaty right negotiations and implementation (including Section 35 Duty to Consult provisions)

9. NAFTA (e.g. what is his position should the US want to re-open)

10. Universal health care (extend, reduce, two tier, etc)

The Mound of Sound said...

Well Ted, thanks for the vitriol. Your focus on Obama is interesting but ultimately unhelpful. What I'd like you to do is read the three items that BY posted above. They're a bit lengthy, I know, but they're well worth reading for anyone wanting to get the measure of this man.

Once you've gone through these reviews of Mr. Ignatieff's all-too-recent writings and comments, tell me what Liberal leader in recent memory would have taken such positions, made such statements? And then, accepting that he did write and say these things, tell me if it's not simply prudent to question this man's supposed commitment to liberalism?

Ted Betts said...

Well, it wasn't meant as vitriol, Mound. Sorry if it seems that way. I just think you are not that interested in the answers.

Looking down the list of BY's list of questions, just by the nature of the questions, I know Chretien for one would end up looking pretty right wing.

Which just underscores the two points I'm making:

1. It doesn't seem to me to make sense to have such a moveable definition of "progressive" (i.e. where you live changes the definition) and then try so hard to box Ignatieff into your pre-defined "Canadian" version of liberalism while, in addition to that, write off the examples of shared core liberal values and instead focus on the margins (and no, the conservative views on abortion, gun control, etc. are not held by a tiny minority of social conservatives - this is why Harper is in such a strong electoral position because of the size of his devoted base).

2. I really don't think, with all due respect, you are being honest with your question regarding Ignatieff. You've stated clearly you don't see any shred of evidence of him being liberal despite the plethora of evidence so I'm not really interested in taking on your points point by point because you have demonstrated already how open minded you are to answers to your own "questions".

In addition, only a very few people are interested in fitting their leaders into nice old-style leftwing and rightwing boxes. Political followers are always so very concerned about such things and about litmus tests. Leaders have always bucked efforts at being defined by others. Trudeau completely reshaped the party in his own image; Chretien did to as did Pearson in their own fashion.

More importantly, leaders of today are looking forward and not back, looking past old school labels. The point about Obama is that he is a leader in part because he does not fit your boxes of left and right, progressive and conservative. In some ways he is pulling the Democrats quite a bit to the right; in some ways, quite a bit to the left. It throws the old notions out the window.

His success as a leader, like Ignatieff's, will be judged not on how left or right, progressive or conservative, he is, but on how competent and accomplished, given his own vision of how to reshape the US.

Ted Betts said...

And just because I can't help myself and want to highlight the point (and I was curious), while I don't know fully how Ignatieff (or Rae or Dion or anyone not completely driven by ideology like a Harper or a Layton) would answer those BY questions, here's how Chretien would have:

1. Privatization of crown corporation and government services - in favour of privatization (eg. PetroCanada, loosening rules on private telecom)

2. Public Private Partnerships as a mechanism for infrastructure building and services delivery - don't know but don't see how this in any way is a progressive vs conservative issue. It surely isn't. An important policy question but not a left-right issue.

3. Environmental Impact Assessment regulations - not sure what the question is here, but Chretien's record shows he loosened many rules and added many.

4. Protections of our water ways - see #3

5. Intensity based carbon caps and carbon sequestering - have to put Chretien in the conservative column on this one if only because he didn't do anything at all. But really the left-right issue here is whether you believe in climate change or not; the left-right issue is not the best means to achieve that. Mound seems to think that anything but carbon taxing is rightwing, but that would make Obama rightwing as well as a whole bunch of quasi-socialist leaders in Europe. Again, important question that Iggy should clarify, but not one that puts him on the "liberal" or "conservative" side of the ledger.

6. Labour force protections (including collective agreements, back to work legislation, EI, pensions and pay equity) - See #3 - Chretien's support from labour unions was mixed because they see his record as very mixed, full of "rightwing" leanings. Several court cases have won out against him.

7. Universal childcare measures - definitely on the conservative side of this given fewer accomplishments than Harper and far less effort to create daycare space.

8. Land and treaty right negotiations and implementation (including Section 35 Duty to Consult provisions) - aside from the true wingnuts out there who believe natives should be assimilated and cut off from government support, not sure how this question defines someone as left or right. I'm sure you think Martin is rightwing but he got Kelowna signed; Ignatieff is on the record supporting Kelowna and ask any Canadian native and you will find very few who think highly of Chretien. So I suppose, by this kind of scorecard, put him in the conservative column.

9. NAFTA (e.g. what is his position should the US want to re-open) - Chretien supported NAFTA and expanded its scope: Conservative again.

10. Universal health care (extend, reduce, two tier, etc) - I think the whole two tier/"health card not a credit card" marketing of universal health care policy to be absurd and harmful. We have never had single tier health care - just ask someone who relies on medication for their life or anyone who needs a prosthetic - but Chretien's record is clear: "private" health care expanded while he was PM and he himself secretly flew to US private clinics for his own health (Mayo clinic).

The point here is that I would never question Chretien's "Liberal-ness" or his "liberal-ness"; yet by your criteria, it is very easy to. He defined himself and did what he think was best for the country. He is fully "Liberal" because he believed in a strong central federal government, he believed in fostering human rights and all of the core progressive values (even though for most of his career he opposed abortion and until almost the end opposed equal marriage). You did not necessarily know what he was going to do on any particular issue though and he re-branded the Liberals from a near-socialist party to a party that is mixed on the left-right scale but has many core values that course through every decision.

Beijing York said...

I still would like to know what Ignatieff's position is on each one of those issues. In fact, I think many Canadians would. Unfortunately, few are aware of the many changes buried in the 500+ pages long, budget implementation bill.

Ontarians learned the hard way under Harris/Eaves - after the fact did they find out how much was destroyed by their free market approach to the economy.

The Mound of Sound said...

I've always wondered to what extent Chretien was a captive to his times. He inherited a country from Mulroney that was virtually on its knees. Canadians realized the seriousness of the moment and supported the Chretien/Martin fiscal reform pain.

When you're embarked on a decadal quest to pull your state back from the fiscal abyss there's not a lot of room for grand vision.

Yet today we're in a moment of distress that cries out for vision. Instead we get a budget that offers Canadians a bit of tax relief for having a new deck built on the cottage.

The government, with the backing of the official opposition, chose not to choose how that stimulus money will be spent but, instead, left that up to others. That was a genuinely uninspiring performance by both leaders.

Sadly, without some clear vision that distinguishes Tory from Liberal and that gives Canadians a direct choice, we're going to be left to decide which party to vote against.

Most of my three decades in BC has seen this province suffer the scourge of negative voting. It really doesn't generate good government.

Harper has pretty much made negative campaigning/voting his stock in trade and, unless Michael Ignatieff came come up with some compelling vision Canadians will embrace, we'll remained locked into Harper's electoral vise.

Ted Betts said...

BY: I would also like to know his answers to those: you've listed some of the critical questions of today.

I was merely addressing Mound's post which was about something else altogether.

Mound: the budget was balanced and we were in surplus by 1999. Chretien's great legacy was making the tough choices that saved the nation. But he did not increase spending after that and the two other defining moments for Chretien - Iraq and equal marriage - were decided for him by others - the UN (he said he believed Saddam had WMD, he favoured removing Saddam and would support the US but only if the UN approved it) and Canadian courts of appeal.

Beijing York said...

Chretien agreed to challenge the US behemoth Time Warner when they threatened to cut off the life blood of Canadian magazines (advertising revenues). It was a galvanizing issue among arts and cultural industries that wanted to ensure a safe space for Canadian voices. I know the hoops the Chretien government had to go through to try to find some resolution to this WTO challenge because I was working on the file. In the end, we capitulated to some extent as far as I'm concerned but I am sure that a more right leaning government leader would have bothered taking up that fight. (Interesting side note. One of the professional associations who appeared before the Senate Committee to speak in support of our legislation was softwood lumber.)

Beijing York said...

That's would NOT have bothered.