What began as a few voices of discontent is today a cacophany. It's time for Michael Ignatieff to do something - anything. This apprenticeship should have been over a year ago. He should have fielded policies that would at least unify the Liberal ranks even if they weren't entirely palatable to the voting public. It's going to take more than policies to recapture public support at this point. It's going to take a revitalized, re-energized Liberal Party that looks and acts like it's ready to govern Canada, something that, for years, has been lacking.
What is a Liberal any more? I'm damned if I know. Whatever it is today to me is certainly unrecognizable as what I understood Liberal to be these past forty years.
Now there's talk about mergers and coalitions. The centre-right Ignatieff Liberals have become so lame that the Toronto Star's Tom Walkom says that they should consider a coalition - with the Harper Conservatives:
"...surely the only coalition that makes sense is one that joins the Liberals and Conservatives.
This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Rhetoric aside, the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff are far closer to the Conservatives than they are to Jack Layton’s New Democrats.
The governing and official opposition parties may quibble over details. But in broad terms, they are on the same page."
Walkom's right - the IgLibs and the Harper Conservatives are very much on the same page. We're sort of drifting into American politics. Harper has long wanted to transform the Conservatives into northern Republicans while Ignatieff seems intent on following suit to give the Libs a makeover into northern Democrats. Those are pretty stomach-churning ideas, aren't they?
If you can't believe this, Walkom has an interesting analysis to back up his point. Read it here.
An editorial in the same paper argues that it's time that Ignatieff actually did something.
...the Liberal/NDP merger talk may just be a smokescreen for a move to oust Ignatieff.
That would be premature. Ignatieff is the party’s third leader in just four years. The Liberals can’t keep changing leaders the way Cito Gaston summons pitchers from the bullpen.
But there is no question that Ignatieff needs to raise his game. His 18 months as party leader have been marked by more gaffes than gains. After an initial upward swing under Ignatieff, the polls show the Liberals slumping back into the 20s, or Stéphane Dion territory. The polls also show the public doesn’t see Ignatieff as prime ministerial.
"The public doesn't see Ignatieff as prime ministerial." That's an understatement. He's not. So why then are so many Liberals happy to follow him to the right, to Harper country? What gives Ignatieff the right to so warp the Liberal Party of Canada, to render it toxic to its traditional progressive component? He's forfeiting far more at the centre/centre-left than he can ever hope to steal from Harper on the right. He's misreading his party and the Canadian people. Liberal leaders past at least tried to be attuned to the Canadian voting public. Not this guy.
I think the Toronto Star is wrong in claiming the Libs can't change leaders at this point. In fact I think that's exactly what they should be doing only this time vet the candidates properly. If the right person isn't already within the active Liberal ranks, start looking outside. It's not that the Liberals can't afford another leader as much as that they can't afford another Dion or another Ignatieff. The public has sampled those offerings and said a resounding "No." They won't have it.
Another factor arguing for a leadership change as soon as practicable is that someone has to reverse Ignatieff's reckless turn to the right. The right doesn't need a second party, it already has the Harper Conservatives. The right is a place where the Liberal Party of Canada can only go to die. If the party belonged there you would see a different result in the polls and we've seen countless polls over the past twelve months that this point cannot be in doubt.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Ignatieff can still pull something out of his hat. Well this is his last chance to do just that. If he's got a progressive gene in his DNA, this is the time to show it. If not he ought to see if he can get his old job back at Harvard.