In his anything but stunning opening to his summer long bus tour of Canada, Mike Ignatieff yet again completely underwhelmed with his first salvo.
The announcement? More arts funding! Great Mike, but is that really very high on the average voter's (the same voters you're not reaching) priority list? Here's a word to you Libs who may think so - you're wrong, flat out wrong, dead wrong.
Arts funding? Oh Ignatieff's at it again. Boring. Nothing to see here. Too bad. What's on TV?
There's no wonder MI can't gain any traction, his boots are mired in clay. The good part is that he's whittled his way through the Liberal ranks so he's probably not in much risk of losing too many of the remaining die hard party faithful. He'd have to be caught buggering the Bishop at this point for that to happen.
Okay Igs, supporting artists is a personal priority for you. We get it - descendant of Czarist nobility, spawn of the diplomatic corps, elevated and esteemed academic - great. We all get it including the guys with votes who hear this yet again and change the channel, some of them for the last time.
Spending the summer drifting around for beer and burgers and chinwags with party faithful and wannabes is one thing - it's a waste of time that's not yours to waste buddy. It's not your job to limp along in hope that Stephen Harper has an aneurysm or actually chokes on a pretzel.
Politics is a blood sport Yer Igness and the guy at the top, the guy who has done things he can be held accountable for, is supposed to be the punching bag. Why then is it the guy at the top, the prime monster hisself, who's always throwing all the punches - and landing? He's made an art of gaining comfortable minorities with cowed oppositions by transforming elections into referenda on opposition leaders. In between elections he can pretty much do as he pleases, incrementally advancing his agenda with the complicity of a cowardly and feckless opposition scared out of its political wits. It's like a high school bully beating up on pre-schoolers. And it's sickening to watch.
I'm calling you out Igs, you're a damned coward. You've played Harper's stooge so long, been his wilful dupe, that the credibility you need to attack him now is squandered, discarded long ago on the floor of the House of Commons. Oh sure, every time you propped up bad legislation or staged abstention votes to save Harper there were plenty of rationalizations for it. The odd time when you didn't play ball, Harper had Layton there to backstop him. How in hell did anyone expect to get any legislative accountability from a power manipulator like Harper in a field of opposition sheep? You were the force multiplier that transformed his minority into a quasi-majority government. That's about all you've accomplished. Oh yeah, I forgot about arts funding.
Igs, if you can't start throwing punches, real jabs and fast hooks, and landing - if you can't start rocking Harper on his heels - you're a cheap poseur occupying but not discharging the role of LOL, Canada's opposition leader. It's nice enough - a house, a decent paycheque, a chauffeur, buckets of hobnobbing - but you're still supposed to be a political brawler, ready at the drop of a hat to knock Harper to the floor and kick him straight out to the curb. How many of us would rather witness just a bit of that than hear a lot of vapid drivel about arts funding?
The big problem you've got now Mr. Ignatieff is that you haven't got room to swing. You drew your party so close to Harper, turned so collaborative with his agenda, that he's sort of got you clinched in the corner. He steps back quickly, gets in a few shots of his own, and then ties you right back up again on the ropes. You have to get off the ropes, get some room, get ready to hit this guy hard, where he's vulnerable.
Oh, but where is Harper vulnerable? Well now that's where vision comes in. You're not going to make much headway bitching about the past, not when you are associated with supporting it. People have that image firmly in their heads and it's not going away anytime soon. For you, haranguing about the past is a post-electoral, one way trip to the cloakroom Igs.
Okay you haven't got much to work with in the past but that still leaves the future. And what fertile fields you have in front of you to till. Orchards sagging under the weight of low-hanging fruit. How about accountability and transparency - dismembering the political commissar structure Harper has implemented to gag the bureaucracy and the armed forces and thereby transform them into a propaganda agency of the PMO? How about a serious discussion of the Canadian north and what we can really do to consolidate Canada's interests? How about our crumbling infrastructure - the rotten electricity grid, steadily deteriorating bridges and highways, our antiquated and obsolete rail system - the very arteries we badly need to unclog to maintain a healthy Canada in the future? How about this one - global warming. Yeah, climate change that's already impacting Canada and is picking up steam while you jokers in Ottawa turn your heads and whistle past the graveyard. Now I know that could make your Bitumen Booster image on the Tar Sands just a little awkward but keep this in mind - the Tar Sands aren't inevitable but global warming is.
Since I'm on the topic of the Tar Sands, here's what I think you should do. Start calling them what they are, the "TAR" sands. Back the venture if you must but re-order your priorities. Place production and export on a level plane with remediation of the immediate and long-ranging environmental calamities already building there. Of course that means you'll have to do some reading and some thinking and make yourself able to discuss the Peace and Athabasca rivers, the MacKenzie River watershed, tailing ponds, acid rain, upgrader emissions, pipelines, depletion of natural gas and the potential for nuclear-powered extraction and production. That means you'll have to do what no one before you has managed - come up with a vision of the Tar Sands that works both financially and environmentally because you can't make it work without both.
You need vision. You need to find matters that are on the minds of the Canadian voters that they're not hearing discussed. Here's my shortlist - the scourge of income inequality and narrowing Canada's growing wage gap; concrete and immediate programmes for environmental remediation and climage change adaptation with emphasis on Canada's coastal regions, all of them; the rationalization of Canada's military role abroad and the refocusing on national defence to meet the challenges of a changing world (read the US Quadrenniel Defense Review if you don't get it); a wholesale review of Canadian foreign policy in a world where more will be needing help with fewer able to give it; revitalizing Canadian society and our economy with a Marshall Plan of direct investment in infrastructure and alternative energy.
Those are just a few ideas for a message that you can lift off the pages, ideas that can reach and resonate with a nervous voting public. Each of them opens room between you and Harper, room to distance and position yourself to hit him where he's weakest - his own crippling lack of vision. Harper is an ideologue at heart, a grey soul wrapped inside a grey suit. That's not a good thing, Igs. You don't have to be him.