Regardless of your political affiliation, one thing Canadians do is honour the men and women who serve this country. That’s why it’s so shocking to see one of our most public of public servants getting kicked around like a deflated football. I’m talking about Michael Ignatieff. In the three federal by-elections this week, the Liberal Party managed to pull one victory out of thin air. Somehow, that wasn’t good enough for the Whack-a-Mike crowd. For the last couple of days, they’ve been raggin’ on the guy something fierce. Frankly, since Mike’s come back to Canada, he has taken more flak than a Lancaster bomber over Germany in 1944. So hey, lighten up. He’s just doing his job.
Let me set the record straight. Number one, Ignatieff is smart; he wakes up in the morning smarter than most of us are going to be all day. Number two, he’s got the second most useless job on the planet*. And number three, because he’s so smart he knows all about #2. But does he flinch? Does he waiver? Does he tell everybody to go to hell and then head back to Harvard? No, he does his job for his country — without complaint and with little reward (except for that huge pension.) I ask the question: how would you like to spend your most productive intellectual years serving as a place holder for Justin Trudeau? See? It’s not so easy to criticize Mikey now, is it?
I’m going to tell you a story, and make no mistake: this is pure fiction. Mike’s sitting around Cambridge, Mass. being smart one day in 2004, when he gets a conference call from The Boys in the Backroom of the Liberal Party of Canada. Things have not been going well. They give him the scenario ‘cause he really hasn’t been keeping track. Chretien has screwed things up so badly even Mother Teresa can’t fix it. Furthermore, he only printable name people are calling his replacement, Paul Martin, is “Mr. Dithers.” In the last federal election, even “the right wing has a secret agenda” ploy didn’t work. So, now, Stephen Hitler Harper and his knuckle-dragging Conservatives are clawing at the gates of power. The Natural Governing Party of Canada is in peril.
“Mike, your country needs you.”
Ignatieff didn’t hesitate. “Boys, I’ve got some smart things to do this afternoon, but after that I’m your man.”
Mike packed his bags and his books and came back to Canada. End of story.
The cunning plan was Ignatieff would take over the Liberal Party and barricade it tight in the big cities. He’d stash the Heir somewhere in Quebec, as a Padawan Learner to seek the ways of the liberal elite. He’d wait until the Conservatives had worn themselves out or torn themselves up over stupid stuff like abortion and gay marriage. Then, in the next election, he’d chase them out of Ontario, win a majority, form a government and make Justin Trudeau Minister of Don’t Touch Anything. Eventually, he’d step down, pass the majority government safely on to Trudeau and go back to Harvard, happy in the knowledge that history remembers ex-prime ministers more than college professors.
Unfortunately, Bob Rae and Stephane Dion didn’t read the e-mail. They thought the whole thing was real, and if Buggering Things Up were an Olympic event, those two would be on the podium. Within two years, the plan’s in the toilet, Harper’s had time to show Canada he’s not a wingnut, and the Liberal Party looks like an episode from Family Guy. At this point, Mike could say, “I’m outta here!” but he doesn’t. He takes over the party, as planned, cleans up the mess as best he can and embarks on a journey of abuse that would have made Job himself slap somebody.
Here’s the deal: unless you flunked Poli. Sci. in high school, you know damn well Michael Ignatieff is never going to be Prime Minister now. The game has changed, and that’s not his job anymore. His mission is to lose a couple of elections so Justin has time to tone down the arrogance, win friends and influence people. Do you think Michael doesn’t know that? He probably wrote the textbook. He understands that he’s just keeping the chair warm. It irks him, but he does it. The Liberals can’t just leave the seat empty. Somebody’s got to be there, if, for no other reason than Harper might suddenly flip out and decide to attack Denmark or something.
So why is everybody jumping all over the guy? Every time he opens his mouth, somebody, somewhere, has got something to say about it – from both sides of the floor. Look! Michael Ignatieff is performing a valuable service to Canada just by being there, so leave the guy alone and let him do his job.
*FYI – Joe Biden’s got the most useless job in the world.