Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail (Toronto), 12 October 2006
As Michael Ignatieff scrambles to be all things to all people, courting both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we should assess his behaviour in light of the Liberal party’s history.
In the 1890s, Laurier waffled over the Manitoba Schools Question, simultaneously pandering to Catholic and Protestant voters – and won power. In 1910, he proposed a Canadian Navy that was considered too weak in imperialist Ontario and too strong in anti-imperialist Quebec, and lost the subsequent election.
During the Second World War, Mackenzie King skirted around the conscription issue – “conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription” – and retained a slim majority. In the 1970s, Trudeau pursued a policy of “balance” toward South Africa’s Apartheid regime, voicing support for “human rights” while allowing increased exports of Canadian arms, investments, and trade.
In the 1990s, Chretien promised a national child-care program but this policy languished until the dying days of his successor’s government.
Canada’s “natural governing party” has never really known where it stands. This makes Ignatieff the ideal leadership candidate.