So Michael Ignatieff has thrown down the "election gauntlet" has he? Here are the top 5 1/2 reasons he is not making an informed decision:
First of all, he made the announcement in a speech at the Liberal caucus retreat in Sudbury with the following words: "Mr. Harper, your time is up." Note to Mr. Ignatieff: Stephen Harper doesn't attend Liberal caucus retreats. The statement should have been: "Mr. Harper's time is up." Actually, for someone with Mr. Ignatieff's esteemed literary background, I would expect something more poetic. Something like: "We are primed to prune the Prime Minister's pretentious pedigree on behalf of the proletariat." But this probably goes against his recent training to seem more like a normal human being.
Second, in the last election, which seems like only yesterday because it was in fact only 323 yesterdays, the Canadian electorate paid just under $300-million to show that no matter how much they disliked Stephen Harper and his policies (which was a lot by Canadian standards), they disliked the other party leaders even more. As a matter of fact, judging by the voter turnout of the last election, which was 59.1 per cent of registered voters, what Canadians elected to do most was to not take part in an election. What makes Mr. Ignatieff think we all suddenly want to vote now? Internal Liberal Party polling. This is like taking a trip to Disneyland based solely on a poll of your children.
Third, the worldwide economy. While it is easy to forget about a recession when you are an aristocrat/MP, with most things paid for by others, the rest of us are still coping with cutbacks in all financial segments. We are told that "a recovery has begun." But this recovery is the same as a vaccine arriving at a remote hospital and needing to be dispersed throughout the country to all those who benefit from it, including those who don't need it but still take it. For the average Canadian, voting in a national election currently falls somewhere between voting for Canada's next top model and repainting behind the refrigerator. Furthermore, Mr. Ignatieff's assertion that Mr. Harper has "delivered Canadians the worst deficit in our history and the worst unemployment record in two decades" is roughly akin to blaming the global climate crisis on someone who passes wind in an elevator. Sure, part of the blame is on him or her (let's face it, it's probably "him"), but the whole thing? That's a bit of a reach.
Fourth, two words: Barack Obama. For the first time in a decade, the Americans have a leader Canadians can be envious of. We can't help but want our next leader to be like their current leader: Charismatic, intelligent, patriotic, worldly and yet still approachable. Is Stephen Harper that leader? No, he is not. But is Michael Ignatieff that leader? Most definitely not.
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, Mr. Ignatieff ran against Stéphane Dion for the Liberal leadership and lost. Then he was inexplicably given the leader's hat (in his case, a fedora) rather than proving himself a winner through a party election. Shouldn't he at least prove he can win an election in his own party before trying to win one for the leadership of the country? Otherwise, the Toronto Maple Leafs current pattern of not qualifying for the playoffs should still give them a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Fifth-and-a-half, I have not even mentioned to this point the fact that the Liberals would need the support of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to force this election. I have not mentioned it because the last time "Jack and Gilles" got together to form a team, they predictably did not make it up the Hill. So to assume this dream team will band together again now and win over the Canadian public is, quite frankly, a fairy tale.
Steve Patterson is host of CBC Radio One's The Debaters.