Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Michael Ignatieff surveys damage in Liberal 'clown city'

1. How not to run an effective opposition. "It's raining frogs across the aisle," Industry Minister Tony Clement said.

It was a gong show last night in the Commons for Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals; one Liberal MP is even calling it "clown city."

First, the Liberal motion on the Harper government's maternal health initiative, aimed at stirring up the Tory bench over reproductive issues, such as abortion, failed. The Grits lost the vote after three of their own MPs opposed it; others abstained and some Liberal MPs, who are pro-life, were told to stay away from the Commons, according to sources.

Story continues below advertisement

"Everyone knows that many Liberal supporters are pro-life" as are "a number of Liberal MPs, including myself," Mississauga MP Albina Guarnieri said. She abstained.

"The motion did not specifically talk about abortion, but there was sufficient inference that some people stayed away and a few actually voted against it," she said. "If it had been a more straightforward motion, everyone would have been standing on one side or the other."

Paul Szabo, Dan McTeague and John McKay voted against the motion.

Indeed, Stephen Harper had accused Mr. Ignatieff of being "too cute" with the motion. It was aimed at dividing the Tories; instead, it ended up dividing the Liberals.

"Michael went to war without checking," said one Liberal MP, noting that the Liberal Leader did not clearly canvas his caucus as to how they felt about the motion.

And so confused were the Liberals after losing their own motion that on the following vote, Chief Opposition Whip Rodger Cuzner mistakenly told some of his MPs to vote with the government. They ended up supporting the Conservatives' spending plans, which led to much glee and gloating from the government bench.

"Libs lose Mat Health vote, then accidentally vote for Budget Estimates. It's raining frogs across the aisle," Industry Minister Tony Clement gleefully tweeted.

Story continues below advertisement

Heritage Minister James Moore was also busy tweeting: "Liberals are showing just about the worst moment of parliamentary dysfunction I have ever seen in 10yrs."

(File photo: Bill Grimshaw for The Globe and Mail)

2. Pundit protest fallout. Ezra Levant says what happened to right-wing American commentator Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa last night was "un-Canadian."

Ms. Coulter was forced to cancel her speech after organizers decided it wasn't safe because of angry protesters. And Mr. Levant, a Calgary lawyer, Canadian conservative commentator and free-speech advocate, says they are thinking of suing the university.

He is blaming university vice-president - Francois Houle who sent a letter to Ms. Coulter warning her to watch her words or face criminal charges for promoting hatred - for giving a "green light" to protesters "ratchet up" the situation.

The former journalist and Canadian Alliance strategist has been traveling with Ms. Coulter, introducing her at the campuses. He was with her Monday night at the University of Western Ontario where she spoke (at one point telling a Muslim student to " take a camel") and there were no problems.

Story continues below advertisement

After last night's cancellation, he spoke to Ms. Coulter. She had told him she had even cut her speech down so to take more questions from the audience.

Mr. Levant said in an interview with The Globe this morning that Ms. Coulter is "genuinely disappointed" she was not able to get her message out last night. "I actually believe freedom of speech is the Canadian way," he said. "The Canadian way is if you don't want to hear someone you turn the bloody channel."

But he is blaming the University's Mr. Houle for setting the tone. "Does he think this is a black eye to the university or does he think he's rallying the counter-revolution against the neo-cons?"

Calling the Houle letter a "thinly-veiled threat," Mr. Levant added: "It was designed to tell her to back off … I think it was his way of sort of sending a ping, a pulse out there letting everyone know where the university stood."

In what he calls an ironic twist, Mr. Levant says that after the university raised the temperature over the event, it asked the organizers to pay more than $2,000 for extra security for Ms. Coulter, who also travels with a personal bodyguard.

As for a lawsuit, Mr. Levant is still exploring the legal issues involved. "But I would suggest if someone is treated differently by a public institution based on their political viewpoint and if that leads to economic loss or other damages and if that university made that decision for improper reasons there might be an issue here."

Ms. Coulter speaks in at the University of Calgary tomorrow night.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to