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Former prime minister Jean Chrétien speaks to reporters a conference in Montreal Thursday, April 14, 2011.

Graham Hughes/The CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did important service for Canada. On a personal level both are warm, friendly and entertaining. However, to many Canadians, fairly or unfairly, they are the poster boys for the infamous Liberal sponsorship scandal.

While it might be good for both nostalgic purposes and Liberal morale to roll the past-due PMs out on the campaign trail, the trade-off with the broad public may not be worth the benefit in an election where Michael Ignatieff wants the ballot question to be about ethics.

The sponsorship scandal propelled Canadians to give the Liberals the pink slip some five years ago and the memory still remains relatively fresh in a society with limited historical recall.

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If you want to portray yourself as a forward future-looking party, why bring out the old faces? Perhaps the Liberals want to use Chrétien and Martin to remind people about fiscal rectitude as they see it. That might work if that was the ballot question Ignatieff is pushing. It isn't, though it is the one his main opponent has on offer. Ignatieff, when not channeling Howard Dean or Tom Cruise (anyone see that bizarre "Rise-Up, Rise-Up" rally call Iggy made last night? Bizarre with a capital 'B'), seems most consumed with democratic malaise and impropriety as he sees it. Chrétien and Martin don't help him here. Lest we forget Chrétien himself was often styled as "The Friendly Dictator" and Martin brought that unwelcome house guest John Gomery into the Liberal home. He told us all about the rot in the lot.

In campaigns you look to create a strong contrast with your competitors so as to showcase your offer as the best one for the public to buy. By bringing Chrétien and Martin out, Ignatieff at best has confused his audience. At worst he is giving the impression that he is selling the same old dented worn-out used car that Canadians thought they sent to the junk yard.

Rise-Up. Rise-Up. Rise up all those who thought the Liberal party had embraced change. Apparently that is not the case.

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