Special Guest Columnist - Michael Coren

Fall 2010 CSANews Issue 76  |  Posted date : Sep 17, 2010.Back to list

The Liberal party appears to have an intimate love affair with effortless elitism and divided loyalties. Otherwise, it would not insist on repeatedly electing or appointing leaders who fall into such categories. Stéphane Dion held a French passport and was visibly angry when asked by journalists if a potential prime minister of Canada should be a citizen of a country that does not have consistently similar interests to those of Canada, and with whom we could find ourselves in trade and geographical disputes.

Pierre Trudeau, of course, would rather have been almost anything other than Canadian. He despised the West and thought France, New York or Cuba far more fun than dull, old Canada. He was also a patrician of the first order, who had been handed all that he wanted on a platter made of contemptuous silver.

Then came Michael Ignatieff, who embodies both Liberal qualities. He has never had to worry about paying bills or finding a job, as his family is part of the ancient Russian aristocracy and Canadian ruling class. Money, mortgages and unemployment are for the common folk. Serfs, perhaps. He has also spent most of his life in Britain and the United States. He is not a new Canadian who came here for a better life, but an old Canadian who found us unutterably boring and went abroad for more prestigious university teaching gigs and more television-show hosting opportunities.

As the Tories made clear time and time again, Ignatieff spoke and wrote as "we" on many occasions when discussing the United States. Not the royal we, but the American we. Never the Canadian we. In fact, he told me personally 15 years ago over a good dinner in a Toronto restaurant that he had no interest in returning to Canada. Indeed, he seemed shocked at the very question. But times change, and so do ambitions. As with Trudeau, Iggy sees Canada as a social experiment; a project which is even more fun than writing a book or teaching.

Ambition, however, can be a demanding god. It orders people to, well, adapt their views. I covered Israel's war against Hezbollah and witnessed the brutal destruction on both sides. I then returned to Canada to hear the great Iggy explain that he "wasn't losing any sleep" about Israel's shelling of Lebanon. Even for those of us who tend to be supportive of Israel, this seemed crass, callous talk. Limbless children and splattered brains should not make us sleep easy.

Shortly after this appalling comment, Iggy spoke to a group in Quebec that was far from friendly to Israel and told them that the Jewish state had committed a war crime in Lebanon. Golly, how opinions can change in the space of a few days. But we weren't finished yet. Canadian supporters of Israel became apoplectic about the war crimes line and, lo and behold, when Iggy gave a speech in Toronto, he reversed his stance and suddenly it hadn't been a war crime at all. He did not elaborate on how he was sleeping.

Perhaps he was evolving as a thinker. Then again, perhaps not. Michael Ignatieff is a gifted teacher, a talented author and an intellectual, but a playtime politician at the bottom of a learning curve who appears willing to say all sorts of contradictory things about vitally important issues. What would they say at Harvard? What will they say in Canada? I'm not sure about the former, but people in the latter are saying that a great political party and an even-greater nation deserve something a little better. As for the prime minister, he is saying that he's mighty glad it's Mr. Ignatieff and not Mr.Chretien facing him across the floor of the House of Commons!