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Is Michael Ignatieff change Canadians need?

Some Americans seem to think so, if last Friday’s edition of the New York Times is anything to judge by….

By Brandi Cowen , in Bridging the 49th Parallel , on February 4, 2009 Tags: , , , , ,

Some Americans seem to think so, if last Friday’s edition of the New York Times is anything to judge by.

The cover of the paper’s January 30th Fashion and Style section was devoted to an in-depth and largely flattering look at the new Liberal leader. Early on, the article compared Ignatieff to former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

There are also Canadians who see Ignatieff as someone who can bring about change. Last Sunday, ran a piece covering the Times’ story and comparing Ignatieff to President Barack Obama.

Both articles noted how Ignatieff has reinvigorated and reorganized the Liberal party since taking over from Stéphane Dion in December. Both articles also carried an underlying sense of excitement that Ignatieff may become the next Liberal prime minister, and soon.

The media and the opposition parties – especially the Liberals – have a tendency to portray Prime Minister Stephen Harper as former President George W. Bush’s “yes man.” With many Americans excited to put the Bush years behind them, it’s not surprising that some are looking ahead to having a new prime minister on Parliament Hill.

Harper is a constant reminder that moving forward isn’t as easy as electing a new leader.

For better or for worse, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Harper are all part of Bush’s legacy. In the future, only Harper will have to campaign under the weight of that legacy. That might not be an easy thing to do.

As a Toronto Star piece from early January noted, “whatever Harper was doing up here, Bush was doing more of it down there… For a federal government with a more or less parallel US agenda, political cover that broad is priceless.” The column concluded what some Canadians have already realized: “Obama makes Harper look bad.”  

Whether or not Canada needs change is open for debate. So is Ignatieff’s ability and willingness to break with Harper’s policies, like the New York Times seems convinced he would.

Being compared to leaders who inspired the terms “Trudeau-mania” and “Obama-mania” to describe their followings among voters is a lot to live up to. But if Ignatieff is even half the leader the New York Times believes him to be, he just might pull it off.


  • Let me just remind you that when Martin became Liberal leader, the media painted him as the next Trudeau, saying that the country had not been that excited about a new prime minister in years. Yet, he ended up with a minority government and eventually was beaten by the Tories and forced into early retirement.

    Likewise, the media characterized Dion as the next prime minister at the beginning of December, but he was promptly beaten down and replaced. We should be careful about characterizing Ignatieff in the same manner.

    I also think it’s classic that the left-wing media, such as the CBC, hypes up Canadian sovereignty when there is a Republican administration in the US, but says that we should be an American lap dog when the Dems are in the White House.

  • “The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known.” — Michael Ignatieff

    That’s scary!! Iggy isn’t “change,” he’s “more of the same” — but worse!

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