Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Can Ignatieff rally Canadians to oppose a new Yankee threat?

How much can a leader change and be taken seriously? Michael Ignatieff seems to think he has lots of room.
He is setting a new course for his Liberal party and pushing for a spring election. He’s asking Canada’s “natural governing party” to run against big business tax cuts and he seems determined to see radical danger in Harper’s exquisitely incremental efforts to better integrate continental security and trade relations. Will leftists and nationalists be impressed? Will Liberal centrists go along? Will these positions improve his image as a leader?
Being against another 1.5% corporate tax cut seems least likely to either earn much or take much from Ignatieff personally. He simply isn’t taken seriously on economic matters. Consequently, he’ll have to rely on advertising and others to advance his  appeal on the left and maintain a decent level of forbearance from the business community—a slice of Canada that has for generations maintained close and often excellent relations with the Liberal Party. His alarmed posturing on continental security negotiations, however, strains both his liberal credentials and his personal credibility.
If he’s going to be a touchy nationalist in the next election he’ll have to be precise and find a way to sound consistent.
Ignatieff is fond of storytelling and has, in his latest book and in his many speeches, told us about his cosmopolitan career and return to Canada. In none of his utterances has he implied that he left Boston angry or that he came back to shore up our sovereignty. Indeed, the moment Obama won the presidency his spinners were whispering on every street corner that he had better contacts in the new Washington administration than any practicing politician in Canada. Yet, since Harper’s press conference last Friday, what he’s been saying sounds both defensive and gratuitously anti-American.
Immediately, he volunteered that Canada has different standards for refugees and immigrants and that a perimeter security agreement could “end up betraying our values.” In an op-ed piece called “Don’t deal away our sovereignty” he elaborated on his concerns. Yet all he offered was a string of questions that can’t be answered intelligently for months. Darkly, he referred to “right-wing Republicans” and wondered, “How much decision-making authority over Canada’s immigration policy is Canada prepared to give to the US?”
Does Ignatieff really believe that Canadian and American values are so far apart that new Canadians and civil libertarians should fear negotiations between Harper and Obama? Don’t they both support globalization and lead nations of immigrants? Should an independent Canada not try to harmonize its policies with its principal trading partner and ally? Can a cosmopolitan liberal intellectual wrap himself in the Canadian flag against his former home and Barack Obama?
His opening shot at Harper was more promising. “After months of secret negations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week his desire to seek a new security deal with the United States.” Months of secret talks-to-decide-to-desire-to-seek-a-deal? What kind of leadership is that?
Paranoid innuendo, on the other hand, won’t impress Canadians generally and doesn’t ring true.

No comments:

Post a Comment