By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 27, 2011 - 68 Comments
The circular amphitheatre, used in other circumstances by a circus school, was bathed in red light. A muscular DJ spun pounding dance music, the heavy bass shaking the floor. In the audience, signs and thundersticks waved approximately to the beat.
After a few warm-up acts, Justin Trudeau bounded on stage, vibrating with apparent enthusiasm. He wore a suit jacket, but no tie, the top two buttons of his dress shirt undone. He and a cohost proceeded then to introduce the party’s Montreal team, Mr. Trudeau announcing each arrival as if introducing the starting line-up of the ’76 Habs.
On defence, the bespectacled one, Francisss Scarrr-pa-leggia! At left wing, in the tweed coat, Irwinnnn Cot-ler! Each descended the stairs from the top of the crowd. Each of the men wore the same look: suit jacket, no tie, top button of dress shirt undone. The lone candidate in a tie promptly removed his upon arriving on stage.
Finally, the captain, Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader appearing in a pink shirt, his wife by his side. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 3 Comments
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25…
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25 000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing for her book The Ghosts of Europe: Journeys Through Central Europe’s Troubled Past and Uncertain Future. Below, Porter with House Leader John Baird.
Belinda Stronach and Peter Mansbridge.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, October 8, 2010 at 10:09 AM - 0 Comments
A remembrance night was held last week for Liberal communications director Mario Lagüe, who…
A remembrance night was held last week for Liberal communications director Mario Lagüe, who died in a motorcycle accident in August.
Liberal MP Stéphane Dion.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 13, 2010 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
In the latest print edition of Maclean’s there are something like 1,300 words, under this byline, about Michael Ignatieff’s summer. Here, for your amusement, curiosity or comparison, is the indulgently long version, including a never-before-seen alternate ending.
It could be read as the latest in a series that includes previous sketches in September 2008, February 2009, June 2009 and October 2009. It could also be read as a reference to my favourite rap song of 2008.
Anyway. Make of it what you will. Continue…
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 6:33 PM - 6 Comments
Bob Rennie’s bash drew Iggy, Olympians, and protesters
Michael Ignatieff looks slightly stunned as he pushes his way into the packed reception at Bob Rennie’s fantabulous private art gallery in the Downtown Eastside with his wife Zsuzsanna on Wednesday afternoon. “Is this a church?,” he asks, gazing upward at the soaring ceilings and high windows that permitted beatific light. Then he went into scholarly mode: “Because the analogy would be apt.”
The question too is apt. Rennie, a ridiculously rich 51-year-old condo developer and big-time art collector, has God-like status in this city. He’s been called Vancouver’s most influential citizen. The money helps. Last year, Rennie Marketing Systems generated over $1.5 billion in sales. But the boyish entrepreneur also makes things happen. When New York architect Robert Stern’s design for the Olympic Village got panned, Rennie had him fired and replaced by his pal, Arthur Erickson. His big project is the Downtown Eastside, Canada’s poorest postal code. Rennie pushed through the redevelopment of the Woodward building which now houses Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts, social housing and retail space. And he poured tens of millions into renovating Chinatown’s oldest structure, the Wang Sing Building which dates back to 1889. The condemned space was in such derelict condition workers had to wear hazard suits.
Now it’s his headquarters and a private gallery for his renowned collection of socially conscious contemporary art. During the Games, the gallery has been taken over by the World Olympians Association, an alumni group founded by the IOC, which is using it as a place for former Olympians to hang out. For the duration, Rennie’s collection is in storage and the walls are covered with an exhibit of splendid photographs taken at the Beijing Games.
Because Rennie is a guy who likes to make things happen, he decided to throw an afternoon shindig in the middle of the Games, a kind of social summit to bring together communities that don’t generally mingle—Olympic mucky-mucks, athletes, artists, politicians, arts administrators, and social activists from the community, many of whom opposed the Games. And because Bob asked them, they came, even with the big Canada-Russian hockey game about to start (it was broadcast on the wall).
Hundreds packed into the space, among them current mayor Gregor Robinson Robertson, former mayor Senator Larry Campbell, Canada Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge, city councilor Kim Capri, Team Canada medalists Maëlle Ricker and Mike Robertson. Caitlin Jones, the executive director of artist-run Western Front, wearing a “I’m cranky about BC arts cuts” button stood next to Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella.
When Ignatieff arrives, Rennie leaps over to give him a quick hug. “He’s my new best friend,” the real estate developer boasts. Ignatieff dropped by to chat with him earlier in the week, Rennie explains, and ended up staying for an hour and a half. Such is the power of Bob.
Rennie is in his element as host, addressing the crowd about the galvanizing power of the Games, the thrill of just walking down the street. “It’s socially acceptable now to have a conscience,” he tells the group.
Already the gallery has become a landmark. Rennie tells me Rudge approached him last October, after it opened, asking if the COC could use the space for Canada Olympic House, a retreat for Canadian athletes and their families. The idea of bringing the team to the off-the-track Downtown Eastside pleased him, he said. Creating a place that would bring people who wouldn’t otherwise step foot in the area was his goal, he says. So he was less happy when the Hudson’s Bay Company ended up putting the retreat in its flagship downtown store. “It is a big sponsor,” Rudge explains later.
The mood in the room is buoyant—about the Games and Rennie’s ambitions for the neighbourhood, though a few people express disappointment they weren’t going to get a peak of Rennie’s famous collection.
Carrie Belanger of 411 Senior Centre, a drop-in for senior citizens in the neighbourhood, tells me her concerns about the Olympics—that it would bring congestion that would limit her clients’ access—proved mostly unfounded. “There has been some inconvenience but the energy has been fabulous,” she says. VANOC has been generous with tickets for her clients: “Never in a million years would they have access to sporting and cultural events.”
Minister Ric Matthews of First United Church Mission around the corner believes Rennie is trying to bridge the space between the elite that attends the Olympics and people in the margins. What he wants is to find a middle ground that will also preserve the low-income neighbourhood. “It’s protecting space so people feel at home.”
Ron Burnett, president of Emily Carr University of Art + Design, is more hopeful. “If we can create a cultural impact in the area, we can help homelessness,” he says. “You can’t see a solution if you stay away.” The risk, he allows, is that gentrification will drive up property values and push out residents who have no other place to go. “It’s a challenging problem. But I think the city has made an amazing effort in buying land and hotels and creating a sense of momentum.” He cites the revitalization of New York’s Bowery, as an example: “You create a democratic space—a sense of participation from all classes.”
Rennie’s critics, of whom there are many in this town, are here too—outside, where a handful of protesters picketed with signs reading “Resort City Trend Sped Up by Olympics” and “Bob, we want social housing not condos.”
Rider Cooey, a protester wearing a “2010 Welfare Olympics” t-shirt, says Rennie’s pattern is to gentrify and condo-ize. The Downtown Eastside is his latest target. “This building is his vanity project,” he says, “He’s a marketer. The more he gets those quotes out about making a difference in the neighbourhood, the more successful he’ll be.”
Jean Swanson, coordinator of Carnegie Community Action Project, a neighbourhood community centre, has tangled with Rennie in the past. “Who does it benefit?” she asks of the gallery. “Maybe it makes the area look prettier. Meanwhile, residents are being pushed out, rents in crummy hotels are running $800 a month.” A mapping project found 95 per cent want to live here—with good housing, she says. “They like the non-judgmental nature of it; they’re stigmatized in other neighbourhoods.”
As I talk with them, Rennie’s guests keep coming and going through doors guarded by police. No one who walks down the street here can escape the complexity of the challenge: a block from the single-room occupancy hotel Balmoral, there’s Bombast, a swank furniture store selling $3,500 sofas. And in between the streets are filled with homeless for whom the neighbourhood is home, at least for now.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 12:40 PM - 11 Comments
And a political wife’s new hair
Coming soon? This is your pilot, Ruby Dhalla, speaking.
Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla was in riding lockdown this summer. She left only twice: for the Liberal caucus meeting in Sudbury, and for French lessons in France. This summer, to mark her fifth year as an elected official, she was raising money for the Ethno-Cultural Canadian Women’s Organization or ECCO (the final O is the symbol for woman). The group’s goal is combatting domestic violence in ethnic communities. Dhalla is also studying to be a pilot; so far, she has only been in simulators, though. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is on the border of her riding. She often gives herself extra time when flying out of there because security people, many of whom are constituents, stop her to ask about things like immigration problems when she leaves for Ottawa on Mondays. But for the first Monday that the House returned, Dhalla had a downtown Toronto meeting and flew Porter Airlines from the Toronto island airport. Her reading for the first week back was Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Over the summer she read Barack Obama’s books and The Tao of Detox: The Natural Way to Purify Your Body for Health and Longevity.
It’s the much-coveted spot
Conservative backbench MP Brad Trost seems to be out of the doghouse. Several Tory MPs were miffed at Trost after he told a website, “The tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by—I think it’s safe to say—by a large majority of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision.” He also alluded to a demotion for Diane Ablonczy, the minister responsible for allocating the funding. But on the ﬁrst day Parliament resumed, Trost gave the last member’s statement before question period. This is a much-coveted spot since by that time most of the media and other MPs have reached their seats and may actually pay attention to it. NDP House leader Libby Davies says the Conservatives tend to use the last member’s statement simply to rattle Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. The personal attacks, she says, result in the Liberal caucus rising and extending their applause for their leader. Davies feels that the applause is going on so long it is cutting into question period and lowering the NDP’s chances of getting in an extra question at the end. She has complained to Speaker Peter Milliken. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 1:02 PM - 9 Comments
Slapshot, the New York Times’ hockey blog, considers Michael Ignatieff’s hockey watching, as revealed in Adam Gopnik’s profile for the New Yorker.
Ignatieff notes the contrast between being a professor, writer and navel-gazer and being a politician. “The thing that politics most strongly resembles is being on soccer teams and hockey teams when I was a child,” he says. “It’s not a lonely writer in his den thinking thoughts.” He mulls the question further and tells Gopnik of an experience he had not too long ago with his wife.
“What is it that a great politician knows? What is that form of knowledge?” Ignatieff asks. “Last night, Zsuzsanna and I were watching the Detroit Red Wings goalie, and he knows something; what is it that he knows? What is it that a great politician knows? The great ones have a skill that is just jaw-dropping, and I’m trying to learn that.”
Presumably Ignatieff was watching Chris Osgood. (Disturbing news for Canadians? They’ve got to hope he was watching Osgood in the playoffs, not the regular season.) To American ears, it’s a bit weird to hear a national politician comparing anything to a living, breathing goalie — although to these particular American ears it’s a real pleasure.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 1:09 PM - 10 Comments
Michael Ignatieff held his first media garden party at Stornoway since becoming Liberal leader….
Michael Ignatieff held his first media garden party at Stornoway since becoming Liberal leader. The Etobicoke Youth Jazz Orchestra from his Toronto riding provided the music.
Iggy’s wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar with Mimi.
Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
And Rona Ambrose’s man-hating dog
Somebody at Stornoway is out of sorts
Michael Ignatieff held a media garden party at Stornoway, his first since becoming Liberal leader. The Etobicoke Youth Jazz Orchestra from his Toronto riding provided the music. The party was supposed to go from 6 to 8 p.m., but when it started getting chilly, Ignatieff’s wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, invited the remaining guests into the house, where media folks stayed chatting with Iggy in the living room until 10:30. Zsohar’s and Iggy’s feisty feline Mimi was jumping all over the place. (She even jumps in Ignatieff’s cereal when he has breakfast.) The couple had got their second cat, Eric, the day before the bash so Mimi was in a bit of a huff. Stornoway’s chef, Josh Drache, calls Mimi “an evil cat.” Zsohar served biscotti in the living room, and, despite her jumping, even Mimi got a nibble.
Who knew our Senators were that fit?
Vancouver Conservative MP John Weston had several politicians, sports coaches, and Laureen Harper gather in front of the Peace Tower as part of his initiative to get MPs to invest at least “20 minutes 10 seconds” twice weekly in fitness activities. The amount of time is connected to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. When Conservative Senator Nancy Greene Raine told the crowd that 80 per cent of senators already had some sort of fitness regime, a few gasps were heard. Labour Minister Rona Ambrose brought her dog Luna to the event. When Peter Stoffer tried to pet the pooch, Ambrose warned the NDP MP that Luna hates men. But Luna liked Stoffer for some reason. As the group did a walking lap around the Hill, they passed AIDS activists dressed in black-and-white-striped prison uniforms protesting the criminalization of HIV transmission, saying it is the only potentially fatal pathogen being treated this way. The AIDS activists were supported by NDP MPs Libby Davies and Bill Siksay as well as Liberal MP Hedy Fry. Before the AIDS protest had wrapped up, another group of demonstrators arrived with effigies of Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as the two leaders were meeting on the Hill for trade talks. The Uribe protesters’ music was so loud it drowned out the AIDS activists.
Luckily Don Newman ignored his CBC bosses
CBC Newsworld Politics host Don Newman will soon retire. He arrived on the Hill as a Globe and Mail reporter during Pierre Trudeau’s first government. He was the first print reporter to have a tape recorder. “I was laughed at and ridiculed both by broadcasters and by colleagues in the print press.” He has no plans to be a politician, although he notes his former fellow broadcaster Mike Duffy, who is now a senator, always had an interest in the upper chamber. Notes Newman, “I am very happy for him that he finally got where he wanted to go.” Newman hasn’t voted in a federal or provincial election since 1972 because he covers them. “I do vote municipally. I kinda know who is running for council. I vote for the school board although I have no idea who they are.” When CBC got the Newsworld channel, Newman was told by his bosses not to waste his time on it. They later admitted they were wrong. “I knew Newsworld was going to be a big success because Brian Mulroney would phone me personally on the commercial breaks.” Will he miss wearing makeup every day? “No,” says Newman. “But I’ve had a wonderful person [Joan Hodgins] who has done my makeup since 1993. I will miss her company every day.”
What’s Martha Hall Findlay wearing?
Toronto Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay was spotted wearing a sealskin ribbon she got from the government of Nunavut. Her Liberal colleague Anthony Rota, who has the fur industry promotion organization Fur Harvesters Auction in his northern Ontario riding, says he plans to get similar ribbons for all the Liberal MPs.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 22, 2009 at 4:26 PM - 11 Comments
The last year and a half has included numerous opportunities to watch Michael Ignatieff in public. The most interesting moment remains a scene last fall outside a strip mall in Etobicoke, Ignatieff, then deputy leader of the Liberals, standing at the entrance of a Shopper’s Drug Mart, trying to engage voters as they attempted to go about the business of buying toilet paper, shampoo and such.
I find that’s the day I come back to most, in conversation with other people, when trying to sort out who Michael Ignatieff is. I usually bring it up with all sorts of caveats about a politician’s inherent need to perform and the possibility it was all put on for my benefit, though I doubt they’d bother and I tend to believe I wasn’t being entirely snookered (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?). In general, I suppose I initially approach politicians with the best of hopes, bothered only slightly by fears of the worst. So judge my eyewitness account accordingly.
Anyway. For whatever it’s worth in figuring out Mr. Ignatieff, a reprint of the sketch that appeared here afterwards. Make of it what you will. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, February 23, 2009 at 10:39 PM - 13 Comments
Liberal leader Michael Igantieff was honorary chair of the Toronto Winter Palace Ball fundraiser…
Liberal leader Michael Igantieff was honorary chair of the Toronto Winter Palace Ball fundraiser for Ruskoka Camp, which helps underprivileged Russian Canadian youth. The evening was called “Dancing with the Tsars.”
Igantieff’s wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, headed straight to the silent auction. Zsohar took off one of her rings to test the authenticity of a hand-knit Orenburg shawl. She says it should be so fine and airy that you can pull it through a ring.
By Mitchel Raphael - Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
PLUS: Why silent auctions make Michael Ignatieff nervous
WHY SILENT AUCTIONS MAKE IGNATIEFF NERVOUS
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was honorary chair of the Winter Palace Ball fundraiser for Ruskoka Camp, which helps underprivileged Russian-Canadian youth. The evening was called “Dancing with the Tsars.” Ceremonial Russian guards lifted their swords as guests entered the ballroom of the Old Mill Inn in Toronto. After walking under the swords with her husband, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, Ignatieff’s wife, made a beeline for the silent auction. Interested in a cream-coloured hand-knit Orenburg shawl, Zsohar took off one of her rings to test its authenticity. (The cloth should be fine and airy enough to go through, she told Capital Diary.) The scarf passed the test and Zsohar put in a bid. “An occupational hazard of my life,” noted Ignatieff, “is keeping my wife from bankrupting us at silent auctions.” Over on the dance floor was a glass case (loaned by Natasha Bronfman, one of the ball’s organizers) with souvenirs that had been given by Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna to guests at what would be the final Christmas ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Paul Ignatieff, the Liberal leader’s grandfather, served as education minister to Nicholas II.
JOHN BAIRD LOVES QUATCHI
Governor General Michaëlle Jean held a special ceremony on the grounds of Rideau Hall to unveil the Olympic torch for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Schoolchildren, including a Grade 3 class from Leslie Park Public School located in Transport Minister John Baird’s Ottawa riding, were brought in to watch. Baird, who was on hand for the ceremony, welcomed the kids. “You have Quatchi on your face,” he told one child, referring to his temporary tattoo of one of the three Olympic mascots (there are also young sea bear Miga and animal spirit Sumi). The third-grader had no idea his tattoo was one of the mascots, but after the minister explained it, Baird was bombarded with “Who’s on my face?” For the record, the young sasquatch Quatchi is Baird’s favourite. After the ceremony, the Governor General took the kids snowshoeing on the grounds of Rideau Hall and had a fun snowball fight with them. Capital Diary feels obligated to report that the GG appeared to throw the first snowball.
BET CHRÉTIEN CAN’T WAIT
Former prime minister Paul Martin spoke at the University of Ottawa about the G8 being obsolete and how the future belongs to the G20. The talk was presented by the university and Library and Archives Canada. At the top of his speech, Martin mentioned how, after he was no longer PM, the archives sat him down for taped interviews and peppered him with questions about his time in office. In the audience was the president of the university, Allan Rock, a minister under Jean Chrétien, and Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale. Martin said he had great things to say about both Rock and Goodale in those interviews but, he added (not too optimistically for his former colleagues), they will never get to hear them because the archives seal the tapes for 30 years. One can only imagine what Martin said about Chrétien.
WE ALMOST HAD A CANNABIS FLAG?
Heritage Minister James Moore presided over a special Flag Day celebration in Speaker Peter Milliken’s Hill reception room. A stunning collection that includes all of Canada’s historical flags (including ones like the white flag of the French navy before Canada was even a country) was created by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney when he was in a prior portfolio. Kenney noted that the Speaker’s reception room was where the parliamentary committee first met to discuss the new flag that resulted in the current Maple Leaf, which first flew on Feb. 15, 1965. A Tory MP noted with a smile that one of the options for the new Canadian flag on display featured a green leaf that, in his opinion, looked a lot like a cannabis leaf.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 12:38 PM - 4 Comments
The Globe’s Judith Timson takes great interest in the anecdote about Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna, reading Tolstoy to each other over Christmas.
Maybe it’s just me, but the new Liberal Leader seems utterly besotted with Zsuzsanna Zsohar, his wife of 10 years. Judging by his frequent references to her, he’s what you might call über-married…
Not only does this conjure up a charming picture of connubial bliss (although who can keep the romantic ups and downs of Tolstoy’s five aristocratic families straight?), it is a more intimate glimpse of a political leader’s marriage than we’ve seen in a long while.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 11:00 PM - 65 Comments
Interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff held his holiday party at Toronto’s hip C Lounge….
Interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff held his holiday party at Toronto’s hip C Lounge.
Toronto MP Ken Dryden and his wife Lynda.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 1 Comment
‘People will write what they write. And frankly they can go to hell.’
At an outdoor job fair on a street corner in west Toronto, Michael Ignatieff climbs on a makeshift stage and publicly states his support for the local butcher, among other neighbourhood amenities. He keeps his remarks short, and then gets to shaking hands. There’s a guy wearing a T-shirt that helpfully instructs, “Don’t feed the bears,” and a gentleman dressed all in black, whose hat identifies him as “100 per cent Newfie.” Ignatieff lets a stranger put sunscreen on his hands and talks to a woman already recruiting volunteers for this year’s Santa Claus parade.
A moment later—Ignatieff walks fast—he’s across the street. He runs into the Newfie again. Then a young boy playing the violin. Then his NDP rival. Then a woman from the Humane Society. Then some firefighters. He likes this. Says it’s the “realest” part of his job. None of which would be that notable if it weren’t so at odds with what is generally believed about Michael Ignatieff.
“I don’t have to put it on, I enjoy meeting people,” he says later. “I enjoy the sense of being finished with abstractions. I’ve talked politics all my life, this is politics.”
It is understood implicitly that Michael Ignatieff is a politician and, therefore, must politic like all the rest. But otherwise, he is only ever discussed as being above or below this. He is either the Harvard intellectual with Russian royalty in his blood and Canadian aristocracy to his name. Or he is the brooding Machiavelli, conspiring in the shadows to overthrow Stéphane Dion. He is either the party’s greatest asset. Or its leader’s most conniving rival. (Or maybe both.)
In a campaign office at the end of an Etobicoke strip mall, he is only the candidate, albeit one with arty campaign banners bearing his likeness. His wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, works the front desk, greeting volunteers. There are lawn signs piled high in the backroom, colour-coded maps of the riding on the wall and pans of lasagna laid out for lunch. Ignatieff pauses to eat, then he’s back in a volunteer’s car and, after a short drive, strolling around a leafy neighbourhood. While he walks, he talks thoughtfully of what it is he does for a living. But he is tactfully self-deprecating. “I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics,” he tells one constituent.
Whatever his attempts to undermine his own reputation, it is resilient. Last week, after a quiet start to the national campaign, Ignatieff and the other perceived usurper, Bob Rae, appeared at Dion’s side. This was first interpreted as an explicit attempt to lend eloquence and charisma to the floundering Liberal leader. And then it was reported as nothing less than a plot to “outshine” Dion. “They know full well what they are doing. It’s obvious,” huffed one of the 300 anonymous senior strategists who populate the Liberal party.
Back at his own campaign headquarters, in a small office with two televisions buzzing in the corner, Ignatieff is serious now, but talkative and blunt. “Look, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” he says. “My view of this is that Dion has benefited from 18 months of considerably greater unity in the party than, say, Turner enjoyed or that Chrétien enjoyed. I can’t say it often enough. I had a millisecond to react to defeat in December 2006, on live television, in real time. And I made a strategic decision in that millisecond that the right thing to do, in every meaning of the word right thing to do, was . . . that the party had made its choice. Was I happy with the choice? No. Because I wanted to win. But the party made its choice and I’ve stood with the guy ever since.”
Does he fear that his loyalists are perhaps not so supportive? “I’ve made it very clear to everybody who supported me in 2006 that we have one objective. Which is to make this guy the prime minister of Canada,” he says. “I’d like to be a minister in a Liberal government. I would. But the point is, we’re in a situation where it actually doesn’t matter what the hell I say. People will write what they write. And, frankly, they can go to hell.”
He talks of the last two years as “exhilarating” and “difficult.” “The basic thing is I’ve got skin in the game. That is, I’ve been on the other side of this microphone, right? There are real things at stake for me here. You’re no longer a spectator, you’re a participant.”
It’s pointed out that were he on the other side of the microphone he’d argue that no one stands to gain as much from his party losing as Michael Ignatieff. “I don’t want our party to lose,” he says. He talks of “tribal loyalties” and knocking on doors at age 17. “This is the institution that was founded by Laurier, you don’t mess around with that. You want it to succeed all the time,” he continues. “If it fails, then we’re into another scenario. But the only scenario I’m looking at is up to Oct. 14. Because you start thinking about anything else and you will start making mistakes. And the party can’t afford me to make mistakes. The party needs me to execute flawlessly. And if we fail to do that, we’re going to deliver this guy a majority. And then a lot of the party will turn around and say, what the hell were you thinking? This is the real deal. I don’t want to give Stephen Harper a majority government. And the party would not forgive anybody among us who said anything that would make that possible.”
A couple of sentences more and he’s done. “Thank you for listening to me,” he says. “I gotta go.” A moment later he’s out the door, walking down the road to a nearby strip mall, where he’ll stand out front of a Shoppers Drug Mart and shake hands for another half-hour before calling it a day.