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Does Ignatieff really need policy now?

Posted by padams under All, Media Commentary, Political Strategy


Ignatieff speaks to Young Liberals

Ignatieff speaks to Young Liberals



Paul Adams

Paul Adams is blogging the federal Liberal convention in Vancouver this weekend.

A recovering Martinite recently remarked to me that Paul Martin’s regime had focused enormous energy on policy (“fixing” medicare, national child care, the Kelowna Accord, Darfur, etc., etc.), but neglected the political zones both above and below: that is, party organization and the expression of “aspirational goals” that could inspire Canadians and Liberal supporters.

Interestingly, Michael Ignatieff, has concentrated all his energies so far on party organization — really the theme of this weekend’s convention — and aspirational goals — the theme of his recent book. But he has spoken relatively little about policy. A media consensus seems to be emerging that Ignatieff needs to fill in the policy gap quickly.

On the Globe and Mail website one-time NDP strategist Les Campbell dissents from the consensus:

“Yes, there is media pressure to ‘flesh out specifics.’ And yes, party members love to think that they are influencing the party’s priorities. But seriously, no one thinks that Michael Ignatieff lacks ideas.”

“Canadians won’t have any problem believing that Mr. Ignatieff can come up with clever strategies and complicated policies. What they need to know is who he is, and how he might react under pressure and the weight of responsibility. As Mr. Ignatieff’s recent taxation ruminations showed, rolling out policy before fully defining the party leader opens the door for other parties to use policy — out of context — to define the leader in their way. There is lots of time for policy later.”

Paul Adams, a former political correspondent for the CBC and Globe and Mail, is a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty and executive director of EKOS Research Associates. He is researching a book on the Liberal Party.