Going into this election, Mr. Ignatieff has low expectations. His polling numbers across a wide range of indices have been embarrassingly low. In politics, low expectations can be a considerable advantage.
Another thing need worry the Harper Conservatives. In recent times, Mr. Ignatieff has been operating with increasing confidence and strength. For long periods in opposition he appeared plagued by ambivalence. He now seems resolved, comfortable in his own skin, ready for the fate that awaits him.
The campaign will begin with Mr. Harper enjoying a good-sized lead as he did in the 2008 campaign. But then he was up against the wobbly Stéphane Dion. While Mr.Ignatieff’s polling numbers are just as weak, he is considerably more gifted in terms of leadership potential. He is more articulate and trenchant. He is stronger in debate, better organized and surrounded by a better team. There will be no grainy videos arriving late at TV studios as there was under Mr. Dion. Mr. Ignatieff is unlikely to have to restart an interview several times, as did Mr. Dion, occasioning an embarrassing mishap at a critical period in the ‘08 campaign.
Now with the parliament of Canada:
- engaged in debate over the "contempt of parliament" resolution of the Commons committee (the first in parliamentary history of the world), and
- facing a budget that some dub as "without risk or vision,"
- and knowing about the government's obstinate intention to purchase $30 billion of F-35 Fighter Jets,
- and a sizeable but seemingly undicephered and unannounced cost to prisons,
- added to a $6 billion in tax cuts for corporations,
it is now time for the Liberal leader and his troops to mount the kind of gripping, and grounded campaign to seize at least a minority government, or perhaps even a majority.
2011 is Ignatieff's only window on making history...it is a tide to be taken at its height, an opportunity to be poetically grasped, and a turn in the road for the country, so badly needed that he cannot fail for the sake of the country. (It was Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York State, who said, Politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose.)
Should the Liberals not pass the ultimate test of electoral success, Ignatieff will become merely an asterisk in a footnote to Canadian history.
Should he and the Liberals succeed, the country can turn its back on those unnecessary Fighter Jets, turn its back on those unncessary new prison cells, turn its back on those unnecessary tax cuts for corporations, and turn its face toward investments in humanitarian needs like social assistance, clean drinking water, job opportunities, a more fair and just tax code and a government committed to considering the people not the corporate donors of the conservatives.