MONTREAL — The outspoken wife of former Liberal leader Stephane Dion has written a scathing letter in which she questions Michael Ignatieff’s ability to lead the party out of its current woes.
In a note published on her Facebook page and subsequently circulated among party members, Janine Krieber wrote Friday that the party was in full collapse and the future appeared bleak.
A fellow university professor, Krieber said party members were duped by Ignatieff and would have recognized his obvious shortcomings if they’d only taken the time to read his academic writings.
She also said the party would pay for refusing to endorse a historic left-wing coalition in an attempt to oust the Conservatives last December.
She writes that her husband was working to rebuild the party after last year’s disappointing election result but had those efforts short-circuited by Ignatieff, who first dethroned Dion without a leadership race and then dumped the idea of forming a coalition with the other opposition parties.
“Stephane was ready to take the time and the shots (against him) in order to rebuild the party,” she said. “But they (party members) didn’t accept the 26 per cent (of the popular vote in the last election). Now we’re at 23.”
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the note, which has since been deleted, where she openly questions whether current Leader Michael Ignatieff is the one to lead the party out of its funk.
Sources say Dion, a Montreal MP, was not involved in producing the note and that people in his camp persuaded Krieber to delete the message earlier Saturday.
A spokesman for Ignatieff couldn’t deny its existence but added that by the time he checked the page, there was no sign of the note.
Attempts to reach Krieber and Dion on Saturday weren’t immediately successful.
Krieber has never shied away from expressing her opinion and having it out with party brass.
During the 2008 federal election campaign, she complained she was being muzzled by the party, which was met with denials.
But privately, some in the party had concerns that temperamental Krieber wouldn’t stick to the party line and take the focus away from Dion.
During the same campaign, Krieber refused, at the last minute, to introduce Dion at a women’s event because she found the brief speech prepared for her by campaign headquarters to be undignified.
But her criticism this week comes as the party is struggling to revive its fortunes and undergoing wholesale changes at the top.
Ignatieff himself offered a mea culpa for the party’s recent stumbles but assured a crowd in Winnipeg this week that better times were ahead.
“I take responsibility for what we’re going through, and I think you know that I have made substantial changes so that we move forward rapidly,” Ignatieff told about 300 supporters.
The Liberals have had little traction in opinion polls since September, when the party threatened to defeat the minority Conservative government and then backtracked. Ignatieff has tried to turn the tide by shaking up his inner circle and bringing in Peter Donolo, a former communications director for Jean Chretien, as his new chief of staff.
But he doesn’t appear to have the support of Krieber, who offered a blunt assessment of the current situation and his leadership.
In the note, time stamped 4:16 p.m. Friday, Krieber, a respected political science and renowned terrorism expert, muses on the popular social networking site that things turned sour for the party when Paul Martin betrayed Chretien.
She also laments that the party is in free fall and the Conservatives are slowly but surely reshaping the country.
As the debate rages on Parliament Hill over issues of torture of detainees in Afghanistan and corruption, Krieber questions whether Ignatieff is the right person to lead the charge.
Ignatieff has in the past mused in his writings about the possible acceptability of coercive interrogation and some critics have taken that as an endorsement of torture, a charge that Ignatieff has denied.
“The party base understood (in 2006) and Canadian citizens are understanding now. Ignatieff’s supporters didn’t do their homework. They didn’t read his books. They contented themselves with his ability to navigate the cocktail circuit,” she wrote.
“Some of them are enraged today. I hear: ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us (about him)?’ We told you, loud and clear. You didn’t listen.”