The federal Conservatives are running negative advertisements about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
The TV spots point out that the Harvard University-educated academic has spent 34 years outside of Canada but now thinks he’s the person most qualified to lead this country.
That sort of criticism is fair enough. After all, as funnyman Rick Mercer has noted, Ignatieff wants to be prime minister so bad, he actually moved here to try to get the job.
The television ads may be pushing the envelope in suggesting that the Grit leader has “no long-term commitment.”.
But then again, if Ignatieff’s political ambitions fail, who really believes he’s going to stay in Canada?
In such a case, he might very well head back to the United States.
As a politician, he’s a bit like Peter Pocklington was when he tried to become leader of the federal Conservatives in 1983.
Pocklington wanted to start at the top — just like Ignatieff.
Ignatieff and Pocklington both apparently think it’s OK to want to be the boss without having paid your dues.
No doubt, the Tories are hoping their anti-Ignatieff TV ads will allow them to define the party leader, just as their anti-Stephane Dion TV spots helped them paint him as a man without leadership abilities.
Ignatieff’s response to the negative ads has been rather restrained and mature.
Instead of getting angry, he’s simply expressed disappointment with the Conservatives’ tactic.
That’s an intelligent approach to take, as letting the Tories know that they’ve got his goat would only encourage them.
Ignatieff said recently that the new Conservative TV ads attacking his commitment to Canada don’t bother him on a personal level.
He said they’re offensive because they attempt to define who is and who isn’t a good Canadian, based on the amount of time they’ve lived in Canada.
That’s a smart position to take as his statement makes it appear as if the Conservatives might have something against immigrants claiming to be good Canadians. (It’s no secret that the Liberals have long courted the immigrant vote.)
Of course, in the past, the Liberals played hardball with Stockwell Day (when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance) and Stephen Harper (the first time that he ran as Conservative leader).
But, in all fairness, one can hardly blame politicians for practising politics from time to time.
The negative ads have some chance of succeeding as the Conservatives are said to have lots of money to buy time on TV.
The Liberals, on the other hand, are poor and so far have only managed to post a rebuttal on YouTube — where relatively few people are likely to see it.
In any case, Ignatieff is to be congratulated for taking the high road. By doing so, he appears to be primeministerial.
And maybe that will work for him.
It didn’t work for Dion, but Ignatieff is a different sort of leader.
Both men are keen intellectuals, but Ignatieff appears to have more common sense and a bit more charisma.
He could be Canada’s next prime minister.
And if that doesn’t work out for him, he won’t be the first failed politician to return to the halls of academia.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.