Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Professor learns a lesson

Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff gave a speech last night on the lessons he learned during his short stint as a politician.

And the key lesson was: Academics have a lot to learn about the real world.

Anyway, it reminded me of a column I wrote three years ago which explored Ignatieff's political naivety.

I have reproduced it below:

Professor needs a lesson in Liberal politics
A couple of weeks ago, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff made a serious mistake: He said what he believed.

While answering questions in Cambridge Ont., he declared if he ever became prime minister he would raise taxes.

Sure it was a controversial comment but Ignatieff believed he was just being honest and he probably expected such honesty would be applauded.

He was wrong.

Polls now show 30% of Canadians are less likely to vote Liberal in the next election as a result of his honest view on taxes.
Needless to say, this turn of events has likely caused some consternation in Liberal Party headquarters.

In fact, I can just imagine what happened when the Liberal leader met to discuss the situation with his high-priced political consultants.

It probably went something like this:

Consultant: Michael what the heck were you thinking when you talked about raising taxes? Remember our plan? It's simple. Do nothing. Say nothing.

Ignatieff: But surely as anyone with a PhD in advanced economic theory realizes, the only way to eliminate the deficit is to raise taxes. It was common knowledge among us faculty at Harvard. Indeed, I remember attending a striking lecture on the subject ...

Consultant: Excuse me, professor Brainiac, but we have been through this a hundred times. Let me repeat, politics is not like Harvard. Didn't you read the Liberal campaign manual I sent you?

Ignatieff: Not yet. I thought better preparation would be to read Plato's Republic in the original Greek.

Consultant: (heaving deep sigh) Alright forget it. Just listen to me. We have to do some serious damage control. Next time you give a speech I want you to promise to scrap the GST. Then I want you to publicly sign a pledge which states you will never, ever, under any circumstances raise taxes. Got that?

Ignatieff: I can't do that! What if one day I have to raise taxes to pay for something important, such as a national library to house all the books I've written?

Consultant: Relax. I didn't say you couldn't raise taxes, I just meant you should promise not to raise them. Once you're in power you can do what you want.

Ignatieff: I don't understand. It sounds like you're saying it's alright to break an election promise.

Consultant: Of course, it's alright. That's how it's done. Don't you remember, that's how we Liberals win elections, with fake promises.

Ignatieff: No. I don't remember. How could I? I was in the United States for the past 30 years. I even have a hard time remembering the name of Canada's capital. By the way, what is the name of our capital? Is it Toronto?

Consultant: Never mind that. The point is, Jean Chretien promised to scrap the GST and he got elected. Later in Ontario, Dalton McGuinty promised he would never raise taxes and he got elected.

Ignatieff: And you're saying after they got elected they broke their promises.

Consultant: We still have the GST don't we? And McGuinty hiked taxes about five minutes after he became premier.

Ignatieff: This is fascinating. It reminds me of an academic paper I wrote on the political dilemma facing the Roman orator Cicero in the dying days of the Roman Republic ...

Consultant: Something tells me this is not going to be easy.

1 comment:

Gordie Canuk said...

Don't forget some of Harper's promises:

No taxes on income trusts, no stacking the senate, never running a deficit, fixed election dates...