PHOTOS: A screen shot from the Conservative Party of Canada’s vile “Just Visiting” ads, which were designed to undermine then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in the spring of 2009. They worked. Below: Dr. Ignatieff, who on Friday was awarded an Order of Canada, and Jason Kenney, candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

Jason Kenney’s Tweet of congratulations to former Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff on Friday was a rare moment of graciousness amid the usual stream of splenetic social media outbursts Albertans have come to associate with the candidate to lead Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party.

“Congratulations to @M_Ignatieff and all others receiving the Order of Canada today,” former prime minister Stephen Harper’s top lieutenant piously proclaimed in the Tweet. “A much-deserved recognition of a brilliant Canadian.” (Emphasis added.)

ignatieffDr. Ignatieff was given the national award for “contributions to the advancement of knowledge as a human rights scholar and reporter.” If he even noticed the Tweet, I’m sure he thought something along the lines of “Gee, thanks so very much, Mr. Kenney. …”

After all, wasn’t Mr. Kenney a key part of the Harper Conservative brain trust that came up with those nasty “Michael Ignatieff … Just Visiting” TV ads back in 2009?

You know, the series in which Dr. Ignatieff, just elected as Liberal leader, was attacked for being a brilliant Canadian scholar who studied, worked and was respected outside the country. The ads didn’t quite mention putting on airs, having clean hands and possibly being in possession of a pair of reading spectacles, but the implication was clear.

Each ad ended with this sneering summation of the Canadian historian, author, dramatist, human rights activist, documentary maker and teacher: “He’s not in it for Canada. He’s just in it for himself. Michael Ignatieff … just visiting.”

If you think about it, a distinguished public intellectual and author like Dr. Ignatieff – respected around the world for his academic work, fiction, biography, historical writing and journalism – is the very last sort of person to just be in it for himself. He had options. The inclusion of his name on last year’s list of Order of Canada recipients tacitly recognizes this.

Regardless, the unremittingly vile Conservative campaign to undermine Dr. Ignatieff worked its black magic and – combined by a terrific and positive NDP campaign by the late Jack Layton – saw the Liberals temporarily reduced to the third party in the House of Commons in the 2011 federal election.

newkenneymainIt is ironic, then, that in the context of Alberta, much the same thing could be said of Mr. Kenney – with considerably less justification for some future Order of Canada, which as we Albertans know are handed out on a pro forma basis to former provincial premiers, as the native of the Toronto suburb of Oakville aspires to be.

At any rate, while Mr. Kenney was mostly raised in Saskatchewan and spent a couple of years at a religious university in San Francisco before coming to this province, while technically an Albertan he spent close to 20 years far away in Ottawa as the Conservative MP for a couple of Calgary ridings. Still, no one accused him of just visiting during those occasions he found himself back in Alberta.

During the 1990s, while Dr. Ignatieff was writing a regular editorial column for the London Observer, two novels, one of which was shortlisted for a major literary prize, two major non-fiction works on the civil war in Yugoslavia and ethnic conflicts, an important biography, and winning a Gemini Award for a TV documentary, Mr. Kenney was thinking up stunts as chief mouthpiece for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The CTF, of course, is the organization that gave Canadians “Porky the Waster Hater.”

It might have been fair to say that Dr. Ignatieff – a Harvard PhD who also studied at Oxford and the University of Toronto – was a lousy politician, unsuited to a game that has to be played with the elbows up. But to say he was in it for himself, was a disgusting libel.

But it’s one Mr. Kenney’s online storm troopers don’t seem to have forgotten. Leastways, they were all over it in the steam of comments beneath Mr. Kenney’s Tweet. “Why are you praising this idiot who hates canada? (sic),” asked one. “You are losing me jason.” All without a word of remonstrance from their fearless leader.

High on the Harper Government’s bill of indictment against Mr. Ignatieff was that he had advocated a carbon tax when he ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party. In this, at least, Mr. Kenney is quite consistent – he’s still attacking carbon taxes, including the Alberta NDP carbon levy that went into effect yesterday.

Never mind that his boss and mentor is no longer the PM in Ottawa, but languishes in enforced retirement here in Alberta, apparently helping out with Mr. Kenney’s campaign. The Liberal prime minister who is in power, meanwhile, has been pretty clear there would have been no pipeline projects approved without the Alberta NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan, of which the carbon tax is an integral part.

So repealing the tax as Mr. Kenney vows to do in the event he is able to form a government probably doesn’t bode well for the ability of Alberta to sell its landlocked resources abroad. This would please a lot of environmentally minded British Columbians, anyway.

Oh well, at least we have a pretty good idea what Alberta Conservative TV ads will look and sound like in the likely event Mr. Kenney emerges as the party’s leader in March.

Meanwhile, after his political defeat, Dr. Ignatieff returned to his academic work, teaching at the University of Toronto, being given a chair by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs in New York, returning to teach at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and, this year, becoming president of the Central European University in Budapest.

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  1. “Just visiting” “Idiot”: as Donald Trump continues to prove, right wingers are past masters at projection.

  2. “The Liberal prime minister who is in power, meanwhile, has been pretty clear there would have been no pipeline projects approved without the Alberta NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan”

    well David, it’s not a secret that canadian economy looking into quite gloomy future.
    nearly non existent manufacturing sector and even what remains, continue to shrink.
    science R&D not far behind and not really can compete with our neighbour to south.
    pretty same can be told about agro sector
    what sort of other alternatives to pipelines you see and can recomend, if you’re PM of Canada?
    as for repealing carbon tax, that’s total BS. look at reality – it’s too fat and too tempting stream of cash for nothing, to be abolished by any political force in power. carbon tax will have same fate as GST. everyone will use it during election campaign but no one will touch after being elected.

    1. Assuming that what you say about carbon tax revenues is true, how else are your socialized roads, streets, and highways (to name but a few things conservatives love, but don’t love to pay for) to be funded?


        some numbers first:

        expected carbon tax revenue – $9.6 billion
        rebates – $2.4 billion
        *large scale renewable and bio-energy technology – $3.4 billion
        *green public transit – $2.2 billion
        small business tax cut – $865 million
        coal and indigenous communities – 195 million
        *Energy Efficiency Alberta (new provincial agency) – $645 million

        marked with * very much unclear how sum, totaling $6.245 billion, will be distributed and what sort of effective outcomes it will generate.

        *$3.4 billion – last year i asked on FB and got quite genetic response that it will be directed toward the grants in research field. past already showed, grants from tax money extremely inefficient.

        *$2.2 billion for green public transit – really? we have only two major cities with public transit. should we assume buses and LRT carts will be plated by gold?

        *$645 million EEA agency – can’t find much info in deep on this new “agency” such like how many staffers, what sort of pay and perks, etc.
        but here is they program:
        1. Free installation of residential efficiency products such as lighting, water fixtures and heating components in homes across Alberta.
        2. Rebates for efficient appliances, lighting and insulation for homes.
        3. Incentives for high-efficiency retrofits of lighting, heating, cooling and hot water systems for businesses, non-profits and institutions.
        not impressive.
        perhaps would be more efficient to direct their budget for tax break for small business not from 3% to 2% but rather to 0.5% or even 0%, because at present economic circumstances, small entrepreneurs are ones, who create workplaces.
        and one remark – two of six members of board in this “agency” are the ones, who was involved in development and establishment of a present green Ontario Power Generation Program.

        so, to answer your question, there aren’t anything about roads, streets, and highways, which traditionally was invested from municipal and general tax influx and my guess, will continue the same way.

        1. Interesting numbers, but you do not make it clear if the expenditures are coming from the carbon tax or some other source. Regarding roads and such, I was being a bit facetious (although there are certainly many highways that are maintained by provincial budgets). My point, though, is that (a) most opponents have made up their minds about a carbon tax and they will invent stories about what it is all about to serve their worldview and (b) regardless of the source of the tax, many conservatives slag free-spending lefties and government largesse while enjoying the socialized fruits. Roadways are a particular sore point; all one need do is read the backlash from readers of Postmedia papers when one of their columnists suggests road tolls as a conservative and fair way to deal with traffic congestion. Of course this kind of user-pay solution (of which carbon taxes are another example) are surprisingly anathema to many conservatives, despite it’s appeal to personal responsibility.

        2. no, i’m not belong to neither political camp and mainly base my opinion on the logic behind the action and expected efficiency of practical results.

          and yes, all expenditure numbers are exclusively from $9.6 billion of carbon tax revenue and quite easily can be seen, nearly $6.3 billion is reserved for redistribution on behalf of mercy of governing politicians and senior bureaucrats.

          if you meant latest step of Toronto councilors for tolls on roads, that’s an exemplary gangsters type extortion of torontonians. will try to explain.
          the roads were build sometime ago and already was paid for to be built by residents through the taxes. now these residents will be forced to pay for use of their own roads.
          in Europe plenty of toll roads but many of such were built by public/private join ventures.
          typically they remain pay for use for time, till they recoups their cost and generate some profit. after that, if no new development is involved, they becomes free and maintained from budget.

  3. Here’s a different take. Dr. Ignatieff is a gateway intellectual who offers justifications for powerful people to do terrible things. He publicly endorsed torture and the Iraq war at the turn of the century. Only when these issues became controversial, when they had gone a little off the rails, did he backed away from his earlier positions. It is possible that Jason Kenny’s congratulations are heart-felt. Dr. Ignatieff was pilloried by the Conservative team in 2009 because he was a soft target political rival, not a philosophical adversary.

  4. Two thoughts. First, whenever some conservative or right-wing fellow traveler complains about Justin Trudeau being an intellectual lightweight, I like to remind them that the Liberal party first offered them an intellectual powerhouse in Mr. Ignatieff and they pissed all over him (and apparently still do). Second, we should remind our friends on the alt-right that one of their potential saviors (one Kevin O’Leary) lives full-time in Boston and has done so for quite a number of years.

  5. If anyone is ‘just in for himself’ it would be Jason Kenney. The only way he could earn a living outside of politics might be as smarmy salesman, TV evangelist, or perhaps spokesman for the fast food industry.

    1. I am not buying what Jason Kenney is selling.

      I am not praising the Lord and sending him cash to buy me a please in heaven.

      A Jason Kenney endorsement would be the last reason I would patronize a fast food joint….most especially one staffed by underpaid temporary foreign workers.

      No sale,Jason.

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