Michael Ignatieff’s organizers thought they were pulling a smart one on Jack Layton by setting up a career comparison between the two men.
They wanted to show that Ignatieff had the longer, more spectacular political career.
A sort of “my-career-is-longer-than-yours” comparison. Schoolyard stuff!
Layton has three decades of political career, 20 of them as a city councillor in Toronto, plus being deputy mayor, president of the Toronto Health Council and vice-president of Toronto Hydro.
Mind you, Ignatieff is no slouch, having been in public life for 20 years, written 17 books and been a popular public affairs television show host in Great Britain. The Queen watched him avidly, and still remembers him. Ignatieff also taught at Harvard, and Barack Obama remembers him.
In terms of political accomplishments, in 2005 Layton forced Prime Minister Paul Martin to spend $4.6 billion on affordable housing, worker training, public transit, energy efficiency, and development aid. Nobody in opposition has ever accomplished that much with one government budget. Some of those benefits are still in place.
Ignatieff never forced anything like that out of Harper, but not for want of trying. “E” for “effort”.
Layton came in through the front door, elected by thousands of rank and file New Democrats. Ignatieff came in the side door, chosen by a Liberal backroom clatch to fill in for Stéphane Dion.
Layton in the Commons: six years, three months and 27 days. Ignatieff : five years, three months and one day.
Either way, about the same.
Layton was present for 94% of the votes; Ignatieff for less than 50 % last year. But then he was travelling across the country, meeting Canadians. It’s not exactly as if he was stretched out in the family vineyard in France as the Harper whiz-kids would have you believe.
Still, Ignatieff came out on the losing end. The Ignatieff people should have remembered there’s a good reason for the old saying: “Comparisons are odious.”
Sometimes they come back and bite you on the nose.