What Ignatieff should have done
Michael Ignatieff has shown a surprising tone-deafness to the anti-Chinese insults made by his senior aide, Warren Kinsella. Ignatieff is still in denial mode -- not understanding that, although his fancy faculty lounge friends might chuckle along with Kinsella's "cat meat" comments, it deeply insulted Chinese Canadians. Even Kinsella grudgingly admitted he had to apologize. Ignatieff? Still nothing. You'd think that his multicultural outreach team would be phoning and e-mailing him incessantly. Then again, maybe he doesn't have a multicultural outreach team.
What should Ignatieff have done? He should have renounced and denounced Kinsella's bigoted remarks. And then he should have done something symbolic and classy -- and probably something eye-catching, suitable for the Internet. Something that could spread as quickly through the outraged blogosphere as Kinsella's original insult. But he did nothing -- other than let Kinsella dig deeper.
Not so Jason Kenney, the Minister of Multiculturalism, Citizenship and Immigration, and Pierre Poilievre and Alice Wong, two other Conservative MPs. What did they do? They went for lunch today to the Yang Sheng restaurant, the one defamed by Kinsella. And Kenney gave Mr. Feng, the proprietor, a Certificate of Excellence. You can see a picture of Kenney giving the award to a beaming Mr. Feng. I bet it feels nice to be treated with some respect -- even some flattery -- after being dragged through Kinsella's muck for a week.
Good for Kenney and Poilievre (and Wong, not in the frame).
Their visit today was the right thing to do. I thought Ignatieff was more of a mensch than Kinsella, and that he would have done something like this. I bet Jean Chretien would have -- he knows that personal insults like Kinsella's are never forgotten -- but that personal acts of graciousness, like Kenney's, Poilievre's and Wong's -- are never forgotten either.
All of which makes me more certain that the Liberals aren't on their A game. Back in the 1990s, it was easy for the Liberals to win -- three majorities in a row! -- even though they received as little as 38% of the vote. The right was divided, and central Canada seemed to be buying the demonization of Preston Manning as a "scary" extremist.
How different things are now -- it's the left that's split three ways (four, including the Greens), and the right that's united; Canadians are more likely to think of Stephen Harper as boring than as "scary". And -- this is my point -- ethnic minorities that the Liberals took for granted in the 1990s are now streaming en masse to the Conservatives. And they're more electorally important than ever.
I truly believe that Catscam -- besides showing latent anti-Chinese sentiments within the Liberal ranks (I'm talking to you too, Robert Silver) -- will cost the Liberals at least 50,000 votes in the next election, in battleground ridings in Vancouver, Toronto and elsewhere.
Paul Wells sure got Kinsella's number right: an overrated blowhard who's still acting like an impolite frat boy at age fifty.