Michael Ignatieff tests out the Graves Strategy of marginalizing the West
Last week we learned that Frank Graves, the CBC's so-called neutral pollster, is actually a Liberal hack who has personally donated more than $11,000 to the Liberal Party and continues to give the Liberals secret briefings on how to beat the Conservatives.
So, just another day at the CBC.
(The CBC's ethics code forbids such behaviour. But rules are for the other guys, right?)
In one of Graves' private briefings to the Liberals, that he later boasted about to the Globe and Mail, he outlined a strategy to demonize Western Canada, Christians and other Canadian minorities for partisan gain -- to pit Canadians against each other. As the Globe reported:
In his advice, Mr. Graves could hardly have been more blunt. “I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”
What might the Graves Strategy look like in practice?
Well, it might look like this: Michael Ignatieff's visit to one of the places he plans to demonize, Saskatchewan.
Ignatieff hates Saskatchewan for a lot of reasons. Most obviously, it has only a single Liberal MP. But more deeply, it's exactly the kind of place he detests on a personal level: rural; conservative; Christian; gun-owning; Ukrainian. It's not cosmopolitan enough for an elitist like him. It's not the sort of place that would call him "Count".
The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, in an uncharacteristically vigorous interview, asked Ignatieff about his party's support for C-232, a private member's bill that would require all Supreme Court judges to be so perfectly fluent in French that they would be able to work "without the assistance of an interpreter". That level of bilingualism would exclude at least seven of the nine current judges on the court, including the Chief Justice herself.
It would immediately reduce the pool of candidates from the West. To have such a command of both languages so as to abandon the aid of interpreters, would even rule out many Quebeckers whose English is not perfect.
In other words, it would make language skills more important than legal skills.
But from Ignatieff's point of view, that's not a bug in the program, that's a feature. Under the Graves Strategy, it would ensure that the West, the fastest-growing region in Canada, is shut out from yet another national institution. And any Westerner who objected could be called a bigot and a rube and "anti-French", to the delight of those more cosmopolitan ridings where Ignatieff might have a chance.
In other words, pit Toronto against Saskatoon; pit Montreal against Calgary.
That's the Graves Strategy.
Sort of like Keith Davey's Liberal strategy that he articulated for Pierre Trudeau: "Screw the West, we'll take the rest."
Here's the remarkable exchange with the Star Phoenix. I've just got to fisk it for you, line by line:
SP: Your party has advocated for a requirement that Supreme Court justices be bilingual. Wouldn't that leave out a lot of great candidates from Saskatchewan and Alberta, places where bilingualism isn't that strong?
MI: First of all, there's a French fact in Saskatchewan, which is important. It's not the case that French isn't a part of the cultural heritage of the West, just look at the place names.
The French fact? Here's a fact: in the 2001 census, just 1.9% of people in Saskatchewan had French as their mother tongue. It has since fallen to 1.7%.
But that line -- "just look at the place names" -- is classic. So an Anglophone in Saskatchewan should be subjected to forced bilingualism because of the name of his town?
SP: But it's relatively minuscule . . .
MI: But I can't believe that these great law schools in the West can't produce great lawyers, men and women, who have the capacity to serve on a bilingual court. I don't think it's more of a challenge than it is for Ontario or the Maritimes.
Does Ignatieff really believe that? Does he really believe it's not harder to become bilingual in Saskatchewan? Is he that out of touch?
Here's a chart for you from Statistics Canada. Let's take the Saskatchewan city of Yorkton, population 17,150. According to the 2006 census, not one single home in Yorkton speaks French. Not one! Look at the other cities and towns; they're almost as Anglophone.
Ignatieff does not expect fluent French-English bilingualism from Saskatchewan. He cannot be that stupid. But he's not being stupid. He is saying he demands Saskatchewan be bilingual, because he hopes to use their failure, and their negative reaction, as "proof" that the West is "bigoted" -- and as an excuse to politically marginalize the province.
It's the Graves Strategy.
MI: Let's not single out the West as some kind of problem. We've got some great western justices -- Justice Marshall Rothstein is a great guy.
First of all, Justice Rothstein is from Manitoba, not Saskatchewan. But all Westerners look and sound the same, right? But the point is: Rothstein -- oh, what a lucky man to have Ignatieff's approval as a "great guy"! -- would be excluded under Ignatieff's system. Because Rothstein is not bilingual. He's an excellent judge -- universally admired. But because he spent his life learning the law, instead of practicing his French for the day he might be summoned to Ottawa, he would be excluded by Ignatieff. I guess he's not a great enough guy.
MI: The West wants in . . . to these great national institutions, but we are a bilingual country.
I love that: "but". Sure, you Westerners want in. Sure, these are national institutions. But. But you small-minded Western rubes, you don't speak perfect French. And to Ignatieff, running a Supreme Court without interpreters for the judges (of course, the lawyers would still have them!) is more important than letting the West "in".
MI: And this is not a minor matter because a quarter of the cases come from Quebec.
Ah. So you see, operating without interpreters is not a minor matter -- it's so major that the West must be excluded.
Ignatieff fails to explain why interpreters have suddenly failed to work; interpreters who have kept the Supreme Court running fairly for both French and English litigants and lawyers for decades. But that major matter must push the West down the list.
Has there been a single complaint, ever, about the interpreters? There is no witness testimony in the Supreme Court -- it's all lawyers arguing over filed documents and lower court cases. Has there ever, in decades of operation, been a problem? Of course not. The problem is not in the court. The problem is the West itself, and the Graves Strategy has found a way to use the court as a weapon.
MI: This isn't me creating a new obstacle that the West has to overcome.
It's not me. It's you.
If it's not Ignatieff, then who did create this obstacle? Yvon Godin, the NDP nobody who introduced C-232 as a private member's bill, would have seen his bigoted idea evaporate into the ether, as most private members bills do, were it not for Ignatieff's support.
MI: This is our country and I want the West to participate
Nice to finally have Ignatieff call Canada "our country". He's certainly used that appellation enough to describe the UK when he lived there (and voted there) or the U.S. In fact, I'm not sure Ignatieff has stopped calling the U.S. "my country"; as he told the Harvard Crimson newspaper right before he decamped for Canada: “If I am not elected, I imagine that I will ask Harvard to let me back,” Ignatieff said. “I love teaching here, and I hope I’ll be back in some shape or form.”
But back to Saskatchewan:
MI: and I want our law schools to be sending out the message: "You want to get on the Supreme Court? You might want to study a little French."
Did you catch that last part? "Study a little French"?
But studying a "little" French won't do it, will it? Even studying a lot of French won't do it. Everyone in Saskatchewan already has to study French. That hasn't done it for them.
In fact, unless you use French every day, you're pretty much guaranteed not to have enough fluency to be able to work in the demanding, word-perfect environment of the Supreme Court, without the aid of interpreters.
If Ignatieff were speaking honestly to Westerners -- but why would he; they're there to be demonized, not courted, and certainly not treated with respect -- he would have admitted that there probably exists not a single judge in Saskatchewan with the bilingualism skills to be elevated to the Supreme Court under C-232.
Forget judges; what would the entire pool of bilingual lawyers in Saskatchewan look like? There are only 1,500 lawyers in the whole province. If the statistics for the rest of the province apply to lawyers, too, that means only about twenty lawyers in the whole place would ever -- ever! -- have the chance to serve on the Supreme Court.
That's not a pool of talent. That's a puddle.
But those are the only Saskatchewan people that Ignatieff thinks are good enough.
Michael Ignatieff doesn't understand Canada. He was away for 34 years. A crash course of reading, combined with visiting some airports and hotels on tightly-controlled Liberal junkets, can't make up for that. Being an American or a Brit for his whole life can't be unlearned; he just doesn't know us, other than he knows he wants to rule us.
He understands this, which is why he has allowed himself to be so malleable in the hands of different advisors. When Warren Kinsella worked for him, Ignatieff followed the Fraternity Strategy. It didn't work, but Ignatieff didn't know any better.
Now Ignatieff is following the Graves Strategy: instead of trying to court groups of Canadians who disagree with him, he's demonizing them.
It's ugly to watch, but I find solace in my certain belief that it will backfire on Ignatieff badly -- and he'll be back to his true home, Harvard, by next year.