Wresting the narrative away from the spinners and media is an auspicious way to begin a campaign and Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party deserve a lot of credit for taking this beast by its' antlers and waging a far better than anticipated opening to their campaign.
The Ignatieff platform delivered Sunday, is what he is calling his 'Family Pack' of measures that will deliver relief to the Canadian middle-class. There are details about the costing of some of the already announced initiatives, including $1 billion to be spent on the Family Care Plan, $1 billion the cost for aid to post-secondary students, $700-million annual boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement to help reduce poverty among seniors, especially women and seniors with disabilities. The simplicity of making your spending priorities families, students and the elderly reminds me of the Clinton '92 campaign which had a nifty slogan, "It's the economy, stupid'' to go along with some good and simple ideas they had to get the economy humming and it worked. By the way, that included taxing the rich!
Now the Conservatives predictably shout 'tax and spend' as if spending weren't something governments are supposed to do with tax revenues, and holding the corporate tax rates at eighteen percent instead of lowering them one-and-a-half percent this year and again in 2012 spells doom for corporations and jobs in Canada. Seems unlikely especially in a year when there were record profits for corporations across the board. The common weal, after all, is why we pay taxes. I hope Mr. Ignatieff embraces their spin. He indeed will be taxing the wealthy corporations and spending on as well as investing in the Canadian middle class -- there are worse things you could spend your money on like for example (according to the Tories) the arts!
The Liberals are in a good position here to defend what they want to spend money on, because as long as Mr. Ignatieff is not gonna' spend $30 billion on jets, $5 billion on prisons and $6 billion on corporate tax breaks, he's left himself some walking around money that he can use to invest elsewhere. Good for you Michael!
To separate themselves further from the Conservatives, the Liberal position is now to reduce the environmental cost of the Alberta tar-sands. Ignatieff said the past five years have seen the Harper government "walk away" from regulating the oilsands at a critical time when the world is watching whether the resource is being responsibly developed. The federal government must "walk back in" for the sake of protecting wild species, improving water conservation and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. He also promises to have a more proactive climate change policy, one that will not necessarily march in lockstep with the Obama administration. Clearly a good idea.
The thing about taking control of the spin away from the media is once you start you can never let up because the media will fight you for that purview and the right will be there to attack your perceived strengths if you falter for a moment -- this all comes from the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove playbook and is now a part of how Canadian Tories conduct themselves in the political arena.
There is an article over at the Toronto Star about how the Iggy game plan is to be 'prudent and cautious' all the way. Now this is belied by the first nine days of this campaign. I can't speak to this in a meaningful way other than to note the sources quoted are not named. As for Ignatieff's prudence, maybe caution will be a watchword on this campaign as it moves forward -- who knows?
So far, however, Mr. Ignatieff has proved himself willing to take far more risks in this campaign than his Conservative opponent, Mr. 'five questions' Harper, even going so far as to accept an invitation to a political street-fight that Harper quickly backed out of. Those are some good optics even if such an offer is unfair in the first place. So Harper, who when not on the defensive has been repeating tired old lines about the opposition parties that don't have the same sting anymore (you can only say "tax and spend liberals," so many times before it becomes meaningless). I'm pretty sure this is not the start Harper was looking for. Whether he pays a price at the polls to Ignatieff's benefit is anyone's guess.
As for Michael, well has his identity, his platform and his own ideas of how he wants this campaign to go. Now all he has to do is defend every last scrap of political turf with every last ounce of his energy and he might just stand a chance. People will rally to someone who fights for what they believe, and based on the early campaigning he looks ready to do just that. It's the kind of action that fleshes out his campaign promises and makes them more than just words on a position paper. It's also a lot easier said and written than done.