The Liberal Party dominated politics in Canada by holding power for 69 years during the 20th Century; more than any other elected Party in the developed world. Now that from all appearances Liberals are in Purgatory, there is no shortage of passions and emotions from every side of our political spectrum.
I was 9 years old in the summer of 1957 when for 25 cents at the "Capitol Theatre" I saw Jayne Mansfield starring in John Steinbeck's "The Wayward Bus." - I'm not quite sure if it was Mansfield's stunning performance (some say her best), or Steinbeck's riveting dark plot of strangers on a chartered bus nicknamed "Sweatheart", or a bit of both...but I've never forgotten the movie. Lest I digress - Steinbeck so despised the film version of his 1947 best seller that he refused to sign a re-release agreement, which explains why it's never been released on video or DVD.
I've thought a fair bit about "The Wayward Bus" as Michael Ignatieff's "Liberal Express" winds its way across the ten provinces and a couple of territories on its six week mission of purification for the Liberal Leader. Steinbeck's passengers aboard "Sweetheart" undergo a variety of life changing experiences: One surely may hope!
Since he became the Party Leader after the failed "coalition mission" to overthrow Stephen Harper at Christmas 2008, the knocks against Micheal Ignatieff are that he's out of touch; a self-serving academic; an elitist and an aloof loner. Strangely from my perspective (at least) the very same characteristics, values and qualities that gave Pierre Trudeau 42 years ago the charm and charisma with which he swept the country. Apparently times have changed.
Successive stories about the Government's decision to scrap that "blasted" long-from Census; and the Tory Industry Minister responsible - Tony Clement, having now morphed into "hero by night" saving damsels in drowning distress; have not helped the Liberal Chief secure very many productive headlines for his tour. But: - Micheal Ignatieff is not a Main Street kind o' guy, meant to, nor good at, shaking hands and kissing babies...and he shouldn't be playing one in THIS MOVIE either - Dressed-up in jeans and a red baseball cap. Had Trudeau's handlers, forty some years ago, suggested the same Get-Up; they'd been told in no uncertain words to "fuddle-duddle" and / or "mangez de la merde!" - I digress...
As a travelling salesman, Mr. Ignatieff's "Ernest Horton" isn't nearly as good as Dan Dailey's to Jayne Mansfield in "The Wayward Bus" - (PS- Fret not: The film is old and the bus drives through a tunnel for a few seconds)
When the Liberal Express rolled-through Justin Trudeau's turf last week in Montreal's Papineau Riding, what wasn't quite clear to the media is which of the two men: Liberal Leader, Ignatieff or Trudeau was more popular with the assembled Grit supporters. (Same phenomenon it seems a few days earlier with Chretien in Shawinnigan.) In Papineau, almost as an afterthought, Ignatieff reminded the crowd that his father, George, worked for Trudeau as Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations. Some say Ignatieff Senior was "unimpressed" by Trudeau and left shortly thereafter for a gig at the University of Trinity College.
To whatever degree anyone may have wished...the "Liberal Express" tour isn't the springboard into "Iggy-Mania" for a somewhat anticipated fall Federal Election. Just as Lester B. Pearson was shunned by Party insiders after the limelight switched-over to Pierre Trudeau; Ignatieff's years in Purgatory may be just a cleansing in-waiting for Justin Trudeau's ascension to Leadership...perceived and / or real - "Sweatheart" bus indeed!