Don't get me wrong. I don't hate Michael Ignatieff. He just pales by comparison. With two years experience in politics under his belt, he hasn't yet got what it takes. He sounds like the academic he is, and that really puts people off. He has a tough cynical streak which would be a huge improvement on our current leader, but his effectiveness is not quite there.
Yes, there are criticisms that Bob Rae carries "baggage" from his time as Premier of Ontario. I have countered those impressions before and I'll do it again.
So you think Bob Rae did a poor job running Ontario?
When Bob Rae assumed office, the province was faced with an economic crisis -- a deepening recession, unprecedented competitive challenges from a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., high interest rates, an overvalued dollar and a budget deficit of several billion dollars rather than the surplus predicted by the prior administration. Over 300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 1989 and 1992.
When the Rae government approached the end of its term, Ontario led the way in growth among the provinces and had one of the strongest economies in the G7. Surveys showed strong consumer and business confidence.
Private sector investment was back with billions in capital spending. Labour productivity was at an all-time high, as were manufacturing exports. Health-care costs were under much improved control as part of a broader strategy that was reducing the deficit.
- Tim Armstrong, Ontario's Deputy Minister of Labor and Industry under Davis, Peterson and Rae. (Read the entire article here.)
Here's some more info about Bob's time as premier:
Back in 1995, Ontario was pretty mad at Bob Rae. The anger was fuelled by the civil service unions, who were furious that he instituted unpaid days off. But the continent was in the worst recession since the Great Depression and Ontario's deficit was so high that it was driving down our bond rating, which in turn was increasing the cost of borrowing for the province. Rae, like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, is socially progressive and fiscally responsible. Recessions are pretty rough times to govern, and I don't think Rae made any decisions that he has to apologise for.
Despite the economic turmoil during his time as Premier of Ontario, Rae accomplished a great deal, including:
- 42% of his cabinet was female (that's by far the best ever in Canada)
- he created child care spaces and extended parental leave
- he enacted employment equity and pay equity
- he raised the minimum wage
- he legalized midwives and birthing centers
- he instituted same sex spousal benefits for civil servants
- he enacted pro-labor legislation (including anti-scab laws)
Read the entire article here.
Do you believe that Rae is unpopular in Ontario? On October 18, 2006, the Globe & Mail wrote:
...29 per cent of Ontarians believe Mr. Rae would be the best prime minister, well higher than the 22 per cent who picked Mr. Ignatieff and the 20 and 21 per cent, respectively, who picked Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Dion, respectively.
"It puts to the test — or to the lie — the notion that Rae carries the most baggage in the province of Ontario and that his five years as premier makes him unacceptable," said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.
Here are some quotes from survey reports written during the last leadership campaign:
* "Dryden and Rae are significantly ahead of other contenders among the general public"
* "Rae does comparatively well in Ontario, where he is in first place"
* "NDP voters are disproportionately attracted to Rae"
* "Bob Rae continues to hold a lead in the number of people who say they would vote Liberal or consider voting Liberal if he was leader... In Ontario, Rae enjoys a wider lead..."
* "Bob Rae has increased his potential to draw soft NDP support, which is a very important segment of voters for the Liberal party to focus on."
* To the question, "Which candidate would make the best Prime Minister?", Liberal party members who said they were going to vote in the candidate selection ballots answered Igantieff 16%, Rae 15%; and in Ontario they answered 18% for both. These were the highest scores of any candidates.
Some quotes from the November 29, 2006 Toronto Star editorial, Rae Our Choice to Lead the Liberals:
"Bob Rae stands out as the best choice to lead the Liberals because of his vision, progressive policies and experience."
"Giving shape to his activism, Rae has put forward a wide range of progressive policy proposals. Within the context of a balanced federal budget, he would increase grants and loans for higher education, invest in research and development, make better use of immigrants' skills, invest in "green" power, reinvest in cities, increase income tax credits and child support for needy working families, expand employment insurance and bring in catastrophic drug coverage. On Afghanistan and Mideast policy, he has taken sensible stands. And on the Quebec-as-nation issue, he only grudgingly went along with the misguided parliamentary consensus, saying that it was a debate he would not have initiated."
"He offers the best prospect of renewing the party, moving it boldly forward in a socially progressive direction and giving Canadians the government they deserve."