* Ignatieff has 'put absolutely nothing on the table,' say Liberal insiders by Abbas Rana in the Hill Times, Sept 21.
* For Liberals, new leader, same losing scenario by Chantal Hebert in The Star, Sept 18.
* Tired rhetoric, and not much more by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe & Mail, Sept 23.
The basic complaint is that Ignatieff has not put out enough policy detail yet. They argue that, had there been an election, he would have been unprepared. However:
* There wasn't an election. Call him lucky or crazy like a fox, Ignatieff has managed to stop propping up the government without an unpopular election and he has manoeuvered the NDP on to the hot seat. This may have been a Mulroneyesque rolling of the dice: whatever, we're in a much better position than we were a month ago, in lots of ways - just one of which is to bleed support from the NDP.
* He has been leader less than a year. In that time he has achieved the vital goal of raising a lot of money. Now he's starting an ad campaign, starting to get more specific about policy - give him some room, folks! I don't see any problem with his timing.
* The biggest mistake Dion made was to unveil his election platform too early. When he announced the Green Shift everyone was anxious about global warming. By the time the election was called we had had the biggest financial crisis in our lifetimes and were facing the biggest depression in history. Everyone was more concerned about the economy, yet Liberals were stuck talking about something else. Timing is vital. Ignatieff needs to be prepared to talk policy in an election, but he doesn't have to spell it all out in advance.
Jeffrey Simpson also complains that Ignatieff hasn't distinguished himself sufficiently from Harper. I find this line of reasoning to be totally specious. Prime Minister Ignatieff would have a totally different effect on Canada than Prime Minister Harper; to say they are indistinguishable is absurd. Don't forget that Harper was going to cut the budget this year and enact no fiscal stimulus until forced to by the coalition. If you think there's no difference between the two leaders, talk to the thousands of young people languishing in jails under Harper's US-style legal "reforms". Talk to the women who can no longer get any legal assistance in fighting abuse and wage discrimination. Talk to the arts groups that are no longer funded. Look at how our allies view us after the long series of screw-ups by the incompetent people Harper puts in his cabinet so he can run the show himself. And that doesn't even mention the areas that Harper is neglecting: Ignatieff is probably the best person in the world to address our long-standing disunity issues.
(btw, Harper has also been coming in for some pretty snarky dissing of late, at least in the Globe. See Tories spend five times more on budget ads than flu plan and Harper makes donut run (Harper skips Obama's speech at UN to go to Tim Hortons).)