Michael Ignatieff opens up about failures, blames himself and Conservatives

Michael Ignatieff took a beating. But he won’t complain.

The former Liberal leader piloted the party to its worst election showing in history, a spectacular defeat that saw the leader lose his Ontario seat and the party flung from official Opposition to third party status, winning only 34 ridings.

Still, he doesn’t regret his decision to run for leader and seek the highest office in the country.

“I’m glad I did it,” Ignatieff said during an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “It was an extraordinary experience to put my skates on and I’m not going to complain because I took a few checks into the boards and got slapped down a bit. If you decide to do that, you have to take everything that comes at you. The stupidest thing to do is complain about it.”

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Ignatieff’s recently-published memoir about his half-decade in the Canadian political arena, Fire and Ashes, offers a glimpse inside political life, and the successes and failures to which that can lead.

Ignatieff admitted he wasn’t able to connect with voters. But he says he shares the blame for that with the Conservatives, who produced attack ads framing the Liberal leader as “just visiting” and as a politician who came back to Canada after three decades abroad for his own benefits, not those of Canadians.

ABOVE: watch the uncut version of Michael Ignatieff’s interview with Tom Clark.

“By the time they put a frame around me, I was toast,” said the man who moved to the United Kingdom for a fellowship at Cambridge and then to launch a career in writing and journalism. “Also, you know, I’m an old professor. Maybe a little remote.”

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The best part of his political career, Ignatieff said, was meeting people across the country, even though there was an apparent failure to communicate with them.

“I just couldn’t get the message across. So that’s a failing of mine,” he said. “I can blame the frame … but I also have to own up to my inability to connect with people.”

When he decided to seek high office in Canada, Ignatieff confessed he didn’t know the country very well.

“But did I know the country by the time the May 2011 election came? You bet I did. I knew every last kilometre of this place,” he said. “I think I got better at it, I just got better too late.”

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