Trudeau 'has the skills' to take on Harper, Ignatieff says
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, September 29, 2013 11:10AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 29, 2013 11:40AM EDT
Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Justin Trudeau is a shrewd "political animal" who has the skills to take on the Conservative government in the next election.
Speaking to CTV's Question Period Sunday, Ignatieff said the recently appointed Liberal leader has "political skills that I don't necessarily have myself" and will "go far" in his career.
Ignatieff said he saw Trudeau "work the street" in his Quebec riding of Papineau, once a Bloc Quebecois stronghold, and "had a sense that I was dealing with a political animal, in the best sense.
"So he's got the skills and then he's got to convince Canadians that he can be a good prime minister," he said. "I've got a lot of respect for his political shrewdness…I think he's going to go far."
But Ignatieff said he doesn't plan on giving Trudeau advice.
"Look at Justin's polls, compare them to mine. I'm in no position to offer this guy any advice at all," he said. "It seems to me he's doing well."
Ignatieff did offer one tip, saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper's opponents should not make the mistake of painting him as a "right-wing Republican fanatic.
"The reason he's prime minister is because he appeals to…the centre right of Canadian politics and that's a strength of his," Ignatieff said.
He said he has fundamentally disagreed with Harper on a host of issues, but he always respected the Conservative leader's political skills.
"You can't beat a guy you don't respect," he said.
Ignatieff has been promoting "Fire and Ashes," his latest book about his political career and the Liberal Party's stunning defeat in the 2011 general election under his leadership.
In the memoir, Ignatieff writes about being coaxed back to Canada to run for the Liberals after three decades of living abroad. He told Question Period he was naïve in his approach after becoming leader and blamed, in part, Conservative attack ads for his party's disastrous results at the polls.
"It was a little painful to be told I didn't really belong in my own country, that I was just visiting in my own country," Ignatieff said of the infamous "He didn't come back for you" campaign ad tagline.
"I'll be frank, it hurt. I understand why it happened."
Ignatieff said he doesn't want what happened to him to affect young Canadians who want to live and work abroad.
Now that he has returned to teaching after losing his own seat in 2011, Ignatieff said he realizes that "most young Canadians I talk to are going to spend most of their lives out of the country.
"We're one of the most global countries in the world, so the concern I have is that what (Harper) got away with me, he mustn't get away with the next generations. I want young Canadians to spend 10 years overseas, putting their talents to use somewhere else and then coming back to serve their country."
On CTV's Power Play Friday, Ignatieff also reflected on his predecessor Stephane Dion's attempts to create a coalition government with the NDP in 2008. Although Ignatieff called it a "coalition of losers" in his book, he stressed that he's not opposed to political alliances.
"I'm strongly in favour of coalition government and I want to make that clear," he told Power Play, adding that two parties can still keep their identities in such circumstances.
But he said that coalitions must be both constitutionally and politically legitimate in order to work.
Despite his defeat, Ignatieff said he and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, will fondly remember the "loyalty and affection" of people they encountered during the 2011 election campaign.
"This is a book that says: Look, this is a very tough game. Don't go into it as naïve as I was," he told Question Period.
"But it also says: Remember what a wonderful thing it is to run for office."