Regal Constellation Redux?
Liberal MPs plot early retirement for Ignatieff
Last year at this time, the Liberals were trying to get rid of Stéphane Dion and put themselves in the hands of their saviour, Michael Ignatieff. After 12 months, they believe that Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario now turned Liberal, is the new saviour.
This was not an isolated meeting between a few MPs – it's the dominant theme of discussion among almost all Liberal MPs uncertain about their future.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ignatieff were to reconsider his political future and go back to his beloved academic world before the end of the year.
Despite the ominous headline and sensationalistic prose that make it sound like this was straight out of The Da Vinci Code, Persichilli's second-hand (or third-hand? or fourth-hand?) account of this "plot" involves the following juicy tid-bits:
1. Some MPs think their responsibilities should be assigned differently.
2. This band of conspirators plans to raise the issue with Peter Donollo. (Note to conspirators: if this is a plot to remove Ignatieff, don't tell his Chief of Staff!)
3. Bob Rae "said he was not interested in a coup d'état".
Yes, yes, there are a few suggestions that MPs doubt Ignatieff and that Justin Trudeau wants to be leader (believe me, I was as shocked to find this out as you were), but even if this were a verbatim retelling of a conversation, it's one of the least scandalous meetings between disgruntled Liberals MPs in the long history of the party. Sure, the "conspirators" sound a bit silly when you read that four MPs from Toronto are pissed Ralph Goodale hasn't delivered Saskatchewan to the party, but this is hardly high treason. Which makes sense, because high treason usually doesn't occur in the lounge of the Chateau Laurier within earshot of MPs and journalists.
And that's if you take it as a verbatim account of their conversation. Since none of the four MPs at the table come across looking very good in this story, I think we can safely assume none of them leaked it. Glen Pearson has quickly given his recount of the evening (seconded by Carolyn Bennett), and Bob Rae has posted this letter to the editor on his facebook page:
Letter to the Editor,
Angelo Persichilli's column in the Sunday Star is full of fiction and false statements. At no time did he or anyone from the Star call me to check any of the non-existent "facts" in the article.
The premise of the article - that I "called" a meeting (to be held at the bar of the Chateau Laurier) is completely untrue. After a dinner honouring Senator Grafstein I went to the hotel and saw two colleagues in the bar, who promptly waved me over. We were joined later by another colleague.
The "conversation" described in Mr Persichilli's article is fictional. It never happened in any way described by him, and the views he ascribes to me and others are false.
Michael Ignatieff -the leader of my caucus and party - has my full support. Since my return to active politics in 2006 I have done everything I can to be an effective member of the Liberal team, and I shall continue to do so.
Why the Star would print such an unfounded piece of writing is beyond me, but I have no choice but to respond.
So what we have is the Star reprinting a conversation based on bits and pieces overheard by...well, we don't know who. They made no effort to fact-check or get comment from the MPs involved.
No one comes across looking very good in this, but I tend to think Persichilli and the Star don't come out of this looking any better than the MPs in the story.