In the wake of the resignation of his former Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, Michael Ignatieff headed to Quebec City on Sunday to try to rally the provincial wing of the party at its biannual convention. The Liberal Leader was, however, upstaged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mr. Coderre, both of whom went out of their way to thrust themselves into the spotlight over the weekend.
Although he had professed his continued loyalty to Mr. Ignatieff earlier in the week, the former Quebec lieutenant raised more than a few Liberal eyebrows when he accepted an invitation to appear on Radio-Canada's hit talk show Tout le monde en parle. The show was taped on Thursday, which meant that Mr. Coderre was absent for the Liberal's no-confidence motion in the House of Commons, and the episode aired on Sunday, the same day Mr. Ignatieff spoke to the party in Quebec City.
In a statement to the press on Thursday that some interpreted as a " veiled threat" of possible sanctions against the former Quebec lieutenant, Mr. Ignatieff expressed his displeasure with Mr. Coderre's decision to appear on the talk show and warned, "For every action there are consequences. I was very clear about that and its been made very clear to Mr. Coderre."
Mr. Coderre went ahead with the taping of the show - which also featured Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the rock group Kiss - and appeared unrepentant during his interview with host Guy Lepage. Mr. Coderre evaded questions about to whom exactly he was referring when he complained last week that Liberal advisers in Toronto were pulling the strings in Quebec, but was steadfast in saying he had no regrets about how he handled the conflict. "I spoke my mind," Mr. Coderre said, adding that he was more concerned about " being able to sleep at night and like who I see in the mirror" than about rising in the ranks of the Liberal Party.
Despite Mr. Ignatieff's resistance to the idea of Mr. Coderre's appearance on the program, by the time Sunday rolled around, Mr. Coderre was the least of the Liberal Leader's problems. Prime Minister Harper's surprise performance at the National Arts Centre gala in Ottawa unleashed a flurry of positive press that all-but-obliterated coverage of Ignatieff's visit to Quebec. In a post to the La Presse editorial blog on Sunday, even André Pratte, one of La Presse's most stalwart Harper critics, had to admit that Mr. Harper "had a pretty good voice" and linked to a video of the performance, noting that that it was " worth watching." Mr. Pratte predicted that the video "would be seen around the world" and would probably make the Prime Minister "a little more sympathetic in the eyes of Canadian voters."
In his column Monday, La Presse's Vincent Marissal observed that most of his fellow political journalists who were in Quebec City to cover Mr. Ignatieff's speech on Sunday were much more interested by Mr. Harper's "extremely well orchestrated" appearance on stage Saturday night than in anything the Liberal Leader had to say. Mr. Marissal was not impressed with Mr. Ignatieff's speech, which he argued was "long and full of clichés and good intentions." Mr. Marissal was unmoved by Mr. Ignatieff's announcement that he would (despite earlier statements to the contrary) be appointing another Quebec lieutenant after all. "He isn't just missing a lieutenant," Mr. Marissal wrote, "he also needs some good Quebec advisers and a decent speech writer."
Column of the Week
In a Monday column published in Le Devoir, Chantal Hébert weighs in on Michael Ignatieff's latest troubles. Ms. Hébert argues that the Liberal Leader "doesn't really have a Quebec problem, he has a content problem." Ms. Hébert goes on to point out that the Liberals are also losing support in Ontario and British Columbia, which she pegs to Mr. Ignatieff's failure to bring any new and inspiring policy to the table. "Ever since Michael Ignatieff became leader, an overall haziness has replaced new ideas," she writes.