02 May 2011

Ignatieff's Ink and Harper's Hockey Book

Election day in Canada. Unless the pollsters are way off, it looks like we'll be passing on the opportunity to have a Booker Prize nominee as prime minister... for now. Yann Martel, perhaps.

It's been pretty interesting having a critically acclaimed, award-winning author as Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, in part because his writing was so often used against him. Ezra Levant, for example, thumbed repeatedly through the Liberal leader's 1987 book, The Russian Album, in search of Ignatieff family riches and misdeeds. Time and again, the columnist told us how Ignatieff's great-grandfather, Nicholas, persecuted Jews in nineteenth-century Russia.

From where did Mr Levant acquire this information? Why from The Russian Album, of course. And who shares in Mr Levant's condemnation of Nicholas Ignatieff? Great-grandson Michael.

Levant was at least familiar with his material. Others not so much. Here's something from Blogging Tory co-founder Stephen Taylor:

And here's a partial list of those seventeen books:
The Russian Album (winner of the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction)
Blood and Belonging (winner of the Lionel Gelber Award)
Scar Tissue (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Novel Award)
The Rights Revolution (the 1997 Massey Lecture)
Isaiah Berlin: A Life (winner of the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography)
Virtual War (winner of the George Orwell Prize)
This distance from the world of books might just explain the confusion concerning the roles of author and publisher experienced by other Conservatives. On 23 April 2010, MP Chris Warkentin rose to report this "case of deceitfulness" to the House of Commons:
The Liberal leader claims on the inside of the front cover of his book [True Patriot Love] that the National Post, when reviewing his book, called it “well-written”. But that is not entirely true. What the National Post called it was “a well-written disappointment." This is the type of dishonesty that not even a first-year university student could get away with.
A graduate of the unaccredited Peace River Bible Institute, you wouldn't think the MP would know what a first-year university student could get away with – but then, these words, which appear in Hansard under Mr Warkentin's name, aren't his. He was merely reading from a Conservative Party press release.

"I'll take the blame from what's between the covers, not for the cover blurbs," Mr Ignatieff responded .

We've heard nothing further from Mr Warkentin – you see, the Conservative Party issued no follow-up press release.

While the monkeys at the keyboards of the Conservative Party have thrown feces at Michael Ignatieff's books, they've ignored titles by the other leaders. There's been no staining of Jack Layton's Homelessness and Speaking Out. Whether the subject is democracy or the environment, they've left the half-dozen books by Elizabeth May alone. Couldn't be bothered? Or is it that they simply "haven't heard of a single one of them"?

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper? He remains the only national leader without a book to his credit. His debut, a history of professional hockey's early days, has been long in the making. Five years ago, he published a 700-word teaser. No original research – nothing that isn't out there on the net – but it's a start. When might we expect to see this tome? In April 2006, Mr Harper told the CBC that he'd planned to finish it within the year. In September 2008, during the last election, the PM informed The Globe and Mail that he needed just three months of uninterrupted time. The two prorogations since, it seems, have not helped in moving the long-promised project along.

That said, if Mr Harper fails to deliver a Conservative majority government today – in his fourth attempt – that uninterrupted time might come sooner than he would like.


  1. Looks like Count Iggy will have LOTS of time to write books now!

  2. Seems so. Though I'm looking forward to more, I can't say we're better off for it. And here I was, hoping Harper's hockey book would be hitting stores this fall. That said, I don't think I'm alone in my belief that those 700 words are pretty much it.