Liberal Party president says...
Alf Apps, the Liberal Party president, did an interview on CTV's Question Period today that I found useful and informative.... good questions, good answers. My colleague, Jim Travers, Star columnist, as well as my friend, Greg Weston of Sun Media, joined hosts Jane Taber and Craig Oliver in asking Apps about the state of the official Opposition. Here's the transcript:
CRAIG OLIVER: Mr. Apps, a couple of easy questions. How much trouble do
you think you're in, exactly, and how in the world are you going to get
yourself out of it?
|ALFRED APPS (Liberal Party President): Well I don't think we're in that
much trouble at all. I think that every opposition leader that I've
worked with who's gone on to become Prime Minister or premier has gone
through a rough patch after the initial honeymoon. And clearly we've
been through a bit of a rough patch. But I think that if we focus on
what we should be focusing on, and if the leader and the caucus and the
party as a whole across the country do what they should be doing, I
don't think that it will take us long to get out of this period of
|TRAVERS: Mr. Apps, as most Canadians know, this week Ian Davey was
pushed aside as the leader's chief of staff. But it's my understanding
that Mr. Davey was not the primary architect of the strategies which
have gotten the Liberals into so much trouble, that those in fact were
Mr. Ignatieff's decisions and calls. So how does replacing him, even
with someone as competent as Peter Donolo, and well-respected here,
solve your problem? How does it put you on the road to recovery? Isn't
the problem with the leader, not with the staff?
|APPS: Well, first of all, I'm not going to speculate as to whose advice
led to decisions that have caused us some difficulty. What I will say is
that Mr. Ignatieff has clearly taken responsibility and taken charge. I
think there's two really important things about the decisions that he
took this week, the first are, the first is that he got himself out of
his comfort zone in terms of reaching out to people who hadn't been part
of his inner circle, and the second thing is that he demonstrated to the
party and to the country that he could attract real talent to the table.
Peter Donolo, I'm sure if people were thinking of replacing the chief of
staff, at the top of, you know, thousands of Liberals' lists across
Canada, if that were the question, Peter Donolo was the choice, and the
fact that he was able to secure him I think is a tremendous compliment
or a tremendous testament to his abilities.
|TABER: Yeah, Greg?
|GREG WESTON (Sun Media): Mr. Apps, Mr. Ignatieff, in a speech in
Toronto, made a reference to, he said trying times test the greatness of
leaders. I think we'd all agree that Mr. Ignatieff has been through his
share of trying times. It's hard to believe they could get any more
trying, frankly. Why have Canadians not seen the greatness yet? What
does he need to do?
|APPS: Well, you know, it's funny, the media talk about these as, oh,
times, it's the worst of times. You know I can tell you, I remember when
the media had written off Jean Chretien, I remember when the media had
written off Dalton McGuinty, I remember when the media had written off
Stephen Harper, so I'm not sure that, you know, your perception of
things in the long game is accurate. But, you know, I would say this,
Michael Ignatieff, there's no question in my mind, if the country is
looking for hope and for change, then when the time comes they're going
to see that in Michael Ignatieff. And I think the fact that Peter Donolo
is there to help him craft the content of his message and the substance
of his message is just a plus. But Michael Ignatieff, I think, is
absolutely going to be able to demonstrate at a time when Canadians have
become very cynical about politics and very cynical about partisanship,
he's going to be able to demonstrate what Canadians are looking for for
21st century leadership.
|TRAVERS: If I can just follow up on Greg's question about leadership.
You were part of the team, if you will, that went to Harvard and
convinced Mr. Ignatieff to come home, and I wonder how much due
diligence you did on some of Mr. Ignatieff's writings, and some of,
particularly on his positions on the Iraq invasion and on torture,
because there are obviously tremendous things in Mr. Ignatieff's CVs,
but there are also some ticking time bombs there, some of which the
Conservatives have made full advantage of, or taken full advantage of in
their advertising, and I just wonder, did you see greatness where you
should have also seen some flaws and some political dangers?
|APPS: We, first of all, I should say that I, before I ever met Michael
Ignatieff I'd read virtually everything he'd written, so there was
nothing that came as a surprise to me. The second thing I would say is,
when we went to get Michael Ignatieff, believe it or not, just like when
I was involved in recruiting John McCallum, or Paul Martin, or Jean
Augustine, or any number of prominent Liberals, including some for this
next election, whenever it comes, I can tell you clearly and absolutely
we weren't thinking about recruiting him for leadership, we were
recruiting him for the team. The third thing I would say, really, really
clearly, is that this suggestion that Michael Ignatieff has anything but
a clear and unqualified position against torture is just a game being
played by people. It's not supported by the record. And I'm not worried
about what he's written at all. What he, those who actually read his
writings in full, in context, are going to come across one of the most
thoughtful thinkers about both international and domestic public policy
that's appeared on the Canadian scene. So I've got no question about that.
|OLIVER: Well many of us may agree with you about his being a brilliant
thinker, but why aren't we seeing some result of that in terms of policy
ideas coming out of his office, especially ideas which differentiate you
Liberals from the Conservative government and Mr. Harper?
|APPS: I find it amusing when the opposition party is in opposition that
the media are constantly pressing us to lay out our wares, constantly
put your big ideas in front of the public. The reality is the government
has been elected to govern, and we will come out with a platform when
Canadians are ready to make their choice because we're into a general
election. Mr. Ignatieff has been very forthright in speeches on foreign
policy, on the, on energy and the environment, and on a range of areas,
including most recently issues affecting women, the general principles
of which he's following. Now the big bold ideas that you want to see,
the brilliant strokes that the media are looking for, why would we lay
those out, why would we telegraph those to a government that has in its
unbelievably cynical partisan way taken everything that's said, twisted
it out of context, perverted the meaning, perverted the message? Why
would we do that in advance when we haven't got a level playing field to
lay those ideas out?
|TABER: Mr. Apps, we have to let you go. Thank you very much for
participating in our segment today. We really appreciate your time.
|APPS: It was great being here. Thanks very much.