Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ignatieff turns to key Chretien advisor for answers

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Michael Ignatieff took over from Stephane Dion as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada just 10 months ago after a revolt by Liberal Members of Parliament that ousted Mr. Dion

Mr. Dion lost his job because he led the Liberals to their worst election result since 1867 in the 2008 election when the Liberals got just 26.2 per cent of the popular vote.

Most of the Liberal Members of Parliament, fresh from that election, rallied around Mr. Ignatieff and installed him as leader of the party last December.

However, last week, after 10 months under Mr. Ignatieff, a nationwide opinion poll showed that the Liberals had dropped even further to just 25 per cent public support.

Last month was a particularly bad one for Mr. Ignatieff - highlighted by having his hand picked Quebec lieutenant resign in a very public manner saying that the Party was being run by too many advisors from Toronto.

Under renewed pressure from the same Liberal Members of Parliament who ousted Mr. Dion and installed him as leader, Mr. Ignatieff took drastic action.

He fired his chief of staff, Ian Davey, from Toronto and replaced him with Peter Donolo, from Toronto.

But unlike Mr. Davey, Mr. Donolo has worked on Parliament Hill before, as Director of Communications for former Prime Minister Jean Chretien from 1991 to 1999, helping him win three majority governments.

Prior to that he was a communications advisor to Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton and in 2003, he co-chaired the successful Toronto mayoral campaign of David Miller.

Firing Mr. Davey must have been difficult for Mr. Ignatieff because Mr. Davey is the reason that Mr. Ignatieff is in politics in Canada.

Four years ago, Mr. Davey went down to Harvard University in Boston to convince Mr. Ignatieff to quit his job as a professor there and return to Canada. They have been close political friends since then.

The firing is being touted as an example of Mr. Ignatieff’s ability to make the tough decisions demanded of leaders in both politics and business.

Mr. Donolo is being called a political magician because of his success in helping to get two Mayors of Toronto elected and for doing the same with Mr. Chretien nationally.

He better bring his best bag of tricks back to Ottawa with him if he hopes to have the same success with Mr. Ignatieff.