Ignatieff stop energizes Ferri’s faithful

10 Apr

Liberal candidate Mario Ferri, left, takes a moment at Saturday's festivities to pose with Danny Santilli and his 10-year-old son Christian, of Woodbridge.

An apparent snubbing of a young local reporter should not be what is remembered about Michael Ignatieff’s campaign stop in Vaughan on Saturday. So minor was the incident itself, occurring near the end as Ignatieff was preparing to board the bus, that it might have gone unnoticed altogether were it not for the strange juxtaposition of rhetoric and its implied contradiction.

The Liberal leader was only moments removed from milking, to the delight of the partisan crowd, the perception of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a control freak for placing limitations on the number of questions the media can pose at campaign events — and declaring that he, himself, would answer any and all questions from the media.

But that’s Ignatieff’s personal row to hoe. It should not overshadow the remarkable job he did to energize the local faithful, and to boost the spirits and the fortunes of Mario Ferri, who is trying to unseat Conservative Julian Fantino in Vaughan.

Drawn quite naturally by the star power of Ignatieff himself, hundreds turned out to Ferri’s community barbecue and to mingle with other Liberal party luminaries at the candidate’s Weston and Rutherford headquarters. And Ignatieff didn’t disappoint. Rock star or travelling evangelist, he could easily have been mistaken for either. His presence ratcheted up the excitement level at a party that already was in full swing when his entourage arrived.

While I find the classical ceremony, prepared and flawless choreography, and the implied dignity of the Harper-Fantino approach impressive in its own right, the Liberals turned my head by living rather than merely reciting their message on Saturday. And in this absence of austerity, none of the devoted seemed compelled to fall down in solemn worship when Ignatieff arrived; they wanted his autograph instead!

That, to me, is the sharpest contrast between the two front-running parties as the May 2 federal election draws near. Both are convinced that they have ultimate truth, and that the opponent is in grave error, but the only thing the observer knows for sure is how their convictions are evidenced in the way they live. (The warmth of joy is pleasing to experience, but that is not to say there is no meaning in reverent solemnity.)

Ignatieff was clearly in his element in that festive environment. And substance of the message delivered (and validity of charges leveled against his foes) aside, the juiced up faithful left inspired and reassured.

As for the matter of his brushing off the cub reporter at the end, it bears mentioning that a memo had gone out to all the media on Friday, declaring the event to be a photo-op only, with no question-and-answer period. That said, Ignatieff sort of undid the memo in his pumped-up sermon.

The kid can be forgiven for not realizing he might be breaching protocol. And, just on a human level, he deserved better than to have the Old Man he just approached (dignitary, idol, messiah or whatever) turn away from him as though he wasn’t there. The requirements of a good citizen dictate that.

— Dan Hoddinott

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