Ignatieff Under Fire for Crimson Comments

In what has developed into a turbulent bid for Canadian Parliament, former Kennedy School of Government (KSG) professor of public policy and newly-minted star candidate for Canada’s Liberal party Michael Ignatieff came under attack last Friday over statements he made to the Harvard Crimson concerning his intentions to return to Harvard post-election.

Ignatieff, who raised eyebrows when he left Harvard this September to assume a visiting professorship at the University of Toronto in Canada, took a break from academia almost two weeks ago to enter as a Liberal candidate for Canadian Parliament.

“If I am not elected, I imagine that I will ask Harvard to let me back,” Ignatieff told the Crimson last Tuesday, sparking angry controversy for declaring what Canadian media viewed as a less-than-full commitment to Canada.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper declared in its Friday headline, “Talk of Harvard return was a joke, says Ignatieff,” and reported Ignatieff as saying, “Were I to lose the election, I would teach at University of Toronto and you would do me a big favour in making that clear. I am not coming back here [to Harvard], win, lose or draw.”

Ignatieff clarified his position yesterday in a second interview with the Crimson.

“Here’s the straight scoop. I am on leave technically for 6 months [until June 30 2006]. But after that, my relationship with Harvard concludes,” he said, adding, “It would be an honor to return to Harvard once my political career is concluded. Not if I get defeated—I don’t expect to get defeated. And I shouldn’t have answered hypothetically.”

Ignatieff said he would only return to academia if and when his political career finally ends.

“I will probably resume my life as an academic teacher, and in that eventuality, if I could do some teaching at Harvard that would be wonderful,” said Ignatieff.

Among all the attacks that have been launched against Ignatieff, the controversy over his intentions post-election will probably have minimal impact on the success of his election, said Gregory Albo, professor of political science at York University in Toronto, Canada. “It’s a safe Liberal seat,” Albo said of the district where Ignatieff is running. “On that basis alone, [it’s] a relatively safe place to run.”

Ignatieff’s politically-driven homecoming was met with some resentment from Canadians who are upset that the Liberal Party “pushed aside some of the normal constituency processes to have what we call in Canada, Ignatieff parachuted into the riding,” said Albo.

Since his departure from academia to enter the upcoming Canadian elections, Ignatieff has been criticized in Canada for failing to align with the Liberal Party by supporting U.S. President George W. Bush’s stance on American foriegn policy and the war in Iraq.

“The problem here is, people are particularly focused on his pro-Bush position and his pro-war position, which the Canadian public in general is not [in favor of] and the Liberal party itself took a position against,” said Albo, who called Ignatieff “out of sync” with the Liberal party. Ignatieff has also faced harsh accusations of using disparaging ethnic slurs against Ukrainians in his published work.