I can still remember the first time I went to http://ignatieff.me, the Conservative Party's trash-Ignatieff site. I was met with that sinking feeling I've had much more often recently: that feeling that the guttersnipe tactics of American divisive politics had really entered Canada, and entered with a vengeance.
As I've said so many times before, I don't like Michael Ignatieff. But I don't think he deserves the dishonourable trash the Conservatives are throwing his way. What stuck out most on ignatieff.me, apart from the fact that the Tories are using a Macedonian website to instill doubt about Ignatieff's loyalty to Canada, was the following: The site pretends to be a magazine. In order to diss Ignatieff's internationalism (God what a sin that is), the fake logo say, "International Edition". Below there is an American flag, since Ignatieff lived in the USA. There is a British flag, since Ignatieff lived in the UK. There's a French flag, since apparently he also taught in France, though you don't hear much about that. And lastly, there's a Russian flag. Why? Because Ignatieff is of Russian heritage. Yep, that's right: the Conservatives question Ignatieff's loyalty to Canada not merely by questioning where he's chosen to live through the years but also by taking issue with his ethnicity.
In our Canada.
Despicable. Really. Yeah, it's just a flag, but the point is there. Anyway, the Conservatives have a new one, called http://www.ignatieffselection.com. There's an apostrophe before the 's' and a space after it - yeah, I was confused too. Anyway, the new site is a travesty of web design, with a chintzy alarmist font splattering text all over the page like the ugliest of yellow journalism rags. It consists of little more than repeated attacks on Ignatieff and other Liberals. The text is so poorly written and so lacking in subtlety (and the appearance so amateurish) that I was frankly shocked to see "Authorized by the Registered Agent of the Conservative Party of Canada" at the bottom of the page. Sadly, not shocked because I thought such below-the-belt slams beneath the party but because given how much money they can throw at TV ads, I figured they could have tossed a bit more at this site.
A site filled to the brim with mudslinging has the audacity to put the following sentence at the top of each page: 'He is so desperate for an election, he is focussing on personal attacks and innunendo to get what he wants.'
Anyway, the worst is the page that, in true sensationalist fashion, screams 'Michael Ignatieff: Child of Immigrants?' It would seem that the Conservatives have found examples of Ignatieff presenting his background as one of refugees, and have decided to dig into the Russian side of his family to produce as much dirt as possible, blamig Ignatieff for having rich ancestors.
You might argue that Ignatieff has no place trying to gain political points by talking about his ancestors. But at least they are his to talk about. Digging up dirt on the family members of your political rivals is beyond the pale. This suggests a 'win at any costs' war-like approach to politics, and at a time when people are already starting to debate whether or not attack ads are breaching the barriers of good taste, this does indeed cross a line. A line we need to maintain. Civility has a place in politics. And since Harper and his party have demonstrated a contempt for democracy, for honesty and for decorum, you'd figure they'd at least try to hold onto civility.
But I guess not.