Michael Ignatieff visits Trinity-Spadina to fight the NDP for second place

Michael Ignatieff visits Trinity-Spadina to fight the NDP for second place

Michael Ignatieff is mobbed by the press in Toronto’s Chinatown (Image: John Michael McGrath) 

Liberal leader and PM aspirant Michael Ignatieff visited downtown Toronto on the first Monday of the election campaign yesterday, doing an oh-so-brief walkabout with Christine Innes, the Liberal candidate running against incumbent Olivia Chow. Walking, by our calculation, a grand total of 150 metres in his 30-minute photo op, Ignatieff was in Trinity-Spadina to fly the Liberal flag in the one of the two 416 seats the party doesn’t already own (the other, Toronto-Danforth, is taken by Chow’s husband, Jack Layton). This led the NDP to complain that despite Ignatieff’s rhetoric of running against the Conservatives, Liberals were starting off their campaign running in NDP-held ridings—ones that, even if the Liberals win, won’t change the balance of power in Parliament.

This is pretty rich coming from the NDP, who are, of course, running against the Liberals in Toronto just as hard as they’re running against the Conservatives out west. But then again, the NDP has to run against the Red Machine in Toronto, while the Liberals really don’t have to try that hard: sending the party leader into the downtown core when there’s a grand total of one seat they can remotely hope to gain (Layton’s going to keep Toronto-Danforth, we suspect) is a lot of effort for little payoff. Ignatieff’s time and the party’s money would be better spent in places like Mississauga or Brampton.

So why do it? Three reasons: 1) wave the flag, 2) the Liberals think it’s still winnable (before Chow won it in 2006, the Grits held Trinity-Spadina for 13 years under Tony Ianno), and 3) in 2006, the Liberals didn’t take defeat well, spreading rumours that voter fraud in the Chinese community was responsible for Chow’s win, and demanding an Elections Canada audit of 10,000 votes. This seems like a 150 metres of payback.

It’s only been three days, but Toronto’s contribution to Canada’s election seems to be having the left engage in fratricide while the right wins the war. Why does that sound familiar?

• Liberals, NDP take aim at Harper but are gunning for each other [Globe and Mail]