In 1978 Wayne Gretzky began his professional hockey career by signing with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA. Less than a year later he would be signed to play for the Edmonton Oilers where over the next 10 years he would lead the team to 4 Stanley Cup championship wins breaking numerous records along the way before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988; a day sports fans in Edmonton and Canada have etched into their minds. In LA Gretzky picked up where he had left off by continuing to dominate the game and by taking his team through the 1993 playoffs where in one of the most memorable 7 game conference finals in NHL history, the Kings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs earning their way into the league finals eventually losing out to the Montreal Canadiens; the last time a Canadian team won the cup. Gretzky would go on to play in the NHL until his retirement on April 18, 1999, at which time he held forty regular-season records, fifteen playoff records, and six All-Star records. He is the only NHL player ever to total more than 200 points in a single season, a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 15 NHL seasons, 13 of them consecutively. Gretzky's #99 has been retired by all teams in the National Hockey League. He is one of only two athletes to have earned this honor from a major professional sport.
In 1978 Michael Ignatieff left his privileged life in Canada and moved to the United Kingdom where he lived and worked for 22 years until moving to the United States in 2000 where he would reside until 2005 when he decided that after a 27 year absence he would return to Canada with the goal of eventually becoming our prime minister. The 27 years that Michael Ignatieff was out of the country was 6 years longer than Wayne Gretzky's entire playing career and during that time I doubt that Michael Ignatieff ever watched Gretzky play the game, either in person at a game or even on "the telly".
And why is Gretzky so important? Well to be honest he isn't. Hockey is not the most important thing in the world, and missing out on watching the career of the greatest hockey player in the world is not the ultimate sin, but it does demonstrate in a small way just how much of our everyday history and lives Ignatieff did miss during his decades long absence from the country. Call it the Gretzky Factor if you like.
During his long period of absence from Canada Michael Ignatieff not only missed out on the events of those 27 years, but more importantly he missed out on the experiences and feelings that one can only gather by being present and living through these events of our day to day lives. He was not here, nor was he a part of the highs, the lows, the triumphs, the tragedies, and the seeing of both the good and the bad of Canada and Canadians which has helped shape our country and ourselves over the last 30 years.
Ignatieff was absent for 27 years of our collective Canadian history. 27 years!
While it is true that if he was interested in what was happening in Canada that Ignatieff could have learned about many of these things by reading the newspapers or watching the television from afar, but that does not even come close to or compare to having experienced it first hand by being here and living through it. I have been reading about what has been going on in Iraq for years now, but it would be terribly arrogant of me to assume that I know what is really going on there or what the citizens of the Iraq are thinking or feeling, and it would be even more arrogant for me to assume that I could go there and be their leader.
An abbreviated list of just a few of the things that happened in those 27 years and during which
Michael Ignatieff was absent from Canada:
for the shooting at École Polytechnique in Montreal, the crimes of Robert Pickton, Clifford Olsen, Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka.
during the tainted blood scandal.
when all of the disagreements and constitutional battles that have shaped our country were fought including when our constitution was repatriated, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms adopted, and during the fight over the Meech Lake Accord.
during the creation of Nunavut.
when the Free Trade agreement was passed.
during the Quebec referendums in both 1980 and 1995.
during First Gulf War.
when "Oh Canada" became our official national anthem.
for the softwood lumber dispute.
for the tenure of Brian Mulroney,Kim Campbell, John Turner, Jean Chretien, and he missed out on seeing firsthand what his former roommate Bob Rae did while he was the Premier of Ontario, as well as what happened in the politics of all of the Provinces from 1978-2005!
for Terry Fox's incredible and inspiring run.
during the Oka crisis, the Ipperwash incident, the Air India disaster.....
for 27 years of sports, music and culture that took place in this country.
when the GST was introduced and so hotly debated.
while our soldiers were active in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, East Timor and Sierra Leone and during the US-led humanitarian mission to Somalia and the infamous Airborne regiments disgrace there.
while Ambassador Ken Taylor risked his life rescuing Americans from Iran.
for the passage of the Young Offenders Act.
when the first Canadian entered space.
during the National Energy Program.
for countless natural disasters including ice storms, floods and tornadoes.
when the population of Canada increased from 23,963,967 in 1978 to 32,623,490 in 2005.
when both the "loonie" and "toonie" were introduced as currency.
and on and on and on ...
"We didn't get it done." Michael Ignatieff at the Liberal Leadership convention December 2006.
I think you got this one wrong Michael. We did get it done. "We Canadians" have managed to come together and build one of the best countries on earth during those 27 years and we managed to do it all without your help.
For 27 years Michael Ignatieff missed out on the major and minor events that shaped not only our country but our lives, and now after his long absence from Canada he feels that somehow he has earned the right to be our prime minister.
Tell Michael Ignatieff to stick a sock in it and go back to his books while the rest of us continue to go on living our lives and building this country for the better as we have been doing for all those years when he was an absent Canadian.