Quite simply the Winnipeg Free Press should apologize.
Here is their editorial today:
Egg on Ignatieff
Does anyone know what Michael Ignatieff is talking about?
The Liberal leader was in Winnipeg on the weekend campaigning for Winnipeg North candidate Kevin Lamoureux when he accused the Conservatives of fighting dirty by running a Filipino candidate in the riding.
Voters, he said, deserved "a straight-up fight" and not "a bunch of games." He was apparently referring to speculation that the Tories were trying to weaken Mr. Lamoureux's support by running Filipino Julie Javier in a riding that traditionally supports the New Democratic Party and which has a high number of Filipino residents.
Once again, does anyone know what Mr. Ignatieff is talking about? Is he really suggesting that the Conservatives should have fielded a non-Filipino candidate to make it a fair fight for the Liberal contender? Is it his view that Ms. Javier is a fake candidate who has cynically offered her name to spoil Liberal ambitions and ensure an NDP victory?
Mr. Ignatieff's comments were an insult to voters in general and Filipinos in particular. To be fair, it doesn't look like he anticipated the question, but the leader of an institution like the Liberal Party of Canada should be smarter on his feet. In the big leagues, you're only allowed so many stupid mistakes
The problem is that the Free Press was wrong. Dead wrong.
The correct version was put forward by the Free Press's own reporter:
Winnipeg North Tory candidate Julie Javier issued a press release yesterday evening saying it’s "regrettable" that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff suggested her candidacy is a game designed to sway Liberal Filipino voters.
That’s not exactly what Iggy said, nor did he accuse the Tories of vote splitting, which is what we said in a front page headline Monday.
Someone in editorial made a huge mistake and even Conservative bloggers are distancing themselves from the Free Press comments.
Ignatieff talks a good talk about getting away from identity politics, asks for a fight on quality of the candidates and suggests that the press is trying to frame the fight inappropriately. This is a good sign. As for the Winnipeg Free Press? Terrible. Opinion of an exchange is healthy, but do make sure that it has foundation in fact.
Here is a further follow-up on the story.
Do the right thing Free Press and apologize for a major gaffe.
Update November 17: The original reporter has further shed light in the print edition of the paper.
However, I have seen no correction in the editorial pages where the comments on Ignatieff were made.
This is what Michael Ignatieff said today in a letter to the editor:
An editorial in the Nov. 16 Free Press distorts and misrepresents statements I made during a recent stop in Winnipeg North, where I was campaigning for our Liberal candidate, Kevin Lamoureux.
The editorial claims I criticized the Conservatives' choice of candidate for Winnipeg North. I did not.
I was asked by the media if I thought the Conservative party was running Julie Javier to take votes from our Liberal candidate, long-serving MLA Kevin Lamoureux. I dismissed the question out of hand. As I said, the people of Winnipeg North are not interested in political games, they're interested in a clear choice.
Here's exactly what I said: "Let's not insult the voters of Winnipeg North, let's give them a real choice. The right choice is Kevin Lamoureux. Let's have a straight-up fight. Let's not have any political games here; let's give the voters of Winnipeg North a clear choice."
I stand by what I said.
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
I can only assume the Free Press stands by what they wrote in the editorial despite the transcript that is plainly available.