In this the third of three parts, we ask Mr. Rae about his roommate at the University of Toronto and his ongoing relationship with Mr. Ignatieff, the Liberal/NDP accord of 1985 with David Petterson, and how Prime Minister Bob Rae would govern differently then Premier Bob Rae.
Part 3 of 3.
NF. Is it true you were roommates with Michael Igantieff?
BR. Yes indeed. That’s true.
NF. And that was while you were at the U of T (University of Toronto) ?
NF. The question I have for you then is who was the Felix Unger and who was the Oscar Madison?
BR. (Laughs)…(Laughs)…We were both…ah… models of good cooking and pristine house keeping….and I don’t think either one of us was Felix or Oscar.
NF. Now, now, you are not getting off that easy, I need some dirt for my blog…
BR. (Laughs)…well you are not going to be getting any dirt from me…(laughs)
NF. Was it an enjoyable situation?
NF. …and so I gather from that, that you have a relationship that will transcend this leadership race?
BR. I certainly hope so. From my perspective we do. I have known Michael for a long time and he is a fine fellow. I certainly did not go into politics to do anything…ah…other than to say that. We have some disagreements, yes, there are areas politically where we don’t necessarily see things the same way, but he is a person of integrity and ability and he has been a very good friend to me so I will leave it there.
NF. Was there ever a suggestion or a wish by either of you – at that time (as roommates at the University of Toronto) - that either of you would be in this race, in this fashion crossing paths in this remarkable way?
BR. I don’t think so. I mean we were both very interested in politics, but our careers took very different paths (with) a lot of ups and downs between then (and now). Michael went off to Harvard, and then went to the UK, I went to the UK and then our paths crossed again in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a few months, in 1973 and then we had seen each other in different places over the years. We corresponded and spent time together and…but I certainly never anticipated this I don’t think anybody could have anticipated this ... I think either one of us is surprised that the other is running and that’s life, I think that this is just the way it is…
NF. If there was another minority situation in parliament, with you as leader of the Liberal governent, would you consider another Liberal NDP accord like the one you signed in 1985 with David Petterson?
BR. I think what happens in the future is very much affected by the number. I really don’t think there is any point in predicting what will happen because it will depend entirely on what the representation is in the House of Commons. I’ll leave that to the political scientists and to other who might speculate on things…ah…but what happened in Ontario in 1985, was a product of a couple of things, one was the 42 year Tory government, the other one was the right wing nature of the (then) government, and the third was the arithmetic which produced a particular result. I don’t think we have any way of knowing what the result of the next election is going to be or what number will flow into the House of Commons from that.
NF. We are nearing the end of our questions, one more philosophical question perhaps that you could help me with. Do you believe that Liberalism (should compel) democratic nations like Canada to help oppressed peoples emancipate themselves?
BR. (Pause) I don’t think that democracy comes out of a barrel of a gun very effectively. I think the fact of the matter is that people have to find their way in the world. I think under international law, the world has a duty to intervene in situations where genocide is on order or where people are at a level of oppression where they desperately need some sort of intervention, or where there is a risk of security in the world. Ah…but you have to be very careful as to the consequences of that…the fact of the matter is that the intervention in Iraq, was first of all to stop the “weapons of mass destruction” which were never found. In the case of Afghanistan, it wasn’t the duty to protect that got the countries involved…I think we all recognize now that the Taliban government, because of the nature of that government, because of how they behave, poses a risk to the security of the world. But we then have to recognize that there then is a question of how long, and what are the consequences of the underlying realities of those countries and I am a great believer that essentially the solutions to so many of the conflicts in the world are ultimately not military but political and you then have to worry about making sure that the military intervention doesn’t simply take over, and that the impact of the intervention itself has to be understood. That is why recommending intervention has to be done with great, great care and it is not easy to do.
NF. Lastly, I guess I would like to ask you how Prime Minister Bob Rae will govern differently than Premier Bob Rae?
BR. Well, I think it is a decade later in a life. It is a different set of circumstances and I think you learn from experience. Some things would be the same. I learned very quickly in government that you have to make decisions – to govern is to choose and you have to do it in a way that encourages people to perform and do their best and you also have to take a personal interest in making sure that things are on track and that governments are going in the direction that they are going in. There is a sense of realism about the limited number of things you could do and a realization that implementation is everything. Making sure that things get done and get done well is absolutely critical.
I am very proud of the fact that I was Premier of the Province of Ontario. I know in my heart that a lot of the things the government did were good and that it was a tremendously positive experience. It would also be bizarre if coming out of that experience, that I would say that I wouldn’t change a thing, that I would do the same all over again. You learn from your experiences.
End of the interview.