Michael Ignatieff

Leader of the Official Opposition and the Liberal Party of Canada

Michael Ignatieff was acclaimed leader of the Liberal Party of Canada at the party’s convention held from April 30-May 2, 2009. He served as interim leader since December 10, 2008, when former leader Stéphane Dion stepped down. By virtue of being leader of the party with the second largest number of seats, he is also leader of the Official Opposition.

Ignatieff has had a meteoric rise in his political career. First elected in 2006, he has represented the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, which is part of Toronto, Ontario. He first ran for the party leadership in 2006, but lost. He was recognized as the Parliamentarian of the Year in 2007.

Under his leadership, the Liberal Party is working to keep the ruling Conservative government accountable. The Liberals supported the federal government’s budget tabled in January 2009, with the condition that it provides regular economic updates (accountability reports) on the economy. The global economic crisis has forced the Conservative to go into deficit spending for the first time in more than a decade. Canada’s deficit for the 2009 fiscal year is estimated to be $50 billion. Ignatieff has also raised concerns about the country’s employment insurance program.

Although he only entered politics recently, Ignatieff has been actively involved in the Liberal Party for more than 40 years. He campaigned for Lester B. Pearson in 1965 and served as a delegate and national youth coordinator for Pierre Trudeau in 1968.

Scholar and Author

Ignatieff is an internationally renowned scholar, author, and leading voice in the fields of human rights, democracy and international affairs. His writing and teaching have been inspired by Liberal ideology.

In 2005, Ignatieff was appointed a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Prior to that, he served as Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University for five years. In 2001, while at Harvard, Ignatieff was appointed as a Canadian commissioner on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which helped guide a United Nations response to humanitarian crises seen in Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur.

Prior to his appointment at Harvard, Ignatieff taught at Cambridge University in the UK and at l’École des Hautes Études in Paris. His first academic teaching position was at the University of British Columbia. During his academic career, Ignatieff also contributed to the World Economic Forum and was part of several international commissions considering the future of NATO, humanitarian law, citizenship and minority rights.

Ignatieff’s career also includes work as a journalist and broadcaster, beginning as a staff writer at The Globe and Mail, and subsequently hosting programs on the CBC, TV Ontario, the BBC and Britain’s Channel 4. Ignatieff has written 16 books. His best known works are The Rights Revolution, which examines Canada’s contribution to the progress of individual rights and freedoms around the world, and Blood and Belonging.Ignatieff won a Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction and a Gemini Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.

A Personal Snapshot

Michael Ignatieff was born on May 12, 1947, in Toronto. He is the son of former Canadian diplomat George Ignatieff and Alison Grant. His grandfather, Count Pavel Ignatiev, was Minister of Education to Tsar Nicholas II; he escaped execution by the Bolsheviks.

After studying history at the University of Toronto, Ignatieff went on to pursue further studies at the University of Oxford, and then earned his PhD in history at Harvard University. He is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees.

Ignatieff is married to Zsuzsanna Zsohar. They have two children, Theo and Sophie.