And in contrast to Mr. Harper, the new Liberal Leader, who is well-travelled and well-known in Britain and the United States, even has an advantage when it comes to Mr. Obama, who is visiting Ottawa next week.
"I just pick up the phone to some of my friends in his administration ...," Mr. Ignatieff said on CTV's Question Period earlier this year when discussing how close his ties are with the Obama White House.
Well, Harper used to brag about his connection with Bush II. I'm not sure that this means much in terms of relations with the White House under Obama, really.
Ignatieff's profile on the world stage is almost guaranteed to be better than Harper's. Harper was an unknown on the world stage until 2006, and since then he's done little more than demonstrate that he's a puppet for the neoCons in the Bush Whitehouse.
And while Mr. Ignatieff says he can pick up the phone to call the White House, his senior staffers say that his MPs can pick up the phone to call him. In fact, about 300 Liberal staffers, MPs and senators showed up to partake of Canadian wine and cheese at his office Tuesday night where he thanked them for being the "real guts of the organization."
By far, this is the more important aspect of the distinction between Ignatieff and other political leaders in Canada lately. He's clearly reaching out to the membership of his party and making himself accessible. How much that contact will influence his decisions and direction is hard to say, but from an organizational culture standpoint, it's a very interesting aspect of his leadership, and it will result in a much more cohesive party in the long run.
This is in extreme contrast to the iron-fisted, top-down style that we've seen from Harper. As I have expressed before, Harper's style has distinct limitations that we should not ignore - micromanagement doesn't scale well to large numbers of issues; and there have long been signs of various factions within the Conservatives squirming to make themselves heard. This is not exactly unifying the Conservative party.
Perhaps most telling is the Conservative party's lack of reaction to Ignatieff:
"Canadians are concerned about the economy right now, they don't want to see politicians playing political games at the moment," the Prime Minister's communications director, Kory Teneycke, said, explaining why they haven't done to Mr. Ignatieff what they did to Mr. Dion. "But we're not focused on politics right now. We're not planning to go to a campaign right now."
I'd have to suspect that it also boils down to the fact that Ignatieff has already shown that he will not be bullied about by Mr. Harper's tactics. That simply doesn't give the Con$ the kind of easy target that Dion made.
Ignatieff's much stronger presentation in the House of Commons also flies in the face of the kind of slime throwing that the standard attack ad tactic relies on, and I think people are picking up on that as well. (Not to mention the stunning crash of Rovian style campaigning in the United States has got to have made the Con$ a whole bunch more cautious)