Michael Ignatieff says he's voted Labour in Britain but never cast a ballot in the United States, as he attempted to untangle a series of contradictory comments about his participation in foreign elections.
Through a long-running ad campaign that says Mr. Ignatieff "didn't come back for you," the Conservatives are attempting to make an issue of the Liberal Leader's many years spent working abroad, primarily in the United States and Britain.
"I'm a Canadian citizen. I've never been the citizen of another country. I've never voted - I can't vote in the United States. But I'm a Commonwealth Citizen, so I have voted in a British election," he told reporters Monday.
Mr. Ignatieff was responding to a report by QMI, which draws attention to his past comments about foreign elections.
The report points to one quote Mr. Ignatieff provided to the Glasgow Herald in 2004, when he was a Harvard professor: "I am an American Democrat. I will vote for [John]Kerry in November."
Liberal spokesman Michel Liboiron was quoted in the QMI article stating that Mr. Ignatieff "has never voted in a foreign election." Mr. Liboiron acknowledged Monday his comment was wrong.
The QMI report also quoted from a 1998 book written by Mr. Ignatieff about casting a ballot for Labour in the 1997 British election to defeat the Tories: "Why did I vote Labour? I wanted the rascals out."
Mr. Ignatieff offered an explanation, but began by digging up a old comment from Stephen Harper.
"You know, I'm also someone who didn't go to a foreign audience and call this country a second-class failed socialist state in front of a Republican audience," he said. "I'm a proud Canadian and I've lived overseas, yeah - and wherever I've been, I've always supported progressive policies. So, in 2004, I thought John Kerry was a better idea than George W. Bush and only a conservative would think that George W. Bush was a better choice for the United States, but I can't vote in the United States and never did."
When asked how many Canadian elections Mr. Ignatieff voted in while abroad, he replied: "I voted in a couple, can't remember, happy to tell you; but I've voted in Canadian elections since I was able to vote."
Mr. Ignatieff's reference to Mr. Harper was related to a 1997 speech Mr. Harper delivered to the Council on National Policy, in which he said: "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it."
Mr. Ignatieff was speaking at St. Lawrence College, in Kingston, to promote his party platform's incentives for postsecondary education.
Kingston and the Islands is expected to be a closely fought race between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Long-time Liberal incumbent Peter Milliken, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, is not running again.
Scientist Ted Hsu is running for the Liberals. The Conservative candidate is Alicia Gordon, who comes from a small-business background.
Mr. Ignatieff said he supports the decision to move this week's French debates up a day so that it does not conflict with the NHL playoff hockey game between Montreal and Boston.
He also said he's taking debate preparation seriously but that he took some time to watch the back nine of the Masters golf tournament Sunday.
Mr. Ignatieff said the debates are important because Canadians get to see the leaders unfiltered by ads or by the media. But the Liberal Leader said he won't tip his hand as to what he's got planned for his six minutes of direct debate with the Conservative leader.
"I don't want to give Mr. Harper a hint of what's going to hit him," he said.