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Canada's Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff greets his supporters at a rally during the first day of his election campaign in Ottawa March 26, 2011. (Blair Gable/Reuters/Blair Gable/Reuters)
Canada's Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff greets his supporters at a rally during the first day of his election campaign in Ottawa March 26, 2011. (Blair Gable/Reuters/Blair Gable/Reuters)

Ottawa Notebook

Ignatieff channels Bob Dylan to introduce his election theme Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff borrowed a line from singer Bob Dylan to introduce his new election theme Saturday - "you've got to serve somebody."

"... And we serve the Canadian people," the Liberal Leader told about 1,000 supporters at a campaign rally at a downtown Ottawa hotel - his first big rally in this five-week election campaign that ends May 2.

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He also noted that's he's always dreamed of being a bulldozer driver - we'll get to that later.

It was an unscripted and relaxed Mr. Ignatieff - his sleeves rolled up and his collar open - who spoke for about 15 minutes to the crowd. It was a good start for the leader - at least compared to his predecessor Stephane Dion, who had trouble getting out crowds in the 2008 campaign.

But then, Mr. Dion never quoted Dylan.

"Bob Dylan has this wonderful song," said Mr. Ignatieff. "Some of you know it ... it has that wonderful line in it, 'everybody's gotta serve somebody'."

"We've got to know in this election who we serve," he said.

And this is how Mr. Ignatieff - who has been a Harvard professor, journalist and has been accused by the Tories of preferring a latte to a Tim Horton's coffee - curiously noted that he had always wanted to be bulldozer driver. Never before has he mentioned a passion for heavy equipment.

"When I think about who I want to serve I think of a wonderful young woman I met a couple of weeks ago in Newfoundland," he recalled. " ... she said to me, 'you know what I want to be, I want to be a bulldozer driver. And I said, you go girl because you're going to achieve a dream I've had since I was a child'."

The problem was, he said, that she couldn't achieve her dream because there was no childcare for her kids.

"So let's be real clear who we're fighting for," said Mr. Ignatieff. "We're fighting so that bulldozer driver gets child care."

He also listed the other issues Liberals are fighting for - education, pension security and help for families to care for ailing relatives.

What's a political stump speech, meanwhile, without a little bashing of your opponents.

And so Mr. Ignatieff took aim at Stephen Harper's ethical lapses, noting that his government was found in contempt of Parliament. He said Mr. Harper said "an amazing thing" when he spoke to reporters after meeting Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall Saturday.

"He was asked how do you feel about being the first Prime Minister in history, the very, very first Prime Minister in history, to be found in contempt of Parliament?," said Mr. Ignatieff. "He said, 'oh, it was just a vote in Parliament.' Think about that. Think about the contempt in that remark ... Who does he think we are? Who does he think Canada is?"

Interestingly, one man in the crowd was overheard telling another supporter that was a former employee of Statistics Canada and only joined the Liberals as a result of the Harper government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census.

Mr. Ignatieff left for Montreal after the rally. He campaigns for a day there on Sunday.

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