Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's director of communications, Mario Laguë, was killed Thursday morning in a motorcycle crash while on his way to work.
He was 52 years old and leaves a wife and two teenage children. According to reports, Mr. Laguë's motorcycle collided with an SUV at an intersection in Ottawa's west end.
"A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal advisor to me and the entire Liberal team," Mr. Ignatieff said in a statement. "A man of great integrity and spirit, Mario served his country in many capacities with honour and dignity. … [He]brought a bright light to everything he did."
Mr. Laguë joined Mr. Ignatieff's office this year. He was brought in by Peter Donolo, Mr. Ignatieff's chief of staff, and was part of the team Mr. Donolo built around the leader to try to improve his image. The new team took over in January.
Last week, Mr. Laguë joked with a reporter during lunch that he had just taken up driving a motorcycle as part of his "mid-life crisis." He had mentioned he had gone on a motorcycle trip this summer to the Eastern Townships.
"While we will miss Mario's extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all," Mr. Ignatieff said.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae cancelled a press conference he had scheduled in Ottawa Thursday morning because of the tragedy. Later, he posted his thoughts on Facebook.
"We are all mourning the terrible loss of Mario Laguë, OLO communications director, killed in a motorcycle accident this morning. This is such sad and devastating news. A wonderful man."
Mr. Laguë came over to Mr. Ignatieff's office with immense experience. He had been working at an NGO in Switzerland but before that had served as Canada's ambassador to Costa Rica.
As well, he had been director of communications to former prime minister Paul Martin and before that served in one of the most senior communications roles in the Privy Council Office.
Tall, big and sporting a dark beard, Mr. Laguë was distinctive on Parliament Hill. Well-liked by his colleagues and the press, he had a big hand in Mr. Ignatieff's thinkers' conference in Montreal this spring and in putting together the Liberal Express summer bus tour.
Mr. Laguë accompanied Mr. Ignatieff on the first week of that tour, when the bus broke down, and handled all of it with aplomb. He also traveled with him on the Quebec leg of the tour.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, loved ones and the many, many friends and colleagues that knew him," Mr. Ignatieff said.
Update Prime Minister Stephen Harper also offered his condolences. Here is the text of his statement:
I was very saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing today of Mario Laguë, Director of Communications for the Leader of the Opposition.
Throughout a varied and distinguished career, Mr. Laguë served his country with dedication both in Canada and abroad. His numerous roles included serving as Prime Minister Paul Martin's Director of Communications, as Quebec's Delegate in Venezuela and in Mexico, as Canada's Ambassador to Costa Rica, and as Assistant Secretary to Cabinet - Communications and Consultations in the Privy Council Office.
Mr. Laguë will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally and who worked with him throughout his career. His devotion and service to his country are his legacy.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of grief.
Another update New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton's joined in and offered the following:
I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the sudden death of Mario Laguë, Director of Communications to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. On behalf of all New Democrats, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Laguë's family, friends and colleagues.
Beneath the political fault lines that we find ourselves negotiating each day, there is a foundation of deep respect among those who devote their lives to public service. No matter what political stripes we may wear, we all feel this loss profoundly.
Mr. Laguë was a man of gentle strength who devoted decades to building a better country. We admire the consistent integrity he brought to his work, whether he was advising a Quebec premier or Canadian prime minister, or representing us all overseas as a Canadian ambassador.
We reserve a special place in our hearts today for Mr. Lague's wife and two children. I know so well that a political career is always a full-family endeavor. They too have given much. And as we mourn with them today, we do so as extended family.