I'll be back, Ignatieff says after drive-by campaign stop in Quebec

CHARLESBOURG, QUE. — The Globe and Mail

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks with volunteers at a Quebec City community centre on April 5, 2011. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters/Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

Michael Ignatieff flew into Quebec City Tuesday, reiterated his promise that a Liberal government would help fund the Quebec City Colisée, toured the offices of some volunteer groups - and then left.

It was his first visit to the region since the campaign began - and a quick one at that, prompting a local reporter to ask whether the Liberal Leader had already conceded defeat.

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No, no, Mr. Ignatieff said: He'll be back. He jumped in his bus and headed to Drummondville for a rally.

This is not friendly territory for the Liberals, who have 14 of the 75 seats in Quebec, but none east of Montreal. The Harper Conservatives have 11 seats, many around the Quebec City region; the NDP have one in Montreal; and the Bloc has 47. There is one Independent MP and one vacancy.

Mr. Ignatieff's first foray into the region did not go well. As Stephen Harper, who was campaigning neaby, rode into his event on a fire truck to talk about tax relief for volunteer firefighters, the Liberal Leader staged a low-key event with members of six volunteer agencies in Charlesbourg, just outside of Quebec City.

Only the "pool" of national reporters - a French and English print reporter, and French and English broadcast reporters - were allowed in, as the space was tight. One local reporter was part of the pool, too.

Mr. Ignatieff, according to the pool report, spoke at length with each group, asked questions about their work and thanked them. His message was mainly about the Family Pack - the planks in his platform pertaining to relief for middle-class families, including help for postsecondary education, home care and secure retirement.

Waiting outside, however, were more local media, who wanted a chance to speak to the Liberal Leader. They eventually got it, after some complaining, including going on the radio telling listeners that the Liberal Leader didn't want to talk to them.

Mr. Ignatieff held a quick and unexpected scrum outside of his campaign bus.

That's when he was asked about the Quebec Colisée.

"What we have said from the beginning is the Colisée is not just a sports facility," he said, noting that part of it will be exhibition and cultural space.

He and his Liberals, should they form government, are not about to subsidize a hockey rink or the NHL, he has said - although he would like to see the Nordiques back in Quebec.

The Tories have said no to federal funding for the Colisée.