Peter Donolo and his new crew running Michael Ignatieff's office have, according to The Globe this morning, made over the Liberal Leader's office.
Mr. Donolo, the new chief of staff, has staff members addressing the leader now as "Mr. Ignatieff" rather than the more informal "Michael" as his old crew used to. Staffers in the Opposition Leader's Office are also being asked to dress up a little bit more.
What the team neglected to tell our reporter is that it seems a code of silence has been imposed along with that dress code. Indeed, they suggested to one of their new B.C. candidates, former Olympian Ross Rebagliati, that he not to talk to the news media.
Mr. Rebagliati is as famous for winning the gold medal for snowboarding in the 1998 Nagano Olympic as he is for testing positive for marijuana, having his gold taken away, and then later reinstated.
This morning, the Ottawa Notebook wanted to know about Mr. Rebagliati's attendance at the two-day Liberal winter caucus meeting, which begins tomorrow. The athlete had put up a note on Twitter saying he was flying to Ottawa today to attend. He said he was returning to British Columbia on Wednesday.
"Ross's speech will be on his experience as an Olympian, and how it relates to his choice of becoming a Liberal candidate - pride of representing his country, desire to serve needed commitment, etc.," a senior Liberal official said. And that was it.
So we tried calling Mr. Rebagliati. We spoke to his wife, Alexandra, who also helps him out with media relations. She said the Liberals had emailed her, told her they had been in touch with The Globe and Mail, and that her husband need not add any more. She said he would not be making any comment.
Just to refresh memories: Mr. Rebagliati is the Liberal candidate in the B.C. riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla; he'll be running against International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, who will not be easy to defeat.
While Mr. Rebagliati has not spoken about his views on legalization of marijuana, Mr. Ignatieff was asked last week about it when he was on tour of university campuses in British Columbia:
"I never make comments on the personal lifestyle choices of my colleagues and friends, and I've never felt that marijuana use or, for example, possession of small amounts of marijuana are to be criminalized or that anybody should suffer consequences for personal recreational uses of marijuana," he said, according to a National Post blog post.
"But then I have to say to people who then ask me if I want to legalize marijuana, and I know you don't want to hear me say this, but I'd say no."
Meanwhile, Mr. Ignatieff has been avoiding one-on-one interviews of late as well. He has held media availabilities after his meeting with students but has turned down requests for individual interviews, even as polls are showing the Tories are paying a price for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.
Is this part of the new discipline, too?
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