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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to delegates at the party's Canada 150 conference n Montreal on March 26, 2010.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to delegates at the party's Canada 150 conference n Montreal on March 26, 2010.

Jane Taber

Michael Ignatieff concedes rivals <br/>have 'done a number' on him Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff blames his lowly status in the polls on his adversaries, who he says have "done a number on me." And that was before today's EKOS results showing the Liberals slipping even farther into the basement of public opinion.

Conservative attacks on his 30-year absence from Canada and his adversaries' attempts to paint him as an elitist may be taking their toll, just as similar treatment did on his predecessor. At just 25.1 per cent support, the Liberals are nearing Stéphane Dion's low-water mark.

A senior Ignatieff official says the Liberal Leader's remarks to reporters on Wednesday - that he has to work hard to earn his way into the consciousness and hearts of Canadians - still stand today.

"Seriously, [the EKOS poll]just shows that we have a lot of work to do - to put our ideas forward and to underline this government's lack of ideas, foresight and compassion."

In Calgary yesterday, Mr. Ignatieff said the life of an opposition leader is not an easy one. He conceded he has his work cut out for him as he seeks to become prime minister.

"I think I have to earn it," he said. "I have to be there. Canadians have to say, 'Yeah he's not so bad. They've written all this bad stuff about him. He's not so bad. He's a human being. You ask him a question he'll give you an answer. And he's here for good reasons and he's here to stay.'

"All that stuff needs to get across," Mr. Ignatieff said.

The Liberal Leader explained the way he hopes to do it is by speaking in halls, high school gymnasiums and legions. "My popularity goes up, my popularity goes down. And what I do about it is I go into rooms," he said.

"I go into rooms like the room I have just been in. I listen to Canadians. I take unscripted questions," he said, noting the Prime Minister runs controlled events with pre-approved questions such as once this week with students preparing a G8/G20 youth summit.

As for his opponents doing a number on him, Mr. Ignatieff's adversaries are at it again. Stephen Harper's strategists are again trotting out talking points on one of their favourite topics: the Liberal Leader's 30-year absence from Canada.

Titled "The Truth About Michael Ignatieff's Time Away from Canada," they contend that Mr. Ignatieff's assertion in a speech this week that his work abroad made him "more of a Canadian" is disingenuous.

"Are we talking about the same Michael Ignatieff who repeatedly bashed Canada, its flag and its people?" the Tory memo says.

It then details critical statements by Mr. Ignatieff, including when he once told an interviewer that the only thing he missed about Canada was "Algonquin Park" and his decades-old description of the Canadian flag as a "passing imitation of a beer label."

The Liberals shrug off this latest attack, dismissing it as "tiresome."

"I guess they are concerned their advertising campaign of last year was not enough," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe, referring to negative ads that characterized the Liberal Leader as "just visiting."

The official also points to passages in Mr. Ignatieff's speech that put into context his comment that being away has made him a better Canadian.

Mr. Ignatieff had told his Liberal audience - a fundraising dinner in Toronto on Monday - "we need more Canadians out in the world, not less." And that being abroad only enriches Canadians who can come back with international connections and a broader perspective and understanding about other cultures.

"This is an incredible asset for Canada and I want more young people to go out and come back, out and back, out and back, testing themselves against the world … and coming home to make Canada stronger."

 

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