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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff takes questions at an 'Open Mike' town hall meeting in Montreal on Sept. 27, 2010. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff takes questions at an 'Open Mike' town hall meeting in Montreal on Sept. 27, 2010. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)

Inside Caucus

Michael Ignatieff 'frustrated' with Liberal stagnation in polls Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff spent the summer on a bus touring the country. He travelled 40,000 kilometres and he shook more than 15,000 hands - and yet he can't figure out what he's doing wrong.

Behind the closed-doors of his caucus meeting Wednesday, the Liberal Leader appeared "frustrated," according to an MP who attended. His frustration seems to be over the fact that despite his Herculean efforts to try to connect with Canadians this summer, he hasn't.

He can't understand why voters don't see what he sees in Stephen Harper's government, according to the source. "I don't know why Canadians don't realize those people are not competent," the Liberal leader told his caucus.

On Monday he started his "Open Mike" series of town hall meetings. The first one was held in the NDP-held Montreal riding of Outremont.

Although, the rooms are packed it seems they are full of Liberals, the caucus source said. The leader is preaching to the converted instead of bringing in all sorts of Canadians under a "big red tent."

The national opinion polls, meanwhile, have not been kind to Mr. Ignatieff. Although the Liberals are within striking distance of the Conservatives, they are only just above Stéphane Dion's nadir of 24 per cent.

The latest EKOS poll has the Liberals at 29.9 per cent compared to the Tories with 33.1 per cent. This a slight increase for Mr. Ignatieff over the past two weeks. Other recent polls show him with support in the mid-20s, although an Ipsos Reid poll had the Grits with 31 per cent support earlier this month.

When it comes to his personal approval rating and questions about how he is performing, Mr. Ignatieff typically falls behind Mr. Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton.

The caucus source said it doesn't help matters when Mr. Ignatieff changes his mind on policy, as he did Wednesday on Employment Insurance. He reversed his support on a number of enhancements to EI benefits proposed in a Bloc MP's private member's bill.

Mr. Ignatieff told reporters the bill was "not fiscally responsible." Despite his view, several Liberal MPs voted in favour of the legislation.

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