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Liberal caucus

Michael Ignatieff mocks 'little puppets' in cabinet Add to ...

The lights went out on Michael Ignatieff but when they came back on he came out swinging at Stephen Harper, characterizing him as the master puppeteer of his cabinet.

Commenting on today's shuffle, the Liberal Leader described the Prime Minister as control freak.

"It's always the same team," Mr. Ignatieff said as he met with reporters on the first day of his two-day winter caucus retreat. "The puppets are always there, and they just change the little puppets, but the great leader is still there.

"It's a government unusually dominated by one figure, the Prime Minister. … The key point is that this is a government run by one man, who cancelled Parliament, who prorogued Parliament. It bears the stamp of his political character."

Mr. Ignatieff's meeting didn't begin well as the power went out on Parliament Hill and the Liberal Leader was unable to deliver his opening remarks to caucus.

He later joked to reporters about the power outage: "The Prime Minister doesn't do anything by halves; he not only shuts down Parliament he shuts off the lights."

According to insiders, the scene inside the Liberal caucus when the power went out on Parliament Hill "was comical."

"People were tripping and failing. No one got hurt. Amazing how we rely on our vision for co-ordination," one insider said.

The Liberals have made inroads on the prorogation issue, tapping into the public discontent with the Conservative government over its decision to shut down Parliament for five weeks. That displeasure is reflected in recent public opinion polls showing the Grits and Tories tied.

While Mr. Ignatieff was happy to criticize Mr. Harper, his new team and their approach to handling the economy, he would not say how he would slay the deficit should the Liberals form government.

Instead, he said it was Mr. Harper's $56-billion shortfall and therefore it was his problem.

As Opposition Leader, Mr. Ignatieff said it was his job to criticize the government's plan and "we are waiting to see it."

He doesn't believe what the Prime Minister has said so far about not having to cut deeply into expenditures is credible.

"I don't see how they avoid a structural deficit," he said, referring, too, to the recent report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page saying faces built-in red ink.

"It's up to them to answer to this question not to me," he said.

Mr. Ignatieff said his team will be in Ottawa on Monday ready to work although the House is not sitting. Parliament was scheduled to return Jan. 25 until the Prime Minister announced the prorogation.

"We're going to show up next week and they're not going to be there," he said. "This is a man who has prorogued Parliament twice in a year. …. It's a one-man show. I think there has never been a cabinet so under the domination of the Prime Minister's Office. We don't think that's good for Canadian democracy."

 

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