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Mario Lagu�, shown in the Prime Minister's Office in April of 2004, served as communications director to Paul Martin. (Dave Chan/PMO)
Mario Lagu�, shown in the Prime Minister's Office in April of 2004, served as communications director to Paul Martin. (Dave Chan/PMO)

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Rivals down partisan tools to remember Mario Laguë Add to ...

1. 'This too shall pass.' Room 200, West Block, is one of those grand rooms on Parliament Hill that over the years has seen its share of history, laughter and sadness.

Receptions and weddings have taken place in that room. Women debated their constitutional rights there. It's been turned into a haunted house for kids at Halloween and for a long time it was the venue for media to perform skits skewering politicians at the annual Press Gallery Dinner. More recently, parliamentarians and staffers gathered to raise money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

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On Tuesday night, MPs and senators from all parties downed their partisan tools and came again to Room 200, joining Hill staffers and journalists to remember Liberal communications director Mario Laguë, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident this summer. He was 52 and he was on his way to work on Parliament Hill when he died.

It was a bittersweet evening - funny and sad and heartbreaking, especially when his widow, Caroline Vu-Nguyen and their two teenage daughters accepted the Canadian flag that had been flying over the Peace Tower on the beautifully clear and warm August morning that he died.

Politics can be so often petty and bitterly partisan; Tuesday night was not.

Stephen Harper's communications director Dimitri Soudas can be a combative character but on Tuesday, Mr. Soudas, who did not know Mr. Laguë well, was there to represent his government and himself. He spoke about the importance of family in politics and noted that Mr. Laguë's legacy - more than his patriotism, his "rare courage" in leaving the bureaucracy to work for an opposition leader with iffy prospects and his contribution through his public service - is his two children.

Colleagues in the media, the Toronto Star's Susan Delacourt and the National Post's John Ivison spoke of Mr. Laguë's professionalism and how he strived to remain firmly in the background; NDP Leader Jack Layton's chief of staff Anne McGrath spoke of his politeness.

And most everyone talked about his size; Mr. Laguë was a big man with a big presence.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said that big presence was comforting. When he was in the room, even the bad stuff seemed okay - especially when he rolled his eyes to indicate that "this too shall pass."

"If you're a political leader you need to hear that," said Mr. Ignatieff, who went on to tell the story of how his bus famously broke down on the very first day of the so-called Liberal express tour this summer.

Mr. Laguë was on that bus. There was a small puff of smoke and then it came to a grinding halt as it was heading east from Ottawa.

"I looked at Mario and he looked at me and Mario rolled his eyes," the Liberal Leader recalled, noting that he was "slightly agitated" at the time.

But Mr. Laguë got out of the bus, made a few phone calls and he got it done; Mr. Ignatieff, his team and the press arrived at their event on time and it was well attended.

That, too, did pass.

"God, I love him," Mr. Ignatieff said.

2. By the numbers. Elizabeth May's Green Party is on the march. Two recent national opinion polls show the Greens catching up with the NDP.

The kerfuffle over the long-gun registry and NDP Leader Jack Layton's reluctance to demand his MPs support on the issue seems to have hurt him.

The latest poll, an online survey by Angus Reid released Wednesday morning, has the Conservatives at 34 per cent, eight points ahead of Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, who are at 26 per cent support nationally.

The NDP is at 18 per cent and the Green Party is at 11 per cent - four points ahead of where it was after the 2008 election. Last weekend's Ipsos Reid poll had the NDP and Green Party tied at 12 per cent nationally; the accompanying analysis said the gun wars had hurt the NDP.

Meanwhile, Angus Reid pollsters note that the Greens "have been boosted by a surge of support in the West." They are close to the Liberals in British Columbia and ahead of the NDP in Alberta.

Ms. May's increased profile in B.C., where she plans to take on sports minister Gary Lunn in the next election, appears to be the main driver. "The federal Greens, for the time being, appear to be benefiting from it," Angus Reid vice-president Jaideep Mukeriji said. "It'll be interesting to see if the dynamic holds because the Green Party has consistently been hobbled by vote diffusion."

The Angus Reid survey, which contacted 1,008 Canadians between Sept. 27 and Sept 28, also asked about a fall election: 34 per cent of Canadians would support one but 44 per cent would not.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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