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Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins)
Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins)

Jane Taber

Fiction or fact on Liberal coup? Add to ...

The denials are all in. Toronto Star columnist Angelo Persichilli, however, is standing by his reporting that a group of Liberal MPs were plotting against their leader over cocktails at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier last week.

Let's hear first from the MPs: Ruby Dhalla says the story is "ridiculous." The Brampton, Ont., Liberal MP is one of the suspects named in the Star column alleging that she, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae and MPs Carolyn Bennett and Glen Pearson were plotting an insurrection against Michael Ignatieff.

Reached via e-mail today, Ms. Dhalla says that "ideas and discussions among colleagues are only for the purpose of helping to renew and rebuild our party. All of us are loyal and care enough to want our party to succeed."

She adds that "any suggestions otherwise are ridiculous and fictional!"

Mr. Pearson and Ms. Bennett also weighed in on their blogs.

"The column is a fiction of the columnist's own device," Ms. Bennett wrote. "He [Mr. Persichilli]has done himself serious damage as a political commentator."

Mr. Pearson says he was " stunned" when he saw the column. "Persichilli's damage is not so much about Ignatieff or Rae; it's about the violation of this unseen guiding hand. His story has now got people saying that Liberals are in collusion about moving Ignatieff on. Let me be as honest as I have ever been in politics here. I have never, not once, been asked to any meeting with anyone about such a thing," he wrote.

Mr. Pearson says a line has been crossed and that the private moments that politicians can have with colleagues are cherished ones: "Our private moments are what make our public sacrifices possible; take those away and you might as well lock us all in the Kremlin."

Mr. Rae's displeasure with the story has already been noted here.

And the target of the alleged plot, Mr. Ignatieff, is also unimpressed. He dismissed the story as "a tempest in a teacup."

"This is not serious business," he told reporters Monday. "There's journalism ... and then there's gossip. And this is gossip."

And in a likely reference to his decision to support the Conservative government on the HST, he added: "We've made some tough decisions, the caucus has held together through those decisions ....sometimes they're not popular but they're in the national interest."

For his part, Mr. Persichilli, reached today by telephone, says he standing by his reporting. "Yeah, of course," he said. "The meeting took place. They were talking about the problems. If you read the letter by Glen Pearson he says that yes they did comment on the issues and so there is nothing to add."

Mr. Persichilli, who is the political editor of the Corriere Canadese, contributes to Toronto Star on Sundays and is well-known on Parliament Hill.

With a report from Bill Curry.

(Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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