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Atlas, an approximately 700 pound, $200,000.00 copper sculpture that was stolen from its perch high atop Highway 400 in Toronto, is put back in place in December of 2006. (Tory Zimmerman)
Atlas, an approximately 700 pound, $200,000.00 copper sculpture that was stolen from its perch high atop Highway 400 in Toronto, is put back in place in December of 2006. (Tory Zimmerman)

Ottawa Notebook

Great expectations Add to ...

Peter Donolo is "a little concerned about the expectations" on him to fix Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada, sources say.

Mr. Ignatieff's new chief of staff started work this morning and the pressure for the quick fix is enormous.

Liberals are desperate for any good news these days. After a small spike of momentum when Mr. Ignatieff first became leader, it's been all downhill since. The party has been slipping, sliding and spiraling even further downward since last June.

There are no signs that life for the Liberals will be getting better anytime soon. Mr. Donolo starts his new gig amid several national opinion polls that do not bode well for his party or his leader.

An Angus Reid on-line poll, released just this morning, shows the Conservatives with the support of 40 per cent of Canadians; the Liberals are at 26 per cent, the NDP at 17 per cent and the Greens at 7 per cent.

The horse-race numbers that indicate voting intention are supported by other national opinion polls that have shown the Tories with staying power, consistently holding on to the majority government territory mark of around 40 per cent support, for several weeks. Their lead over the Liberals remains between 11 and 15 points.

Today's Angus Reid poll also measures approval ratings for the leaders and momentum.

In both those categories, Mr. Ignatieff scores poorly. While 34 per cent of Canadians approve of Stephen Harper's performance only 15 per cent approve of Mr. Ignatieff's performance. That is a nine-point drop in a month, according to the poll. A majority, 53 per cent, disapprove of the leader's performance compared to 45 per cent for Mr. Harper.

The poll shows that "for the second consecutive fortnight, Mr. Ignatieff posts the worst momentum score among the three main federal party leaders at -37." It says that seven per cent of Canadians report their view of Mr. Ignatieff has improved compared to 44 per cent who say their view has worsened.

Mr. Harper's score is -13 compared to NDP Leader Jack Layton, who has moved closer to positive momentum at -4.

So what to do?

Robert Asselin, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa and former speechwriter to Paul Martin and Stéphane Dion, says Mr. Donolo is "a victim of his very good reputation in the party as well as in the media."

"I don' think it's a problem," Prof. Asselin said. "His role is to put around the leader the best possible team of advisers, work on a plan of action for the weeks and months ahead and make sure the team focuses on the big picture and not get distracted too much by the day-to-day headlines."

A veteran Liberal MP adds: "Let him come in, do his best, borrow from his past experiences. There is an excellent group of smart young hard-working people around Michael.

"It's just a lack of political experience. I'm sure he'll do well."

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