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Ignatieff channels the Boss, calls on Canadians to 'rise up'

Left: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at a campaign event in Sudbury April 15. Right: Bruce Springsteen performs with the E. Street Band in Bilbao July 26 2009.

Jonathan Hayward/CP and REUTERS/Vincent West/Jonathan Hayward/CP and REUTERS/Vincent West

Michael Ignatieff started the campaign channeling Dylan. Now it's the Boss.

Inspired by a Bruce Spingsteen album he was listening to on his iPod, the Liberal leader tried out a new rallying cry in Sudbury that he says will become a staple of his campaign stump speech.

After a relatively staid question-and-answer "town hall" Friday evening in Sudbury - where some in the crowd told him he was "too nice" and should start showing more passion - the Liberal leader got the crowd on its feet. He ran off a list of Conservative controversies and called - almost shouted - for Canadians to "rise up."

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That's a line from "My City of Ruins" off Springsteen's The Rising, an album largely focused on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City. Earlier in the campaign Mr. Ignatieff regularly quoted a Bob Dylan song, saying "You gotta serve somebody."

The Liberals have posted a video of the speech, with added soundtrack, to YouTube.

In his list of Conservative controversies, he ended Friday with the episode in Guelph, where the Conservative Party attempted to have student ballots overturned - a bid that was rejected by Elections Canada.

There were also allegations that a member of the Conservative team attempted to grab the ballot box.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Ignatieff had said the situation was like something you might see in Egypt or Syria.

The Conservative war room immediately went on the attack.

"Michael Ignatieff says our government is like a Middle East dictatorship and he's using the song 'My City of Ruins' to describe Canada. You can almost hear the panic in his voice," writes Conservative campaign manager Jenni Byrne, in a note that was circulated Saturday morning. "Get ready for his bizarre attacks to become more frequent and more shrill."

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Speaking the morning after unveiling his new line of attack, Mr. Ignatieff made no apologies. He said it's an attempt to get people to "wake up" from public cynicism.

"I'm listening to Bruce on my iPod. The Rising is on my iPod. My City in Ruins has been one of my favorites songs since it came out," he said. "These things just come into your head. There's no big clever strategy here. You just think, What am I looking at here?...

"I'm looking at a Conservative party that tried systematically to try to stop young Canadians from voting, and what I've been saying last night I've been saying all along ... It all begins to accumulate. Drip, drip, drip. Slowly you look at this pattern of abuse of power and you do want to say to Canadians: "Rise up, rise up. Now's the time. We've got to do something about it. It just comes right out of the ground and it also comes out of the crowd. They were rising up at the end because they connect and understand exactly what I'm saying."

Mr. Ignatieff rejected the suggestion that his rhetoric is going too far.

"Do I look like a nut to you?" he said. "It didn't feel like a rant to me. I'm a happy guy here and I can't compare anybody to a Mideast dictator. I'm saying if somebody began to engage in the manipulation of an election, you wouldn't be surprised if it was in Syria or the Middle East. But you'd be surprised if it was in Canada. That's a very different statement."

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Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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