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Michael Ignatieff accused Stephen Harper today of not understanding democracy, saying the Prime Minister "gambled wrong" by shutting down Parliament.

"We have a government, we have a Prime Minister who does not understand, … does not have in his conscience, does not have in his conviction, an understanding that a prime minister is responsible to Parliament, accountable to Parliament -and it's not the other way around," the Liberal Leader said as he wrapped up a two-day winter caucus meeting.

Liberals returned to their ridings but will be back reporting for work Monday. Parliament was to return Jan. 25 but Mr. Harper decided last month that he would shut it down until early March.

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The opposition is protesting this and recent polls suggest the issue is resonating with the public. NDP Leader Jack Layton, whose MPs will also be back at work Monday, is even drafting a bill to put future prorogations to a vote in the House.

With Mr. Harper being dogged by a small group of protesters in Toronto, Mr. Ignatieff reached out to the growing anti-prorogation movement in an open letter on Facebook pledging support for the non-partisan rallies planned across the country this weekend.

Meanwhile, as part of the caucus retreat, Liberals listened to economic experts, including Scott Clark, former deputy minister of finance. According to an insider, he urged the party to take more public credit for having wrestled the deficit during the Chrétien years. Liberals were told that there is no reason they should give up that space to the Conservatives.

As well, Quebec MPs expressed concern about the Haitian crisis.

Mr. Ignatieff called on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to help Haitian families. He said the refusal of Mr. Kenney - who earlier Wednesday announced that Canada would expedite adoptions - to make "a generous gesture" on family class "is not meeting the demands of the hour."

"We implore the government of Canada to change its course, to widen out, improve the immigration regulations so that Canadians can bring their families home … and we can respond with a Canadian conscience that this country is proud of."

Mr. Ignatieff also spoke of his university and college tour last week, noting he learned a lot about Mr. Harper.

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"He gambled on the cynicism, disenchantment and disillusion of Canadians. I have to tell you having done a tour of campuses from coast to coast, he gambled wrong," said Mr. Ignatieff.

He said young Canadians care about their politics, especially jobs, the environment and higher education.

The Liberal Leader also vowed that he'll do more town halls and not practice the "politics of staged events" employed by the Conservative government.

Mr. Ignatieff added, too, that he wants to wipe from the Liberal vocabulary the phrase "natural governing party." And he said he will do that by earning the trust of Canadians.

He has a whole week of work scheduled for his MPs starting Monday, including sessions on unemployment, health care, women, veterans' issues and the Afghan detainee controversy.

(Photos: Chris Young/The Canadian Press and Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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