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The Globe and Mail

Tories shrug off 'silly Liberal carping' on Senate

1. 'A worthy Canadian.' Conservatives are vigorously defending the appointment of CFL tycoon David Braley to the Senate against Liberal suggestions he basically bought his way into the Red Chamber through thousands of dollars of donations to Stephen Harper.

As well, the Liberals note that Mr. Braley, a Hamilton businessman and philanthropist, is "close personal friend" of the Prime Minister's and has bragged that he has Mr. Harper's cellphone number.

"Unfortunately, yet typically, Michael Ignatieff's Liberals are now busy slandering Mr. Braley," the Tories in talking points sent to supporters and MPs last night.

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Mr. Braley, who admits he has donated to the Conservatives over the years, questioned Liberal charges that he personally donated $16,500 to Mr. Harper's 2004 leadership campaign and that his auto-parts company, Orlick Industries, donated $30,000.

The Tory strategists dismiss the Liberal criticism in their memo, characterizing it as "silly Liberal carping." The Grit suggestions that personal friendships and about $100,000 in donations to the party ignore Mr. Braley's accomplishments as a businessman and community leader, they say.

And the Tories list off Mr. Braley's philanthropic record. For example, he recently donated $10-million for cardiac and stroke research at the Hamilton General Hospital. He is also involved in his community as director of the 2015 Pan-American Games and chairman of the 2003 World Cycling Championships.

"It is sad that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals are so small-minded that they have nothing better to do than play political games with the appointment to the Senate of a worthy Canadian."

Senate appointments are a sensitive area for Mr. Harper, who wants an elected Red Chamber and had initially resisted appointing new senators because of his desired reforms. But he gave up after his plans for change were stalled by the Liberal-dominated chamber; in one fell swoop in December of 2008 he set a record by appointing 18 Senators in one day.

Mr. Braley is Mr. Harper's 33rd appointment in the last 18 months. He replaces Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon, who turned 75 this week. Mr. Braley's appointment maintains the current balance in the Senate: 51 Conservatives compared to 49 Liberals, two Progressive Conservatives and three unaffiliated senators.

2. What a difference a year makes. "If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I'm done." That was Michael Ignaiteff sending a message to his Tory rivals on May 23, 2009, in Newfoundland, just weeks after he was acclaimed Liberal Leader.

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"Don't trifle with me. Don't try this rough stuff with me," he added the next day at a meeting in Nova Scotia, warning Conservatives he was no pushover like Stéphane Dion.

But now Mr. Ignatieff is striking a decidedly different tone. "This is the life of an opposition leader," he said this week in Calgary when asked about dismal polling numbers. "My adversaries have done a number on me and that's politics."

He also talked about how hard he has to work to convince Canadians he can be prime minister. "I think I have to earn it," he said. "I have to be there. Canadians have to say, 'Yeah he's not so bad. They've written all this bad stuff about him. He's not so bad. He's a human being. You ask him a question he'll give you an answer. And here's for good reasons and he's here to stay.'"

Indeed, there is much Mr. Ignatieff must do to earn the confidence of voters. The latest numbers show his Liberals polling at just 25.1 per cent, nearly 10 points behind Stephen Harper's Conservatives and approaching their all-time low of 24 per cent under Mr. Dion.

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