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With Ignatieff 'on fire,' Rae issued Liberal call to arms

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 23, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

"We can do better than this," Michael Ignatieff told his caucus Wednesday. "Canadians deserve better than this."

And inside the closed-door meeting, the Liberal Leader read the motion of no-confidence that he hopes will bring down the government Friday, triggering a spring election.

Mr. Ignatieff received a standing ovation.

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One MP described him as being "on fire." He's certainly been more feisty and pointed of late, in interviews and in scrums. His strategists believe he has finally found his campaign legs. At least they hope he has - this will be Mr. Ignatieff's first election as leader and possibly his last if he doesn't deliver.

Indeed, much is at stake. So it was his old university pal - Toronto MP Bob Rae, who was also his main rival for the leadership - who stood up in caucus and gave a passionate speech about supporting Mr. Ignatieff during this campaign and encouraging Liberals to remain united.

Internecine battles have often bedeviled the Grits. But Mr. Rae told caucus they enter the election campaign together as Liberals and when the campaign is over they will "come out of it together."

And he urged everyone to support Mr. Ignatieff, noting there will be ups and downs during the five-week slog. Celebrate the ups, he said, rather than worry about when or if he falters.

Liberal MPs say they were "apprehensive" going into an election with Stéphane Dion as leader in 2008. This time, they say they're more confident.

"Last time we went into an election with the Green Shift," one Grit noted, referring to the carbon-tax policy that caused more than a few Liberals to stay home on election day. "We were a little bit more nervous [then]but Michael is going to campaign well. He's going to do well."

There is a view among some Liberals that this time, if all does go well, they could win 110 seats. It's a far cry from forming a majority government in the 308-seat House, but it's a lot more than the 77 seats they have now.

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Clearly, the Grits are underdogs - a position they hope will be advantageous going into the campaign.

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