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M ichael Ignatieff was attacked by the Harper Tories for spending decades outside of the country. His loyalty was questioned. Now, the Liberals are trying to turn the tables on the Tories, sending out nearly 8,000 personal letters to Canadians living abroad.

Mr. Ignatieff says in the letter that attack ads are nothing new but "by presenting his attacks in this way, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has questioned the loyalty and patriotism of every Canadian who has ever chosen to work or live abroad. It's a divisive strategy the Conservatives have adopted for one reason alone - to distract attention away from their disastrous economic record."

The expat names and addresses were drawn from the Grit database and the voters list. The letter also asks for donations. "This campaign was a way to appeal to the deep-rooted patriotism of our expats...," said party spokesman Dan Lauzon. He claims it is working.

The day Brian Mulroney made Ted Kennedy cry

Brian Mulroney told so many touching stories about his old friend Ted Kennedy as he remembered the statesman who died this week. But this one stands out.

At a Washington dinner party several years ago, Mr. Mulroney was sitting across the table from Mr. Kennedy and recounted a story that the Queen had told him years ago.

She said her favourite person in North America was Rose Kennedy , the senator's mother. Mrs. Kennedy, whose husband was the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. from 1938 to 1940, would always take the time to visit with her and her sister, Margaret, when she came to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen was just a young princess, but remembered Mrs. Kennedy's kindness and interest. "I have a very affectionate memory of Rose Kennedy," she told Mr. Mulroney.

At that point, Mr. Mulroney said he finished the story, looked across the table at the Senator who "had tears streaming down his face, just streaming down his face."

Tom Axworthy's Rose Kennedy story

Tom Axworthy , former senior Trudeau aide, was at Harvard University for several years after leaving Ottawa and came to know Mr. Kennedy. He remembers a cocktail party in which the senator held everyone enraptured, recounting hilarious stories.

But at one point, the senator suddenly stopped and told everyone to follow him as he searched for a television set. His mother was about to be interviewed.

"He was one of the most powerful senators in the U.S. Senate, but when his Mom was on TV, she took precedence," Mr. Axworthy said.

Later, Mr. Axworthy joked: "Well, senator, your mother casts quite a spell." Said Mr. Kennedy: "You don't know the half of it."

The plot thickens: election or no election

Despite the mixed messages from the Ignatieff Liberals as to whether they will try to defeat the government with a no-confidence motion in late September, it seems they are preparing for a campaign. There are whispers that party officials have contacted a Vancouver production company to put together a quote for a multicity, provincewide tour for Mr. Ignatieff in October, a source said. "Even if the Liberals haven't made up their minds about wanting an election, [it's]good to see they have their act together this early."

Hot and Not

Not: Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan revealed his bedside manner in viewing the damage from the tornado in Vaughan, Ont., last week. "It's not a political thing. It's a complex mathematical formula," he said in explaining how aid assistance will be doled out.

Hot: Cape Breton women in Southern Ontario. Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt is a native Cape Bretoner transplanted to the riding of Halton, just outside Toronto. Earlier this month, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff appointed Deborah Gillis , a 44-year-old Toronto businesswoman, as his candidate in Halton. Ms. Gillis is also from Cape Breton. In 2000, she ran unsuccessfully for the Liberal nomination in Bras d'Or-Cape Breton against Rodger Cuzner , who has represented the riding, now Cape Breton-Canso, since the 2000 election.

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