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About 80 people, including deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, attended an exclusive soirée at a swank Rosedale mansion Thursday for Rob Oliphant, a United Church minister who is seeking the nomination in former interim leader Bill Graham's riding of Toronto Centre. Mr. Graham said through a spokeswoman yesterday that he is aware of the retirement rumours but he "has not made up his mind" about whether he will run again. Still, Mr. Oliphant is wasting no time. There is speculation that everyone from failed leadership candidates Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findlay to Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman is interested in this safe Liberal seat. One of the attendees said that Mr. Oliphant said in his speech that he had Mr. Graham's "approval to start campaigning now." Mr. Ignatieff, according to the insider, repeatedly referred to himself as the deputy leader. "He thanked Oliphant for working for him but made it clear it would be a tough, fair race in the polyglot riding," said the insider. (Mr. Oliphant served as a co-chair of the Ignatieff campaign's ex officio delegate recruitment.) Mr. Ignatieff is a big supporter of openly contested nominations while Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is poised to appoint people to ridings to ensure that women get a shot.

Tories and their cats

The Harper Tories are crazy about their felines. Not only are the Prime Minister and his family cat fanatics (check out his website) but so is his communications director Sandra Buckler. And cats, it seem, bring out another side of Ms. Buckler, who is not known around town for her soft and cuddly approach to reporters. An invitation to her cat Sophie's eighth birthday party, scheduled for tonight, was leaked to the newspaper: "As a reminder -- Sophie Buckler's Birthday Party is just around the corner -- she turns the big EIGHT years old this month. We were a bit pre-occupied with the 2006 federal election causing her to miss out on her annual birthday bash, so we have lots to make up for this year.

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"We're hoping you can join us this coming Saturday, January 20th for a Cinq à Sept in the birthday kitty's honour. We will have tasty treats, fancy drinks and a warm and inviting environment!" Never does she have tasty treats or fancy drinks for the Ottawa press gallery.

A big fat Liberal wedding

Toronto Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj sent out a news release this week noting that leader Stéphane Dion appointed him to his shadow cabinet as critic for Crown corporations. For the past few weeks, his staff and friends have been alerting the media to his upcoming nuptials. Mr. Wrzesnewskyj is getting married today at a big Ukrainian wedding in Toronto that will include family, friends and politicians -- former prime minister John Turner, leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy and Toronto Mayor David Miller. Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, 46, is marrying Lina Fedko, 28, former publisher of The Evening News, the Canadian Ukrainian-language edition of Kyiv, Ukraine's biggest newspaper.

Congrats! Hot and not

Hot: Jean Lapierre. The former senior Martin cabinet minister and Montreal MP packed up his Parliament Hill office this week. Mr. Lapierre announced recently he is stepping down to return to a job in the media. The high-profile MP received a call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulating him on his new job. Mr. Lapierre says he became friends with Mr. Harper years ago when they were both young men serving in opposition -- Mr. Harper was an assistant to then-Reform MP Deborah Grey and Mr. Lapierre was a young opposition MP. -- and would hang out in the lobby.

Not: Treasury Board President Vic Toews. The Manitoba MP was recently shuffled from Justice (some deemed him too law-and-order-ish for the law-and-order file) to this new portfolio, replacing John Baird, who went to Environment. There is not much interest now in seeing Mr. Toews these days -- at least not in Mississauga. A Mississauga Board of Trade breakfast, that was to take place Thursday, was cancelled because organizers did "not receive a significant response this event deserves," according to the media advisory.

jtaber@globeandmail.com

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