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Ignatieff decries 'unprecedented' Tory attack on his family

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff conducts a town hall in Waterloo, Ont., on Jan. 16, 2010. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)

J.P. MOCZULSKI/j.p. moczulski The Globe and Mail

Stephen Harper is taking aim at Michael Ignatieff's family history, using a Conservative Party-backed website to attack the Liberal Leader's account of how his father emigrated to Canada.

The Tories are criticizing Mr. Ignatieff's retelling of how his family struggled as immigrants from Russia, suggesting the Liberal chief's parents were richer than he admits.

The ploy has infuriated the Liberal Leader, who used an interview with CTV's Question Period Sunday to call the Conservative attack a distortion of the truth that crosses the line.

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"My family lost everything in the Russian revolution. They started over again in Canada. They came here with nothing," Mr. Ignatieff said. "My dad laid [railway]track in British Columbia. He put himself through university. He lived the immigrant story."

It's not the first time the Tories have launched a personal campaign against Mr. Ignatieff. Several years ago they questioned his commitment to Canada with TV ads noting he lived outside this country for more than 30 years.

The latest Conservative effort is another bid to portray Mr. Ignatieff as elitist and out of touch.

"While the Ignatieffs have made the most of their coming to Canada in their respective fields, they have never ceased to enjoy great privilege, as a function of the financial and educational resources and social status they brought with them, and which are theirs to this day," a website authorized by the Conservative Party says.

"The Ignatieff immigrant experience is one of significant wealth, first-rate educations and privilege. Very few Canadian families can claim this 'immigrant experience'."

Mr. Ignatieff dismissed the allegation, saying this family lost everything fleeing the Russian revolution.

The Liberal Leader accused the Tories of twisting the facts and acting outside the bounds of decency. "Their attack on me is a disgrace. They've attacked my patriotism. They've attacked my commitment to the country. And now they're attacking my family."

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He said the Tories' targeting of his character and family is unparalleled in this country. "These personal attacks are unprecedented in the history of Canadian democracy," Mr. Ignatieff charged.

"[Stephen Harper]is absolutely out of control. He thinks he can get away with and say anything," the Liberal Leader said. "A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I am a proud Canadian. I won't take that from him or from anybody else."

He added: "Canadians got to ask themselves is this the kind of politics you want? This is a prime minister who is prepared to say anything to hold on to power."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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