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The prospect of a fall election doesn't scare Michael Ignatieff. He's ready and so is the Liberal Party.

But during his summer bus tour, the Opposition Leader did not hear Canadians agitating for an election. He says he's listening to them.

So for now, Mr. Ignatieff is not about to try to plunge the country into an election campaign. That he will leave to Stephen Harper and his Government House Leader, John Baird.

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"We are willing to make Parliament to work," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail Tuesday morning at his caucus retreat in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. "It takes four to tango, and definitely two to tango, and it very much depends on the government."

It is a government he finds difficult to gauge. "There is a kind of Jekyll-Hyde quality to Mr. Baird, a Jekyll-Hyde quality to the Harper government," Mr. Ignatieff said. "Sometimes they talk as if they want to make Parliament work and then they do things like two years ago."

He was referring to the November, 2008, economic update that almost brought down the government. It included measures to take away taxpayer-funded subsidies for political parties and provided no measures to deal with the looming recession.

Mr. Harper was forced to prorogue Parliament to hold on to power, a move that did not sit well with Canadians. That kind of misstep is something Mr. Ignatieff hopes the government will not repeat, but he says he can't be sure.

"In fact you never put it past them to make the same mistake again," he told The Globe. "I certainly hope they don't."

The test for Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberals is how the Harper government deals with middle class Canadians, he added.

During his six-week bus adventure, Mr. Ignatieff said he heard from Canadians, who are struggling to deal with issues such as credit-card debt, mortgage payments, childcare, chronic care and their retirement.

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"This is the family I am concerned about," he says. "And this is how I see the economy. Is what Mr. Harper going to do going to help or hurt that hard-pressed family? That will be litmus test ... whether you support them or vote them down."

First, however, he wants time to show Canadians what Liberals are about these days. "I'm not afraid of an election. I'll fight an election," he said.

"… What Canadians are saying is let's have the alternatives, let's frame this up and let's have a fair fight. And when an election comes we'll be ready."

The Liberal Leader says he met more than 15,000 Canadians on his summer bus tour. "They are saying we don't trust this government, we don't like this government, hold them to account this fall and give us an alternative so when we have an election we can vote for you.

"That's what they're saying. So that's what we're gong to do."

Look for more of Mr. Ignatieff's interview in Wednesday's Globe

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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