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The Globe and Mail

Ignatieff's rebuke of Harper majority hailed as Liberal 'turning point'

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his Conservative rival, Stephen Harper, square off in the 2011 English-language leaders' debate in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/AFP/Getty Images/Adrian Wyld/AFP/Getty Images

The Liberals are calling the 42-minute mark of the English-language debate the "turning point" for Michael Ignatieff and are urging supporters to spread the word, arguing the debate can be won twice - on debate night and in the court of public opinion long after it has taken place.

The call to action is contained in a letter from a senior adviser to Mr. Ignatieff Peter Donolo, to the Liberal team.

"In that memorable exchange, Michael Ignatieff called Stephen Harper onto the carpet for suggesting he deserved a majority," Mr. Donolo wrote of the 42-minute mark in the debate.

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A copy of the note was obtained by The Globe.

Mr. Donolo, who has been travelling with the Liberal Leader since the campaign began, then reprised Mr. Ignatieff's retort: "A majority? ... Majorities are things you earn when you earn the trust of Canadian people and you haven't earned the trust of the Canadian people because you don't trust the Canadian people."

Publicly, the Liberals are generally happy with Mr. Ignatieff's performance. Mr. Donolo wrote that there is "no question Michael Ignatieff won this debate."

However, the Liberal Leader has performed better on the hustings over the past two weeks than he did on debate night. He failed to land a knockout punch while the Conservative Leader did not get rattled and held his own.

Mr. Ignatieff has another chance Wednesday night in the French-language debate.

In his note, meanwhile, Mr. Donolo, a former pollster, reminded his team that debates are "won or lost twice."

"First, before the television audience watching on debate night. And again, in the days that follow, as media, friends and family who watched the event share their impressions."

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Mr. Donolo is asking them to "spread the word" and share the key video exchange of what he calls, "Michael Ignatieff's decisive blow against Stephen Harper."

He also outlines some major planks in the Liberal platform, including the Canadian Learning Passport and the Liberal's criticism of the F35 fighter-jet purchase.

As well, Mr. Donolo pushes hard - as Mr. Ignatieff has been doing for the last few days of the campaign - on health care, which is becoming an important issue.

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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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