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Michael Ignatieff rallies Liberal hordes as House duty looms

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff meets with Etobicoke-Lakeshore constituents at his new Toronto office on Jan. 22, 2011.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS

1. Cold comfort. Michael Ignatieff will be blasting the Harper government's corporate tax cuts and its $16-billion stealth fighter jet deal this week as Liberals begin a three-day winter caucus retreat - comparing and contrasting their view of the world with that of Stephen Harper.

This comes as the Tories nurse hangovers from Sunday's big celebration of five years in office, as the NDP prepare to take the national media on a tour of its war room - and as every political leader, and lesser politician, repeatedly vows to Canadians they don't want an election.

The Grits begin gathering Monday, including 100 candidates who have been invited to caucus for the first time in a number of years. The real action, however, will take place Tuesday with a speech from the Liberal Leader.

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Mr. Ignatieff is to repeat and emphasize the message - the one that he's been test-driving on the road of late - that after five years of Stephen Harper's government the country is worse off. "We'll be using these three days to contrast the Conservative approach we heard from Mr. Harper this weekend - spending billions of borrowed dollars on fighter jets and corporate tax cuts - with a Liberal plan to focus on the priorities of Canadian families," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe.

In addition, Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini is to present to the caucus Tuesday a public opinion roadmap for the next campaign, which could come as soon as this spring.

Mr. Marzolini provided a similar outline last summer to the Liberal caucus, which met at a Cape Breton resort. There, he noted the big issues for Canadians were the expense of the new fighter jets and, especially, the economy - "survival issues," he said, such as how to pay the mortgage, how to pay for their kids' education and how to safeguard pensions, were top issues.

These are exactly the issues that Mr. Ignatieff has tried to trumpet on his 11-day cross-country tour of 20 unheld Liberal ridings that he has just completed.

And talk about compare and contrast - the bone-chilling temperatures of the nation's capital are no comparison to the sunshine and warm summer breezes that were coming off the lake in Baddeck, N.S., where the Liberal caucus retreated to late last August.

All of this takes place, meanwhile, in advance of the much anticipated return next Monday of MPs from all parties to Ottawa and the House of Commons after their Christmas break. Let the games begin.

2. It's the economy, stupid. The Tories sent out their email "Message of the Day" to supporters Sunday, outlining the key points from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 30-minute-long, five-year anniversary speech.

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In the message, Conservative strategists emphasized their economic record, noting the Harper government has created over 460,000 jobs since July 2009 and has "cut taxes 120 times to date … and Canada is on track to have the lowest taxes on new business in the G7."

The message says the government will continue to focus on "creating jobs and economic growth through our low-tax agenda as we plan the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan."

That doesn't sound as if the Tories will acquiesce to the Liberal demand to halt the corporate tax cuts when they table their budget in march.

3. A nation in recline. On CTV's Question Period Sunday, Mark Carney was asked whether Canada should start thinking seriously about increasing its economic ties to Asia and reducing its dependency on the U.S., given that it's a "declining world power."

The Bank of Canada Governor replied: "I think the U.S. is not a declining world power, it's a reclining world power right now."

A clever line - and one that reflected his upbeat read of the worldwide economic situation. He told Question Period that things are improving and "we will see the global recovery gathering some, maintaining some momentum this year."

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He cautioned, however, there are still big risks.

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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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