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Rae bristles at personal attacks against Ignatieff's wife

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, left, and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, at campaign stop in Conception Bay South, Nfld., on April 5, 2011.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

It's getting nasty out there - and Bob Rae doesn't like it.

The Toronto Centre Liberal MP and foreign-affairs critic condemned an attack on Zsuszanna Zsohar's citizenship Thursday, calling it "deeply offensive."

Ms. Zsohar is the Hungarian-born wife of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff; she is a landed immigrant and has applied for Canadian citizenship. Since she has not received it, she will not be able to vote for her husband in the May 2 election.

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And this became a story on the campaign trail Thursday, ramped up by a tweet from National Citizen's Coalition president and CEO Peter Coleman - "Ignatieff's wife is not even a Cdn citizen? Yikes!!! optics of that are sure not very good," he wrote.

Sun Media first reported the story, writing that it " had learned" that Ms. Zsohar is not yet a citizen. The story said that it was confirmed by the Liberal Party.

Ms. Zsohar would not comment on the issue.

But Mr. Rae did: "This is one issue that takes us down a road where I don't think we want to go," he said. "The notion of any question of optics around Zsuszanna … is absurd and deeply offensive."

Mr. Rae said, too, that Canada welcomes "immigrants to this country. … We live in an open country."

Ms. Zsohar is travelling with her husband throughout the campaign. He has referred to her as his "quality control,", asking her for advice, for example, about what he should purchase during a stop at a local co-op/hardware store in Compton, Que. this week. He bought a power screwdriver, work gloves and a vest.

Mr. Rae, meanwhile, is a long-time friend of the Liberal Leader. The two ran against each other for the leadership in 2006, which caused a rift that has since healed.

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In fact, the two men embraced at a rally in Montreal Wednesday night. In the last caucus meeting before the election, Mr. Rae told his colleagues to remain united behind Mr. Ignatieff.

The questioning of Ms. Zsohar's citizenship plays into the attack ads by the Conservatives on Mr. Ignatieff's patriotism - that he is "just visiting" after being out of the country for 30 years.

Mr. Rae said he finds the reference in those ads "the most unworthy part of the Conservative attack on Michael."

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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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