MISSISSAUGA -- Michael Ignatieff's campaign director said yesterday his candidate is candid and direct and is changing the way politics is done in this country.
Ian Davey acknowledged the Ignatieff team must be "doing well" after his candidate's comments to a newspaper about wanting to "avoid civil war" in Quebec provoked criticism yesterday not only from Liberals but from the Harper Conservatives, who were sending around the Ignatieff quotes to reporters.
But Bob Rae, one of Mr. Ignatieff's main opponents in the race to succeed Paul Martin, said that when it comes to issues around Quebec and possible referendums, politicians should choose their words carefully and "avoid melodrama."
"The Job 1 of the prime minister of Canada is to keep the country together and you do that, it seems to me, by choosing words carefully and by being constructive and don't get drawn into hypothetical discussions," Mr. Rae said yesterday. He was speaking on a cellphone from an event at a winery in the Eastern Townships. Mr. Ignatieff was also there, as were other leadership candidates, including Ken Dryden, Scott Brison and Hedy Fry.
This is the second day in a row that Mr. Ignatieff, a rookie MP from Toronto and former Harvard University professor, has created controversy with his candid remarks.
Earlier this week, he was forced to clarify comments he made to the Toronto Star's editorial board suggesting he would leave federal politics if he did not win the leadership.
He has since said that he will run again and loves being an MP.
About two weeks ago he said he made a "mistake" when he said he wasn't "losing sleep" over civilian deaths in Lebanon.
But this time his campaign team was not about to issue any retractions, clarifications or apologies.
Rather, Mr. Davey read out to a reporter the entire answer Mr. Ignatieff gave when asked by the French-language newspaper La Presse about whether 50 per cent plus one was enough to win if there was another referendum in Quebec.
Mr. Ignatieff's answer, when taken in context, is long and eloquent. The phrase "avoid civil war" forms a very small part of it.
Gerard Kennedy, who is considered along with Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae and Stéphane Dion to be among the top four contenders, said yesterday that he didn't "agree with bringing [discussions around another referendum] to that kind of level [talk of 'civil war'].
"I prefer to see it as a bit of the genius of Canada. We haven't yet solved the problem in our favour but we've addressed it always in a certain kind of way . . ." he said.
About Mr. Ignatieff's frank statements of late, Mr. Kennedy said, "Each of us has to find a way to express ourselves.
"Maybe certain weeks we'll all have challenges. I prefer not to see it as a characteristic, per se. . . ."