Federal Liberal Leader Ignatieff Kicks Off National Tour in Nanaimo

By Andrew Kolasinski NANAIMO — Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, visited Nanaimo Friday morning and kicked off the B.C. leg of his national tour.

Dozens of people packed into and around the small Mon Petit Choux Cafe on Commercial Street for a breakfast “whistle stop” meeting – part of the Liberal Express tour – with the Liberal leader.

Accompanying Ignatieff were Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal member of Parliament for Vancouver South, Ken Dryden, hockey legend and MP for York Centre and Liberals from Vancouver Island and Ottawa.

Ignatieff and his entourage walked through a small group of protesters who were waving signs and voicing opposition to the Canadian seal hunt and against exploitation of aboriginal people.

After shaking hands and greeting supporters, Ignatieff said it was great to start the tour in B.C. and Nanaimo.

We got off the float plan and took a deep breath of the healthiest air on earth,” he said.

His speech was interrupted by protesters chanting, “what's the deal, Michael Ignatieff?”

Ignatieff shrugged it off, saying “they're Canadian citizens just like us.”

He stressed the distinction between the Liberals and the ruling Conservatives, saying Prime Minister Stephan Harper doesn't understand “the difference between adversaries and enemies.”

Ignatieff made commitments to environmental issues, promising to do something about fish farming, to spend money reducing fossil fuels and to improve public transportation.

If you want a tanker traffic ban on the north coast of B.C., vote Liberal. This part of Canada matters. It's entitled to better representation,” he said.

After his speech, Ignatieff answered audience questions for about 30 minutes before the Liberal Express moved on to similar events in Victoria and Sidney.

The Liberal Express tour began July 13. It hopes to present Ignatieff to Canadians and raise the party's chances in the next election. By late September the tour is scheduled to have stopped in every province and territory.

The Nanaimo area's two federal ridings have long been weak points for the federal Liberals.

The riding of Nanaimo-Alberni has been represented by Conservative James Lunney since the election of 2000. That year,

Lunney was a member of the Canadian Alliance.

The riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan has been a New Democratic Party and Canadian Alliance riding since the 1960s.

Jean Crowder has been the NDP member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan since 2004.

In Nanaimo-Cowichan, the Liberals were represented by Brian Scott in the election of 2008, and in Nanaimo-Alberni by Richard Pesik.

Scott placed fourth, behind the NDP, Conservatives and Green Party.

Pesik also placed fourth, behind the Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.

Ignatieff fields questions in Nanaimo. Photo Andrew Kolasinski

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