Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says Liberals have a "hole in our hearts" after the sudden death of his communications director, Mario Laguë.


Mario Laguë joined Michael Ignatieff's senior staff in November 2009. ((Courtesy of the Liberal Party of Canada) )

Laguë, 52, was killed on Thursday morning on his way to work in Ottawa when his motorcycle collided with an SUV, according to police. He leaves a wife and two children.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday while in Iqaluit as part of his summer tour, Ignatieff expressed his condolences to Laguë's family and called the loss a "sudden, savage reminder that … life can be brutal."

Ignatieff said he and his staff were still absorbing the news.

"He was on the Liberal Express with us. He was on the bus Monday night," Ignatieff told reporters following a boat tour of Frobisher Bay.

"Our thoughts go out to his wonderful wife and his kids. And we'll continue, the express continues, the bus continues, the tour continues, the team continues, but there's a hole in our hearts."

Laguë's death comes just three days after Ignatieff's principal secretary, Jean Marc Fournier, resigned to take up a post in Quebec Premier Jean Charest's cabinet.

An 'old-school' bon vivant

Tributes and messages of condolences from all sides of the aisle began pouring in as news of Laguë's death spread on Thursday.

In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Laguë "will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally and who worked with him throughout his career."

"His devotion and service to his country are his legacy," Harper said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton paid tribute to Laguë's "consistent integrity," calling him "a man of gentle strength who devoted decades to building a better country."

"Beneath the political fault lines that we find ourselves negotiating each day, there is a foundation of deep respect among those who devote their lives to public service," Layton said in a statement. 

"No matter what political stripes we may wear, we all feel this loss profoundly."  

Laguë took the communications position in Ignatieff's office last fall. He began his political career in the office of former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa and later worked for Paul Martin during his time as prime minister. Laguë also served as ambassador to Costa Rica.

Laguë was known on the Hill as a personable bon vivant, and asked reporters to quote him only as a "Liberal spokesman," the CBC's Kady O'Malley said.

"He was that rare creature, an old-school comms director who didn't feel the need to see his name or face out there," she said. 

Ottawa police said the 49-year-old driver of the SUV suffered minor injuries and was taken to hospital.

With files from The Canadian Press