Ignatieff tour to target 20 ridings
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is hitting the road again this week on what's being billed as the "20/11 tour" — a sprint through 20 ridings in 11 days.
But whereas his summer and fall cross-country excursions were intended to reassure and re-engage Liberals, Ignatieff will use the winter outing to take direct aim at vulnerable rival MPs.
All 20 ridings Ignatieff is scheduled to visit are held by the Conservatives, NDP or Bloc Québécois.
They are among the top ridings Liberals believe they can steal away in the next election, which could come as early as spring.
Insiders say the tour will mark a more aggressive stage of Ignatieff's pre-election sorties, what one strategist called "taking the fight to our opponents."
Liberals are hoping the next election will come down to a two-party contest, between them and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
As the strategist put it, Ignatieff intends to hammer away at a simple message: "If you vote NDP or Bloc to send Harper a message, you get Harper and he doesn't get the message. So, if you want to get rid of Harper, you have to vote Liberal."
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are beginning an outreach of their own. Harper sent out a letter to his MPs on Saturday, urging them to seek the advice of constituents on the best ways to move forward on the economy.
"We want to ensure that our government gets the views of hard-working Canadian families, small business owners, and workers on the economic policies that we should adopt as part of the next phase of the Economic Action Plan," the letter states.
Ignatieff will start Wednesday by taking the fight to the Ottawa doorstep of one of Harper's most valued and influential ministers, government House leader John Baird.
He's scheduled to visit every region of the country before returning to Ottawa for a Jan. 24-26 caucus retreat to plot strategy for the Jan. 31 resumption of Parliament.
Among the targets on Ignatieff's tour are Conservative-held ridings in Winnipeg South, Richmond, B.C., and Kitchener, Ont., the NDP-held riding of Acadie-Bathurst in New Brunswick and the Bloc's Montreal-area riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.
The notion of targeting enemy territory was inspired in part by the Liberals' upset byelection victory in Winnipeg North just over a month ago. In 2008, it had been the NDP's second-safest seat, a riding where the Liberals couldn't muster even 10 per cent of the vote. If Liberals can win Winnipeg North, "we figure everything's game," an insider said.