Not any more

Ignatieff spokesman Mario Lague killed in crash

In Canada on August 12, 2010 at 14:22

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s director of communications, Mario Lague, was killed in a motorcycle accident on Thursday morning in Ottawa.

Mr. Igatieff, during a stopover in Iqualuit while on his summer-long Liberal Express tour, spoke sadly Thursday of the tragic loss.

“He was on the Liberal Express with us. He was on the bus Monday night. It’s just a sudden, savage reminder that life can be brutal. Our thoughts go out to his wonderful wife and his kids.”

Mr. Lague, a popular figure on Parliament Hill, was a key member of Mr. Ignatieff’s team and had played a part in developing Mr. Ignatieff’s summer bus tour which is designed to bring the leader into the neighborhoods of Canadians so they can better connect with him.

“We’ll continue,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “The Express continues, the bus continues, the tour continues, the team continues. But there’s a hole in our hearts.”

Mr. Ignatieff said Liberals were still absorbing the news of the accident and he sent his “deepest condolences” to Mr. Lague’s family. Mr. Lague was 52 years old and he leaves a wife and two teenage children.

In a written statement earlier in the day, Mr. Ignatieff was glowing in his praise of Mr. Lague.

“A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal adviser to me and the entire Liberal team,” said Mr. Ignatieff. He noted that Mr. Lague served under former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin and was also ambassador to Costa Rica during his public service career.

His most cherished role was as a husband and father, Mr. Ignatieff said, adding that Mr. Lague “brought a bright light to everything he did.”

“While we will miss Mario’s extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all,”the Liberal leader said.

Mr. Lague’s motorcycle and an SUV collided near Parliament Hill, around 7 a.m.

Mr. Lague sustained head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, said Supt. Jean Hanel of the Ottawa Paramedic Service. The male driver of the SUV was taken to hospital and treated for neck and back injuries.

Mr. Lague was a political player whose experience on and off Parliament Hill saw him fill a number of high-level positions. He was a communications aide to Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa before moving to Ottawa and had stints in Venezuela and Mexico as Quebec’s representative. He then was a senior civil servant on Parliament Hill when the Liberals were in power. He was the cabinet’s assistant secretary for communications from 1998 to 2003, and worked under Alfonso Gagliano who was embroiled in the sponsorship scandal.

When Paul Martin became prime minister in December 2003, he appointed Mr. Lague a senior member of his team in the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr. Lague was appointed deputy chief of staff and director of communications. Mr. Lague served, in part, to strengthen Mr. Martin’s links to Quebec.

Scott Reid, another senior adviser to Mr. Martin at the time, worked closely with Mr. Lague and responded with sadness on Thursday to the tragic news.

He described Mr. Lague as a “big, generous man” with a hearty laugh who loved politics, government, and his work.

“He was a very skilled communications director and a skilled communicator. But he was more than just a communications guy. He was an extremely valuable adviser on all issues,” Mr. Reid told Postmedia News.

In particular, said Mr. Reid, Mr. Lague was a passionate man with insight into Quebec who felt strongly about national unity.

“That’s where his real passion lay. As skilled as he was in terms of media management and communications planning, his extraordinary value was as an adviser on the important politics of unity and a strong Quebec within Canada,” he said.

Staff on Parliament Hill and representatives from all political parties quickly offered their condolences to the Liberal party and Lague’s family.

“On behalf of PMOComms, Iextend our deepest condolences to Mario Lague’s family, friends and colleagues. He will be missed,” Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, wrote on the social media website Twitter.

The NDP similarly offered this message: “Condolences on behalf of New Democrats to the Liberal party and the staff team. Thoughts are with Mario’s family, friends.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Ignatieff lost another member of his team when Jean Marc Fournier, principal secretary, resigned to join Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government.

With files from the Ottawa Citizen and the Nunatsiaq News

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