Not any more

Hill mourns crash death of Liberals’ ‘bright light’

In Canada on August 13, 2010 at 19:36

Soon after Jacques Parizeau’s Parti Québécois government came to power in 1994, Quebec’s foreign diplomats were expected to either commit to the separatist cause or lose their jobs.

Mario Laguë was among those who walked away, leaving his posting as Quebec’s delegate general in Mexico.

“I think he was someone with very profound convictions, and one of those was about Canada and the place that Quebecers have within Canada,” said former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.

Dion was one of the many leaders of every political stripe to praise Laguë, the senior communications aide to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, after learning he had been killed early Thursday morning.

Laguë was driving his new blue Honda Shadow motorcycle along Scott Street toward his office on Parliament Hill. At the intersection with Parkdale Avenue, a grey Mitsubishi SUV abruptly turned in front of the bike.

Charges appear likely as a result of the accident. The motorcycle hit the rear door of the SUV, with a Quebec license plate, in the middle of the intersection just before 7 a.m.

“It was a green light for both and the turning motion was the factor here,” said Ottawa police Const. Kathy Larouche. “The motorcycle had the right of way going straight through.”

Larouche said the 49-year-old driver of the SUV could be charged with failing to yield or making an improper left turn.

When police arrived on the scene, Laguë’s helmet was a few metres away from him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The SUV driver was taken to hospital and treated for neck and back injuries.

The news of the accident rippled through official Ottawa and, within hours, Laguë was being remembered as a strong family man, a Quebecer who prized national unity, a communications expert who preferred straight talk over political spin, and a key Liberal helping Ignatieff connect with voters ahead of the next election.

Ignatieff, in Iqaluit on his summer-long Liberal Express tour, spoke sadly Thursday of the loss and offered condolences to Laguë’s family.

“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.”

Laguë was 52 years old and leaves a wife and two children. A popular, jovial figure on Parliament Hill, Laguë was a key member of Ignatieff’s team.

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

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale spoke fondly of how he worked with Laguë over the years when Laguë held three different roles — first, as a senior public servant in the Privy Council Office, as then-prime minister Paul Martin’s director of communications, and in more recent months, as Ignatieff’s senior communications aide.

“He never once used the word spin,” Goodale said.

“The emphasis was always on the substantive quality of the message. If you’ve got that, then you don’t have to worry about spin. That kind of very straight-up, direct approach coupled with his sense of humour made him a compelling guy to work with.”


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