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BC Libs, NDP steer clear of federal counterparts

Michael Ignatieff revelled in his coronation this weekend as federal Liberal leader at a convention held for the first time in Vancouver, an effort to boost the party's fortunes out West.

But his first royal visit won't be to a campaigning B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

Campbell and his Liberals offered polite excuses for their notable absence at the convention of politicians that share their name.

"We've got federal Liberals and Conservatives on our campaign and we try not to mix them too much," said a provincial Liberal insider.

Similarly, NDP leader Jack Layton hasn't turned up to support provincial leader Carole James on the campaign trail, even though James appeared at several Layton events in the last federal election.

"It has nothing to do with animosity, but it's much cleaner for us if he doesn't come out here," said an NDP insider.

After a particularly messy political season in Ottawa which saw the country almost lurch into either a rare coalition government or another federal election, it's no wonder the presence of federal endorsements would be as welcome as a Blackhawk fan at a semi-final Canuck game.

"They are working in two political solitudes," said veteran B.C. political analyst Norman Ruff .

Ruff, a retired University of Victoria political science professor, said the B.C. Liberals are happier with a Hollywood-style endorsement than the presence of a federal leader on the campaign trail.

While they haven't mentioned the federal Liberal convention in town since Thursday, they were pleased to announce that rocker Bryan Adams took the premier's campaign portraits.

"Bryan Adams would be good, but not Ignatieff or Harper," Ruff said.

The Liberal insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Campbell has been successful in building relationships with federal Liberal and Conservative leaders, but a political campaign is not the place to engage in that activity.

"We've always been very clear that we're a coalition of federal Liberals and federal Conservatives," he said.

"It's fair to say all our Liberal candidates are very focused on their own campaigns, and if they take any time off it will be to cheer on the Canucks," he said.

Ruff noted the B.C. Liberal ranks include several current members of the legislature who ran previously as federal Conservatives and lost, and Kelowna Liberal Al Horning, who recently retired from B.C politics, sat previously as a federal Conservative MP.

Even ordinary British Columbians believe there's a marked difference between the federal and B.C Liberal brand.

Campbell experienced that difference first-hand at a provincial campaign stop in Williams Lake, B.C., earlier this month.

He was at a rodeo in the Interior city when several huge bulls corralled in a pen started groaning, grunting and kicking.

Campbell, proudly wearing a pair of brown cowboy boots given to him as a gift by former Alberta Conservative premier Ralph Klein, asked why the animals kicked up a such a fuss when a stranger approached, albeit a friendly one.

"Why are the animals so ornery?" said Campbell in his best George Bush Texas twang. "Perhaps, they've heard some of my speeches," he joked wryly.

Out of the crowd Roy Call, manager of C Plus Rodeos, offered his candid assessment of what makes the bulls ornery.

It's not Campbell's speeches, he said.

"No, I think the Ignatieff speeches are more likely to cause them to be that way."

Dirk Meissner reports for The Canadian Press.


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