Ignatieff throws support behind nuclear power

DECISION 2011: The liberal leader throws his support behind nuclear power, but not coalition.

SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- A literal white elephant loomed over Michael Ignatieff Wednesday as he threw his support behind nuclear power, but coalition talk loomed even larger, threatening to dwarf the Liberal leader's message.

Speaking in Atlantic Canada, where refurbishment of the only nuclear power plant in the region, Point Lepreau, is three years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget, Ignatieff said the crisis in Japan has caused everyone to wake up to the risks of nuclear power.

``But let's be clear and realistic: nuclear power has helped to keep the lights on in province after province in Canada for 50 years and done so safely,'' he said. ``It will continue to provide some of the baseload for our energy generation.''

He also stressed the need to increase the supply of renewable energy from sources such as potentially ``game-changing'' New Brunswick tidal power. As he did so, a person wearing a white, papier mache elephant head and a sign saying, ``Pointless Lepreau'' stood a short distance behind him, ensuring that Ignatieff had elephant ears behind his head in at least some camera angles.

Earlier a young woman leading the person in the elephant costume around _ it did not appear to provide the person inside with a wide field of vision _ called for a royal commission of inquiry into the future of nuclear power in Canada.

Ignatieff also said he would meet with the premiers to discuss energy, if he forms government.

``Mr. Harper's done nothing to improve interprovincial energy sharing,'' Ignatieff said. ``So we have to come back to the table on energy.

``Point Lepreau is part of a much bigger issue: how do we get renewable power to keep the lights on?''

While Ignatieff did talk about nuclear energy, the bulk of the questions he took Wednesday from reporters were about coalitions.

Ignatieff attempted to quell speculation on the first day of the campaign about him forming a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, by simply stating he would not.

But an interview he did Tuesday with the CBC has stoked the coalition fires anew. He laid out a scenario under which a Stephen Harper minority government could be defeated again and he would be asked by the Governor General to try to form a government.

The remarks spawned a whole new round of coalition questions, and Harper was asked Wednesday whether he would be willing to work with the other parties and table a budget they could support. He said he didn't accept the question.

When Harper's response was put to Ignatieff, the Liberal leader was incredulous.

``There are few remarks that illustrate more clearly the difference between him and me than that one,'' he said. ``Who does he think he is? This is a parliamentary system.... What does he think he is, the king here?''

Ignatieff told a rally Wednesday evening in Yarmouth, N.S., that co-operation is key _ even if you don't particularly like the parties with whom you're co-operating.

``I'm prepared to work even with the Bloc,'' he said. ``I disagree about everything with the Bloc. I don't agree with them about what time of day it is. But if I have to for the sake of the good of the country, I'm prepared to work with them project by project, issue by issue. I'm even prepared to work with the Conservative party.''

The coalition talk is unlikely to disappear completely from the agenda with less than two weeks left until the May 2 vote.

Earlier in the day at a small rally in a Saint John bar, Ignatieff appeared to change his tack of appealing to other left-leaning voters to band together and vote Liberal to stop Harper from forming another government. He instead tried to woo Conservative supporters disillusioned by what Ignatieff called Harper's lack of respect for democracy.

``If you think of this government through the point of view of a Conservative, you're thinking, 'Wow, what happened?''' he said.

Ignatieff asked where the ``progressive'' went in Progressive Conservative, referring to the former federal party name.

``People assume the only progressive voters in Canada are on the left side of the boat,'' he told about 250 people.

``There are a lot of progressive, compassionate Canadians who voted Conservative in 2008, who are scratching their heads saying, 'I do not recognize my values in this government.'''

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