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This article was published 16/11/2010 (3758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG North Tory candidate Julie Javier says she's disappointed by comments Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff made on the weekend about the hotly contested byelection.

"He implied that we are just playing games," she said in an interview Tuesday. "We have been straight-up fighters here. We're not playing games."

Liberal staffers also took exception to the way Ignatieff's comments were interpreted, particularly in an editorial in Tuesday's Free Press.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Opposition leader's press office said Ignatieff did not in fact criticize the Conservatives' choice of candidate in Winnipeg North, but instead said he put his faith in the voters to choose the best candidate.

The story has sparked a minor furor in the blogosphere and in the Free Press online comments section.

Ignatieff was in town for the fourth time in three months Sunday stumping for Winnipeg North candidate Kevin Lamoureux. He was asked by the Free Press about widespread speculation the Tories are attempting to siphon off some of Lamoureux's Filipino support in order to prevent a Liberal win.

Ignatieff did not accuse the Tories of trying to split the vote, but he did demand a "straight-up fight" and a campaign free from political games.

The Filipino vote is key to any victory in the city's northwest quadrant, and Filipinos have a history of actively supporting Liberal candidates such as Lamoureux, a longtime provincial MLA.

But former Liberal MP and Chrétien-era cabinet minister Rey Pagtakhan, well-known in the Filipino community, lost to New Democrat Judy Wasylycia-Leis when parts of their respective ridings were merged. And Pagtakhan's nephew, city Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, lost the Liberal nomination to Lamoureux last summer.

The federal Conservatives decided at the last minute to replace would-be candidate Ray Larkin with Julie Javier, a prominent Filipina, a move that touched off speculation the Tories hope to split the Filipino vote and deny the Liberals a much-needed seat in the House of Commons.

After Larkin decided not to seek the nomination, Javier was nominated Sept. 25, about two months after Lamoureux and NDP candidate Kevin Chief started actively campaigning.

"I want to go to Parliament. That is my goal," said Javier. "I want to serve the community."

The byelection, along with one in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette to replace former Tory MP Inky Mark, takes place Nov. 29.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca