It is with sorrow and disbelief that I'm reporting the death of Mario Lague, Michael Ignatieff's communications director. Lague died in a motorcycle accident this morning on his way into work when his bike collided with an SUV, according to the CP report. He was just 52 years old, and leaves his wife and two children.
I intend to do a larger story in the next few hours, but I do want to say a few personal things. Just last weekend, I was on the road with Ignatieff's tour, as was Mario. He'd switched assignments to cover this leg of the journey, and I'm so glad he did, now in retrospect.
On Sunday, he was out on the road with his current boss and his former one, Paul Martin. If you look closely in the picture to the right, you'll see Mario beside Ignatieff at a Tim Horton's. I'm sorry that's the best picture of the most recent ones I have; I'll look out some more later. Just a couple of nights ago, Mario sent me a picture of myself at a demolition derby: "In case anyone doesn't believe you were there."
Mario was a gentle bear of a man, who loved his family, his work and his friends. Just a couple of weeks ago, we talked about what jobs we imagined ourselves doing at this age when we were in our 20s -- where did we dream of working? Mario, somewhat surprisingly to me, told me he'd wanted to be a filmmaker; he'd gone to school for that. But he somehow glided into the political communication business, working first for Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, then landing in the civil service, then becoming Paul Martin's first comms director when Martin landed as prime minister. Martin appointed Mario to the ambassador's spot in Costa Rica; then, after a stint in Switzerland with an environmental organization, he landed last fall as Ignatieff's communications director. He was doing a lovely job, as anyone on the summer tour would attest. And he loved the job. Maybe not the hours (14 a day during the week, 6 to 8 a day on weekends).
On Saturday night, we had dinner and drinks, as we often did on the road. We were in London, sitting on the outdoor terrace of the Ceeps, and Mario was talking, among other subjects, about the motorcycle he'd bought. I expressed my misgivings about motorcycles (I had a bad fall off one many years ago), but Mario assured me that he was a cautious driver. I'm sure he was.
I can't imagine the grief now being felt by all those on the tour, let alone Mario's family. I'm finding it hard to believe, frankly. My profound sympathies and condolences to all who knew and loved Mario.