Federal Liberals need to “reach out” to almost one million disaffected party members who failed to vote in October’s election that resulted in the party’s poorest showing in a quarter century, Michael Ignatieff said Thursday in Vancouver.

Speaking to riding presidents at the start of the biennial Liberal convention, Ignatieff said the party must build from its grassroots by signing up new Liberals. It must also bring estranged members back to the “great big tent that includes every single Canadian.”

“It’s the most disturbing number we have to turn around — 800,000 Liberals stayed home last time,” Ignatieff said. “They didn’t go to another party, thank God, but they stayed in their seat.”

The convention, which runs until Sunday, will host 1,500 of the party’s 7,000 delegates.

It will be small by Liberal standards (there is no leadership race, Ignatieff will be acclaimed leader) and is competing for media coverage in B.C. with the provincial election and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ignatieff said it was “crucial to the legitimacy of the party” to hold the convention in B.C. so that it would be perceived across the country as a “great national institution.”

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