OTTAWA - When it comes to fundraising, the federal Liberal party has been up the proverbial creek for years.

But now the party's national director is at least employing a paddle. Rocco Rossi plans to kayak about 200 km from Kingston, Ont., to Ottawa in a novel fundraising stunt. The six-day trek, starting Thursday, is part of his broader campaign to ramp up the Liberals' annual donation haul until it eventually matches that of the cash-hoovering Conservative machine.

The Tories sucked up $21.2 million last year, compared to only $5.9 million for the Liberals. While they still lag well behind the Tories, the Liberals have tripled their cash intake since Rossi's arrival at the administrative helm in January.

Rossi is well known for his innovative fundraising gimmicks and his physical stamina. As former head of Ontario's Heart and Stroke Foundation, he single-handedly raised about $1.6 million over four years for the charity through such stunts as climbing office tower stairs equivalent to the height of Mount Everest.

His goal is nowhere near so lofty this time.

"It's meant as much for fun as fundraising," he says of his upcoming kayak trip.

It's also meant to be a morale booster for Liberal troops, most of whom volunteer their time to help the party.

"Part of this is homage to them," says Rossi, who is using his vacation time for the trek.

"For six days, I can be a volunteer too."

The theme for the trip is the number 23, since all Rossi's fundraising and membership recruitment efforts are aimed at ensuring Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff becomes Canada's 23rd prime minister.

He will paddle through 23 locks along the Rideau Canal system. Along the way, he intends to ask anyone he meets to donate $23, sign up 23 new members, commit to volunteering 23 hours of time, knock on 23 doors or stuff 23 envelopes.

"I hope to raise some multiple of $23,000. I won't predict what that is," says Rossi.

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