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Battered Liberals eye Bob Rae as interim chief

Liberal MP Bob Rae arrives for a post-election caucus meeting in Ottawa on May 11, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Amid anger at the Liberal executive and talk of renewing the brand, several remaining Liberal MPs headed in into a caucus meeting on Wednesday morning saying they believed Bob Rae would be the best interim leader to steer the party as it rebuilds.

"I think the interim leader will matter and I do believe that Bob Rae has the skill set to do this," said Carolyn Bennett, a Toronto MP who once ran for the leadership herself.

Denis Coderre, the veteran Montreal MP, said he has no personal desire to do the job. "I think that Bob should be that person. I think we need that bridge builder as a start for the interim purpose and I will be there to help," Mr. Coderre told reporters.

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Many members of the Liberal caucus had previously talked about Ralph Goodale, the stalwart Saskatchewan MP, as being the best person to hold the caucus together through what could be a fractious period.

But the party executive determined this week that the interim leader, who will replace Michael Ignatieff in the short term, must be bilingual. And even though Mr. Goodale has taken French lessons, he does not speak the language well.

That leaves Mr. Rae among the top contenders. But he was not willing to directly express an interest in the job on Wednesday morning.

"This is not something that one campaigns for," he said. "There will be a discussion in the caucus today. I think it's very important that we listen to the membership, not just of the caucus but of the whole party."

Mr. Rae said there needs to be a broad discussion "right across the party about change and about renewal and I think that is something that is very deep seeded among the party members that I have heard from."

In the meantime. Ms. Bennett said one change she would like to see is the resignation of party president Alf Apps.

Mr. Apps planned to attend the caucus meeting on Wednesday afternoon to give a presentation about the process the party executive has devised for naming an interim leader and voting for a permanent leader.

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Ms. Bennett said she was not interested in hearing the presentation. "I think there's a lot of people very concerned that the party seems to be telling caucus what to do. I don't know why Mr. Apps thinks he can now dictate to caucus," she said.

The party executive has determined that an interim leader will be named on May 19 but Ms. Bennett said she saw no reason why the caucus would not take a vote on Wednesday to decide who should have the job.

When asked if Mr. Apps should quit, Ms. Bennett said: "I think it is a huge concern that Michael Ignatieff take the fall by himself and it is not reasonable that we don't go forward with somebody who can actually really engage the grassroots and listen.

But Ottawa MP David McGuinty said he was not prepared to second guess Mr. Apps and the executive.

"I am not elected by the membership of the Liberal Party. I am elected by my constituents," Mr. McGuinty said. "Mr. Apps and the national executive are elected by the members of the Liberal Party and they speak for the members of the Liberal Party. Some folks might not like that but they are duly elected, they represent the party."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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