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Bob the rebuilder surveys the Liberal wreckage

With his wife Arlene Perly Rae and Montreal MP Marc Garneau looking on, newly-appointed interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks to reporters in Ottawa on May 25, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After the worst election result in the history of the federal Liberals, the party has put together building blocks in its quest to reinvent itself:

Choosing an interim leader

The much-diminished Liberal caucus chose high-profile and fluently bilingual Bob Rae (dubbed Bob The Rebuilder) as its interim leader on Wednesday. Caucus insiders say the 62-year-old Toronto Centre MP was very clear behind the closed doors of caucus that he was not seeking the permanent leadership of the party and that he would not entertain a merger with the NDP.

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Mr. Rae ran against Montreal MP Marc Garneau in a secret ballot - and although the view was that it would be a coronation for Mr. Rae, who has so much caucus support, especially among senators, it was not quite the case.

Although the meeting was collegial and respectful, an insider says Mr. Garneau had some significant support, partly in reaction to former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's efforts at lobbying for Mr. Rae and partly as a result of Mr. Rae's musings on election night about a merger with the NDP.

"I've been asked to help to lead a political party over the next 18 months to two years and I accept entirely the views of the party which have been expressed to me which says there can't be any discussions without a full approval of the party … there is no such approval, there are no such discussions," Mr. Rae said.

He can expect to be leader for between 18 and 24 months.

The extraordinary convention

Delegates to a so-called extraordinary convention on June 18 will - by teleconference - decide whether to delay the leadership convention to between November 2012 (the earliest date) and February 28, 2013.

The biennial policy convention would also be delayed from June 17 to next January 13. It is expected these two resolutions will pass, allowing for a proper rebuilding process.

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New blood for the party

While the party will be discussing policy and direction during their biennial policy convention, likely next January, it will also be choosing its new leadership. Gone, almost certainly, will be party president Alfred Apps, one of the troika who went to Cambridge, Mass., to pluck Michael Ignatieff out of academia and into Canadian politics - with disastrous results. Some Liberals are pushing for Siobhan Coady, the defeated candidate from Newfoundland and Labrador, who was a good performer in caucus, to run for president to replace Mr. Apps.

Rebuilding and the road to the convention

The speculation is the leadership contest will take place between January and February 2013. Until then, Mr. Rae will be the Liberals' face and soul. In his press conference Wednesday, he said the first thing he has to do is "encourage as many people as possible to join our party, to join our movement for political change in the country, to really engage in riding associations.

He also outlined three areas of concern - the future of health care; the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians; and national unity.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rae is expecting the Tories will try to denigrate him as they did previous Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Mr. Ignatieff.

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Leadership candidates

All of the leadership speculation, at least for now, surrounds two MPs, who are the prodigy of famous Liberals - Dominic LeBlanc, his father served as Governor-General, and Justin Trudeau, who is, of course, the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau. But so far, the two have not revealed their intentions. The view is - and Mr. Rae has acknowledged this - that the new leader must be a fresher face and from a younger generation.

For now, however, one Liberal MP says there is zero appetite for a leadership convention - Liberals have had three conventions since 2003. The MP strongly believes that anyone who tries now to get promises of support from other Liberals would provoke a bad reaction.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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