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Liberals laid bare infighting and war-chest woes to U.S. diplomats: WikiLeaks

Toronto MP Bob Rae listens as Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 9, 2010.


The Liberal caucus is famously leaky.

Now recently released diplomatic cables show that even the party's top brass - including current Interim Leader Bob Rae - were spilling party and caucus secrets to the U.S. Embassy.

A handful of diplomatic cables released over the past week by Wikileaks show the U.S. government isn't hurting for sources when it comes time to pen updates to Washington on the latest in Liberal politics.

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One June 16, 2009 cable - titled " Liberals begin to blink?" - describes a conversation that day between a counsellor at the embassy and Mr. Rae, then the party's foreign affairs critic. According to the note, Mr. Rae was indicating Liberal MPs were not behind then-leader Michael Ignatieff's recent election sabre-rattling.

Mr. Rae "admitted that, behind closed doors, the caucus had considerable reluctance to face the voters over the summer, but had been disinclined to try to overrule the relatively new leader," the cable reads. "He claimed that Ignatieff had 'made up his own mind' on this brinkmanship approach without much, or perhaps any, internal consultations."

Maintaining caucus confidentiality has long been a challenge for Liberal Party leaders, a task that now falls to Mr. Rae.

Others listed in the cables as sources of party news include then Whip Rodger Cuzner, former national director Greg Fergus and another former Liberal Party national director, Rocco Rossi, who has since switched parties and is running as a candidate for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

One October 15, 2009 cable notes that Mr. Rossi "admitted privately" to an embassy counsellor that Mr. Ignatieff doesn't listen to his closest advisors - only to his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar.

Mr. Rossi also apparently discussed the Liberal party's fundraising woes. "To underscore worrying trends, Liberal fundraising has plateaued, fundraiser-in-chief Rossi admitted," the cable states.

The cable ends with "Jacobson," but it is not known if Ambassador David Jacobson actually wrote the memo.

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Another cable with Mr. Jacobson's name at the bottom - dated Oct. 23, 2009 - apparently gives the ambassador's impression after hosting Mr. Ignatieff, his chief of staff Ian Davey and Mr. Rae for a visit.

"The dynamics between one-time friends and later rivals Ignatieff and Rae remain clearly tense, with Rae arriving late and then immediately dominating the conversation, while Ignatieff sat back almost meekly," reads the note, titled "Ambassador meets with Liberal Party leadership."

"Rae was by far the more forceful and eloquent of the two and showed little deference to his party chief, without at any time displaying rudeness or personal animosity," the note continues. "He came across as better read and more substantive than Ignatieff, who stuck mostly to pleasantries and generalities."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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