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The Globe and Mail

Why the interim Liberal leader can't be a candidate

Liberal buttons await supporters at Michael Ignatieff's election-night headquarters in Toronto on May 2, 2011.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Liberal caucus will select an interim leader next week from among their shrunken team. This is the first tangible expression to the Canadian public they will make since the election wipe-out. To be clear, I have no horse in the interim-leader race, not even close.

While caucus will make the choice behind close doors (as it should be) and can therefore use whatever criteria they choose, might I suggest that there should be one absolutely non-negotiable condition: Any candidate considered for interim leader cannot be a candidate for permanent leader in the upcoming leadership race. Period.

There are two pretty obvious, practical reasons for this:

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1. The interim leader gets a vote on the national executive. The national executive will decide on leadership rules and have broad powers over a whole range of issues that will have a massive impact on the race. This is an inherent conflict that can't simply be shrugged away.

2. If you have an interim leader who is also a leadership candidate, almost by definition at some point in the process other candidates have to start disagreeing with the interim leader. How can you possibly have a coherent Question Period strategy? When the interim leader speaks, is he talking on behalf of the party or his campaign? Why in the world would we want Liberal MPs undermining the interim leader in any way, shape or form and how do you avoid this from happening if you allow the interim leader to also run?

Again, caucus will decide who leads the party as we start to rebuild. I am not backing anyone for interim or full-time leader but I can tell you with near certainty that if a MP who gets the first job subsequently tries for the second, it is hard to see how I can support them as they will already have shown they put their own interests ahead of the party's.

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