Monday, December 8, 2008

Ignatieff zeroing in on Liberal leadership

This is from the Star.
The Liberal caucus is obviously more interested in blocking Rae, getting rid of Dion and crowning Ignatieff rather than wasting time with formalities such as democratic participation by the base. Harper must be happy. Ignatieff no doubt can be bought off by some minimal bailout scheme plus omission of a few reactionary policies that were in the economic update. Although there may be a few growls one can expect the Liberals to return to their earlier policy of saving the country for Conservatives.

Ignatieff zeroing in on Liberal leadership
Party fast-tracks bid to install him at helm as Dion's replacement
Dec 08, 2008 04:30 AM
Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA–Michael Ignatieff could be crowned Liberal leader in a matter of days.
The Etobicoke-Lakeshore MP is expected to emerge the victor from a stripped-down leadership contest designed to get a new leader in place by the end of January for Parliament's return.
It now appears current leader Stéphane Dion will step aside and Ignatieff will be appointed "interim" leader of the Liberal party at Wednesday's caucus meeting. That's when MPs and senators, meeting behind closed doors, are expected to give their stamp of approval to the former academic.
"It's certainly looking that way," one Ignatieff supporter said last night.
There is also expectation that one of Ignatieff's rivals, New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, will drop out of the race, perhaps as early as today.
However, supporters of Bob Rae (Toronto Centre), Ignatieff's major rival, are said to be divided about the next step and whether to cede the leadership to Ignatieff.
One Rae supporter was critical of letting caucus pick the leader, noting that the 77 Liberal MPs represent just a quarter of the 308 ridings nationwide and that thousands of party members would be frozen out.
"How democratic is that?" the supporter asked.
While a replacement for Dion wasn't due to be chosen until May, Liberals are now keen to move up that timetable in light of last week's parliamentary crisis.
Yesterday, Liberals scrambled to discuss options to fast-track their leadership contest to have a new leader take the reins by late January, when a key parliamentary vote could spark a new election or see a Liberal-led coalition take power.
One proposal yesterday would have seen party members use telephone and online ballots to vote next month on the choice of new leader. The deadline to sign on new party members would be moved up to early January, with the vote held mid-month.
The idea, which draws on the process already on the books for a leadership review, was floated by the party executive over the weekend and was supported by Rae.
However, the Ignatieff camp charged that the proposal violated party rules for selecting an interim leader. One source said the idea was not well-received at a meeting of the caucus executive.
The rules dictate that an interim leader is chosen by the national executive after consulting with caucus, a process that gives the edge to Ignatieff, who enjoys the backing of a "clear majority" of the caucus, according to one supporter.
Ignatieff would be interim leader and the leadership race still would technically be run at the May convention in Vancouver.
For his part, Dion is weighing his options in the run-up to Wednesday's caucus meeting. Liberal MP Bryon Wilfert (Richmond Hill), a Dion confidante, wants the party to provide an undertaking to deal with the debts from Dion's leadership contest in 2006 and ensure he leaves with "grace and respect."
"He needs to be treated as a wise man of the party, to be consulted," Wilfert said.
The Liberal party became convinced it had to move quickly to replace Dion as leader because of his inept performance against Harper in their recent showdown.
Governor General Michaëlle Jean's decision to grant Harper's request to suspend Parliament until Jan. 26 has given the Liberals a window to assess their leadership situation.
Had Parliament not been suspended, the Liberals and NDP had planned, with the help of the Bloc Québécois, to defeat the government in a confidence vote due today over Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's Nov. 27 economic policy statement. And, unless Flaherty presents a major economic stimulus package in the Jan. 27 budget, the Liberal-NDP coalition is committed to toppling the Conservatives.
The push to expedite the leadership vote comes because "there's too much at stake for us and for the country," one party strategist said. "We've got to get our act together."
Earlier yesterday, Ignatieff voiced support for moving quickly on the leadership issue.
"There's an emerging feeling in the caucus that, given the importance of this vote in late January, it would be appropriate to have a permanent leader in place," he told CTV's Question Period.

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