Michael Ignatieff to step down as Liberal leader
Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 9:21PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:39AM EDT
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is stepping down from his position as party leader, after suffering a historic defeat in Monday's election that halved the size of the Liberal caucus.
"I will not be remaining as leader of this party and I will work out with the party officials the best timing for a departure so that we can arrange a secession in due time," Ignatieff told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday morning.
Ignatieff said the Liberal caucus will meet next week, in which they will determine which elected member will lead the party in the House of Commons.
The Liberals went into the election with 77 seats, which made them the second-ranked party in Parliament and the official opposition.
After the election, only 34 Liberals will be headed to Ottawa in the next Parliament, where they will form the small caucus of a minor party that lags behind the governing Conservatives and the Opposition New Democrats.
"It was not a happy night for the Liberal Party of Canada and we'll have to read the results of this election very carefully," Ralph Goodale, Liberal MP for Wascana, told CTV's Power Play on Tuesday.
He said that some of the work is already beginning on how to re-construct the party, but that work will start in earnest next week.
"It will take a little bit of time for people to recover from the shock, it was a political shock, that we'll have to bounce back from," he said.
Ignatieff lost his own Toronto-area seat of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in Monday's election, after holding it for two consecutive elections.
Amid these disastrous results, the Liberals must also determine how to move forward as a party with diminished power in the next Parliament.
"There will no doubt be discussion of all the permutations that one could imagine," said Goodale.
"Most Liberals will be really riveted on how we build this party for the future."
Some observers worried that a wounded centrist Liberal party will polarize Canadian politics, with the leftist NDP taking the reins in Opposition against a right-leaning governing party.
Former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella posted a message on his website late Monday night that "it's time for a change in the Liberal Party -- from top to bottom."
That line of thought was echoed by Bob Rae, one of the few Liberal candidates to be re-elected in Toronto.
"I do think there's a sense that we've hit bottom and now it's important for us to say: ‘Well, we've had this really serious setback, let's just take a deep breath and figure out together how we go forward,'" Rae told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, federalists breathed a sigh of relief after witnessing the NDP's rise to power in Quebec at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois. The separatist party will face additional challenges as it tries to rebuild, having lost official party status.
"What we could be seeing here is a realignment of federal politics, where the NDP with strong federalist support from Quebec can form a left-of-centre national party that will lead to potentially the demise of the Liberal party," CTV's Ottawa Bureau chief Robert Fife said Monday night.
At one point last year, rumours swirled that the Liberals and the NDP had held secret negotiations to merge the two parties. However, Ignatieff quickly put those rumours to rest.
When speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Ignatieff hinted that he believes the Liberals can make it on their own and that Canadians will tire of the Parliament they have just elected.
"I think people ask whether the Liberal party has a future," he said.
"The surest guarantee of the future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP opposition."
Election Day marked the second anniversary of Ignatieff's tenure as Liberal leader, a political ascension that came just a few years after he left the academic world to run for office in Canada.
On Tuesday, he said he intends to return to teaching.
"What I'd like to do is go back and teach young Canadians. I'm a teacher born and bred and I'm really looking forward to teaching," Ignatieff said Tuesday.
With files from The Canadian Press