Alfred Apps says the federal Liberals have gone from being Canada's political powerhouse to a group of lazy, self-satisfied has-beens who need a "top-to-bottom rebuild" if they hope to challenge their political rivals again -- and he's the party's president.

With the NDP riding their best-ever election result and Stephen Harper's Conservatives enjoying their first majority mandate, Apps wrote in a widely read National Post column Wednesday that the Liberal defeat last May was the result of a long, slow decline.

"To many, the Liberal Party of Canada has become an aging and self-satisfied crowd of insiders preoccupied by long faded glories and still-festering rivalries, rather than by the future of Canada," Apps wrote.

Expanding on those comments on CTV's Power Play, Apps said that his "party has been surfing for a long time" and finally hit rock bottom during the last election.

Much ado has been made recently about the reversal of fortunes for the Liberals, who only a decade ago were seen as an unstoppable force. The party was once described as Canada's natural governing party. No longer, according to critics.

Author Peter C. Newman's new book is called "When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada." Newman initially set out to write about the potential coronation of Michael Ignatieff as a Liberal prime minister, but instead the book turned into a semi-eulogy.

While Apps has been vocal about the Liberals' problems, he remains optimistic, especially as the party looks to elect a new leader in 2013.

"We have to get out and knock on doors, visit with neighbours and friends and persuade them to shape the party," Apps said.

"We can't do this in the back rooms anymore, we can't do this with gimmicks, we can't do it with great advertising," he added. "This has got to be something substantive and something real and different, and something that creates much more (openness in) politics in Canada."

One idea that has been floating around the party's upcoming leadership race is to bring in an American-style system of primaries, which insiders hope would create a compelling race between the key candidates.

But Apps said that without serious groundwork and a massive drive to sign up hundreds of thousands of new Liberals, launching leadership primaries wouldn't have the desired effect.

Plus, Apps said that with the seismic generational shift going on among Liberals, the leadership race will be compelling and dramatic on its own accord.

In fact, Apps predicted that the race – which is about 15 months away – will "captivate" Canadians and give them the first glimpses of the party's new political culture.

Currently, Toronto MP Bob Rae is acting as interim Liberal leader -- a job he took with the condition that he would not run for the top job when the time came.

Rae took over after Stephane Dion, and then Michael Ignatieff, led the party into successive defeats. In the last election, the Liberals were thrown into third-party status, thanks to the NDP's powerful showing in Quebec.

"It's like a forest fire has burned through the Liberal party," said Apps, adding that new life is now finally starting to grow from the ashes.

But he said that the party's time in the wilderness could pay-off in the long run.

"One of the smartest things the Liberal party did was not rush into a quick leadership race. We've had a cult of leadership for too long."