Liberal Senate leader urges Grits to stop sniping
OTTAWA - The Liberal Senate leader is urging Quebec Grits to end their suicidal public infighting and rally behind Leader Stephane Dion.
Celine Hervieux-Payette said the recriminations against Dion and his entourage since the party's humiliating loss in three Quebec byelections last month reflect the frustration of Liberals in the province who wanted Michael Ignatieff to win last year's leadership contest.
"I have the feeling that some people thought they could rewrite the scenario of the leadership,'' she told The Canadian Press.
While she can "understand their disappointment,'' Hervieux-Payette said Ignatieff's supporters have to realize the contest is over and there's nothing they can do to change the result.
"There's nothing in the party to dispose of a leader and say, 'well, I'm not happy with that leader.'''
Asked what advice she'd give her fellow Quebecers, Hervieux-Payette was blunt.
"Shoot the opposition, not us. Their target is not the right one. It's like as if you had a rifle and you were just turning it on yourself.''
During last year's leadership race, Ignatieff won the biggest share of support among Liberals in Quebec. Since the byelection losses, those who've gone public with criticism of Dion and his team have come almost exclusively from the Ignatieff camp.
Some have gone so far as to call on Dion to step aside. Others, including two Quebec MPs, have targeted Dion's hand-picked national party director, Jamie Carroll, for allegedly being dismissive about the need for more Quebecers in Dion's inner circle.
Hervieux-Payette dismissed suggestions the sniping may have been orchestrated or condoned by Ignatieff, the deputy leader who has publicly appealed to Liberals to unite behind Dion.
She said some of his erstwhile supporters are attention-seekers looking for their "one hour of glory'' and others are simply inexperienced and easily spooked.
She suggested they need to gain some perspective and realize that the party's problems in Quebec started well before Dion assumed the leadership.
"It started with the leadership of Mr. (Paul) Martin and we have a very weak party in Quebec right now . . . If we had 30, 40 members of Parliament you wouldn't probably see that (sniping). But, you know, we have a very small crowd, they get nervous.''
The Liberals currently hold only 12 seats in Quebec, after losing their longtime bastion of Outremont in the byelections.
Hervieux-Payette said she remains confident the Liberals can still win the next election, provided that all party members show discipline and solidarity.
"If we are faced with an election in two or three weeks, we need to put our act together. We cannot enter an election with that kind of mentality.''