Manley says Liberals should replace Dion as leader
Former deputy prime minister John Manley says Stephane Dion should step down as Liberal leader so a replacement can take charge before Christmas, and prepare for the resumption of Parliament in January.
Writing in Saturday's Globe and Mail, Manley said "the first step for my party is to replace Stephane Dion as leader with someone whose first job is to rebuild the Liberal Party, rather than leading a coalition with the NDP."
Manley said voters sent the party a strong message during the federal election, when the Liberals had one of their worst showings, winning only 76 seats in the House of Commons.
"The notion that the public would accept Stephane Dion as prime minister, after having resoundingly rejected that possibility a few weeks earlier, was delusional at best," Manley wrote. "Mr. Dion had seemed to accept responsibility for the defeat (although somewhat reluctantly), and should have left his post immediately."
There is some speculation that Dion may step down as early as next week during a meeting of the Liberal caucus.
Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis told CTV's Newsnet on Saturday that Dion is "a determined man" and it is difficult to say whether he will step down next week if asked to do so.
But he said the "voices are growing" within the Liberal party for Dion to resign.
"Moving forward right now ... Mr. Dion has to step aside with grace and dignity," he said.
But not all members of the Liberal party are convinced that Dion will vacate his leadership role so soon.
At a pro-coalition rally in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy said it was not a done deal that Dion will immediately step down.
"I think that, really, there is no strategy in terms of whether Mr. Dion stays," he said.
"He's already said he's going to leave."
Kennedy said that the major reason Dion would step down so quickly would be because the Liberals "can't trust Stephen Harper to conduct himself in a certain kind of way when we come back and we need to be ready either for an election or for different kinds of action."
Dion declined to comment on the issue when approached by reporters at the same rally on Saturday.
Angelo Persichilli, a political commentator with Italian-Canadian newspaper Corriere Canadese, suggested that many Liberal MPs believe the party can only move forward with a new leader.
"(Dion) doesn't want to but definitely he's going to because if there's anything that the Liberals are in agreement on at this time, actually the only agreement they have, is that
Dion has to go," Persichilli said Saturday during an interview with CTV Newsnet.
In his editorial, Manley criticized the antics that gripped Ottawa this week, as the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois signalled their intention to topple the Conservative minority and form a coalition government, while the prime minister accused the opposition of getting into bed with separatists.
Manley also said Canadians want the government to find solutions for an ongoing economic crisis that is threatening their jobs and savings.
"Instead they have been subjected to a sordid display of arrogance, hyperbole and incompetence that can only make voters wish a pox on all their houses," Manley wrote.
He also accused Harper of abandoning bipartisanship and co-operation when he issued last week's economic update, which kicked off the current political crisis.
The opposition was left with "no choice but to vote them down," Manley said.
However, the fact that Dion has agreed to terms of a coalition with the Bloc and NDP has "bound his successor to a controversial arrangement without even consulting any of the candidates to succeed him in the process, leaving them no option but to endorse it or break with him as party leader," Manley said.
Rather than spend money on a leadership campaign, Manley urged the party to raise funds should another election be called in the new year, while working with the other parties on the economy.