Dion ready to call it quits
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Liberal Leader plans Monday statement; expected to bow to mounting pressure
Oct 18, 2008 04:30 AM
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LES WHITTINGTON, JOANNA SMITH AND BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH
OTTAWA—After several days clinging to hopes that he could find a way to stay on as Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion will emerge from his post-election seclusion on Monday, when he is expected by Liberal insiders to announce his exit plans.
Dion, who presided over a bruising slide in Liberal fortunes in Tuesday’s election, has been closeted in his residence ever since, conducting round-the-clock discussions with MPs and senior Liberals about his future amid calls that he must depart as leader.
At 2 o’clock Monday afternoon, Dion will make his first public appearance since election night.
Traditionally, Liberal leaders have been given two chances to lead the party through elections. But the caucus is smarting from Tuesday’s loss, in which the party suffered a sharp drop in popular vote and the loss of 19 House of Commons seats, including the defeat of many well-liked incumbents.
“There’s only one option,” one insider said yesterday, and that’s for Dion to step down.
In his concession speech Tuesday night, Dion, a hard-headed individualist, said voters had given him a mandate. In French he said: “Canadians are asking me to be the leader of the Opposition and I accept this responsibility with honour.”
However, a well-placed Liberal source said Dion is now convinced he could not survive a mandatory leadership review at the party’s biennial convention in May. As a result, he is ready to announce he will relinquish his position, allowing the May meeting to be turned into a leadership convention.
Since the vote, Dion has spoken to a great many people in the party, and has hashed over his future with close advisers, including chief of staff Joanne Sénécal, aide Andrew Bevan and wife Janine Krieber.
While some Liberals have said Dion should be given carte blanche, the overwhelming view is that he must bow out to allow a rebuilding process under a leader who can better unite and energize the party.
Asked if there was a chance Dion could try to retain the leader’s mantle, a Liberal organizer said, “I honestly haven’t spoken to anybody who thinks that’s a possibility.”
Another strategist called it a “mirage” to think Dion could stay on as leader and enjoy the support and goodwill of members.
Those close to the Dion organization say he has been getting advice that he needs to step down since Tuesday night, when the election results proved much worse than many Liberals expected.
One option under discussion would allow Dion to stay on as interim leader until May when a replacement is chosen, the source said. It was generally accepted among Liberals that Dion lacks the funding, support in caucus and the grassroots organization needed to pass that mandatory review.
Liberal Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt) said that while the decision is up to Dion, it could be ugly if he decides to stick around.
“If he decides to stay and the other leadership contenders decide (they’re) going to take him out at the leadership review, it won’t be pretty,” he said. - isn't that nice
Karygiannis said there would be turmoil in the caucus, and efforts to embarrass Dion by refusing to vote with him. -more nice things to say
“This election was ours to win,” he added. “It was not ours to lose. But we lost it and if you’re the CEO of a company and the company goes bankrupt, well, you know responsibility has to be taken.” - What planet is he living on?
Karygiannis said many Liberals found it difficult to repeatedly abstain from Commons votes that would have toppled the minority Conservative government because Dion was not ready for a campaign. - Bullshit. Dion wanted to go last fall
“I don’t think he really got a grasp of the party. I mean, you just don’t tell members `don’t vote and sit on your hands and don’t vote.’ We did that what, 43 times?” Karygiannis said. - Tell us why Jimmy. Weren't you in that caucus? Are you sure it was all Dion's fault?
But Mississauga South Liberal Paul Szabo said it’s unfair to pin all the blame for the election results on Dion.
“We were all involved in the process of preparing for this election and I think everybody has to be accountable for it,” said Szabo.
“I personally don’t hold Mr. Dion responsible for the performance. It’s our entire party and caucus,” he said. “I’m not going to blame one person and say `that’s over with.’ This is a complex problem.”
Liberal Senator David Smith says Dion was frustrated and disappointed by the election results and thought the party would fare better, despite polls and even warnings by the party’s own members that Dion’s leadership and the proposal for a carbon tax were not popular. - "When you wish upon a star"- Senator Smith on Question Period
That’s one reason that Dion has spent time “soul-searching” about his political future.
“We have to show respect and deference. He worked his guts out in this campaign,” Smith said in an interview.
Among those considered potential successors to Dion are Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, who finished behind Dion at the 2006 leadership convention and who were re-elected Tuesday in their Toronto ridings; Gerard Kennedy, the former Ontario cabinet minister whose move to support Dion handed him the convention win and who won a tough election battle Tuesday; and newly elected Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre Trudeau.
Liberals said organizers for some of the likely leadership candidates are already beginning to mobilize for the contest.
A new polls reveals that almost three-quarters of Canadians think Dion should be replaced as leader while at least half of those surveyed think the leaders of the other parties should remain in their jobs. - How many Liberals were asked?
The poll by Angus Reid revealed that 70 per cent of the 1,003 people surveyed were dissatisfied with Dion’s performance. That compared with 58 per cent who said they liked how NDP Leader Jack Layton did on the campaign, a 48 per cent approval rating for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and 46 per cent endorsement of Green Leader Elizabeth May.
The online poll was conducted yesterday and Thursday and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
- With files from Richard Brennan