Making his statement in the National Press Theatre, Bob Rae cited a number of factors in his decision to drop out of the leadership race. For one, the parliamentary crisis brought about by the fiscal update set a chain of events in motion that meant that a new permanent leader would be needed sooner than later.
Added to that, last night the party’s executives decided that they would employ a consultative process to appoint an interim leader before they went ahead trying to accelerate the leadership process, but because of it, Rae saw the writing on the wall. His candidacy was going to require time to sell memberships and bring in new party members in order to get them to get enough delegates, and the party just didn’t have the time to go through that process. They were going to need a leader in place and making necessary preparations before Parliament comes back.
So Rae made the decision, and he called the press conference. He didn’t call Igantieff, not wanting any hint that a deal had been made, short-circuiting the attack ads that would come from such innuendo. He was gracious, and cheerful. He says that he doesn’t feel disappointment – these things happen.
Rae told the assembled reporters that he has to be realistic. “It’s just politics, it’s not the end of the world here, folks.” He also quoted fellow MP Ken Dryden, saying “There’s more than one good job in government, and there’s more than one good job in the Liberal party.”
(Observing the press conference, Macleans.ca blogger Kady O’Malley asked “Wait, where is the anger and bitterness? He’s totally not sowing lasting dissent that will tear apart the party for years to come. Hasn’t he paid attention to history?”)
Going forward, Rae says he’s going to continue to press for the coalition inside the party, citing a “political and moral obligation” to replace what he called an “authoritarian” government. He also said that when Ignatieff paraphrased Mackenzie-King in saying “coalition if necessarily but not necessarily a coalition” that Canada still got conscription, but it was also about the process of bringing it about, and he expects this to be the case with such a coalition.
Rae also plans to continue to champion the one-member-one-vote system for future leadership elections. Ignatieff’s leadership will still need to be confirmed by a delegated convention (likely still in May), but it’s likely that convention will end up being more about policy.
Rae hasn’t always had the cosiest of relationships with the queer communities, but when I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago at the Fierté Liberal Pride event a couple of weeks ago, he told me about how much he’d learned about the community since becoming MP for the gaybourhood riding of Toronto Centre. Rae plans to continue running in that riding, and perhaps he will champion our causes going forward.