The Liberals have spoken. They have decided that Bob Rae will be their interim leader during the difficult rebuilding process. His term will likely last for the next couple of years.
“I’m pleased to accept the role of interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,” Rae told the assembled reporters. “It's a great honour, and I'm looking forward very much to our work in the House as well as our work on the wider country.”
Rae spoke about the “clear and tough” message voters gave the Liberal Party, which he says was received and understood. He said that they have a lot of rebuilding to do and will start with their strengths, building on the sense of civility that marked the interim leadership process and that they have to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.” Rae also said that Canada is a place of great history with a great future and that the values of the Liberal Party have been deeply ingrained in the life of the country from its very founding.
“The Liberal Party’s commitment, first of all, is to Canada itself – a Canada that is united, as well as a Canada that is deeply federal and recognizes its diversity. But we can make no mistake about our commitment. Our commitment to Canada, a united and federal Canada, is very important to our future.”
For those of you keeping score, this was a shot across the bow of the NDP (with its talk about “asymmetrical federalism”) and the sovereigntists in its Quebec caucus.
He also spoke about the Liberals' commitment to the people of Canada. “We seek to build, quite simply, a socially just and deeply sustainable prosperity for our country, and we know that this means we have to be open to the world, to be open to the diversity and changes and challenges across the country and across the world. It also means we have to work more effectively as a party in order to achieve our objectives.”
He took questions on Harper’s planned end of the per-vote subsidy (believes that fundraising follows purpose and mission, is not asking people to give money to a Liberal Party organization but is asking people to support the values and programs the Liberals are committed to fighting for, the party has to once again become a movement for change); Harper’s desire to destroy the Liberal Party (we may want to defeat the Conservatives but don't want to destroy them, that’s not democratic); the federal response to the floods in Quebec (it hasn’t been adequate); the psychological state of the party (you may hear many things about my psychological state, but I feel fine, have seen worse than this, and this is just politics); his guarantee that he won’t run for the permanent leadership (there is a higher power than Alf Apps, which is his wife Arlene, and they’ve made a pact that this is an interim job); his vision for the rebuilding (we need to engage Liberals who are not yet members, encourage more people to join the party and its movement for political change. He has three issues he wants to focus on: healthcare, the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians and Canadian unity); whether he’s prepared to deal with the forthcoming attack ads (doesn’t have any skeletons in his cupboard, as they’re in his living room, can anticipate what they might be and can anticipate that the responses will be difficult); and the message to the grassroots who feel disconnected (we’re listening, and we come at this with a sense of humility).