LeBlanc steps down—backs Ignatieff

Liveblogging Dominic LeBlanc at the National Press Theatre


The least unexpected (but still, I’m sure, by some lamented) announcement of the day — that Dominic LeBlanc will be stepping down as a candidate in the Liberal leadership race — is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., with the obligatory barrage of questions about whether he plans to throw his support to Michael Ignatieff beginning about fifteen seconds later.

UPDATE: Okay, so apparently, the press conference has been pushed back to 3pm – not because of cold feet, but for logistical reasons – so I guess I’ll see you back here thenabouts.

2:48:01 PM
Well, that was unfortunate — I was standing by the door with what I thought was plenty of time before the soon-to-be-former candidate showed up when I suddenly heard the Acadian tones of Dominic LeBlanc himself: “I knew you’d be here on your BlackBerry.” It’s so embarrassing when your liveblogging target sneaks up on you. Let the record show, however, that he was early – I wasn’t late.

Anyway, he and his aides have disappeared into the back room — the staging area, as it were — to de-coat and hat and prepare for the media onslaught.

2:52:14 PM
A good turnout of media, although I suspect there are a few Hill reporters who would rather huddle around the newsroom television to watch Bob Rae, who is also holding a press conference this afternoon, although apparently it won’t start til 3:30.

2:56:18 PM
Fifty second warning!

2:57:20 PM
And here he is – looking surprisingly sanguine about his place for now in Canadian history. An aide hands out copies of his statement, which starts out with a lengthy recap of the “recent actions” , ending in prorogation – “a cop out”, not a time out, and ends with the entirely unsurprising endorsement of Michael Ignatieff.

3:00:56 PM
Interesting – he acknowledges that Canadians have not, to put it mildly, been swept away by the prospect of a Liberal-NDP coalition, but doesn’t explicitly reject it — he just thinks that whatever lies ahead, it should be under the Ignatieff banner – which would probably be a regal purple, perhaps with a stylized tiger.

3:03:15 PM
He also says nice things about Stephane Dion, in case anyone was wondering.

3:05:55 PM
“The consensus choice of Liberals to lead our party”. That appears to be the latest Ignatieff rallying cry, but I’m sure by tomorrow, it will be “A vote for Rae is a vote for Lucifer himself!” If tensions continue to escalate between the remaining rivals, which I believe Colleague Wherry is in the process of documenting over at BTC.

3:07:44 PM
Bob Rae “is a political leader with few peers,” as far as Dominic is concerned. Smart move – he’s not going to be the feral catspaw for any campaign.

3:09:37 PM
And – questions! Questions from the Canadian Press’ Joan Bryden, to be precise, which means they may be tricky ones. She wonders about his musings over putting a leader in place before establishing a grassroots-friendly process to elect the permanent leader. Won’t that alienate the rank and file members?

LeBlanc notes that now that Dion has officially resigned, it’s up to the national executive – in consultation with the caucus, although I’m not sure if “consultation” has been explicitly defined. Joan, however, wonders why it has to happen within the next three weeks, since there are the holidays, and the House isn’t sitting. LeBlanc notes that leaving it until January would leave the new leader with too little time for “what will be amongst the most serious decisions our party has taken in a century.” (He means whether to vote non-confidence in the government, I think.)

3:13:00 PM
TVA brings up the Rae issue – doesn’t this jiggerypokery surrounding a caucusclusive decision give Ignatieff a tremendous boost? Well, LeBlanc isn’t going to speak for the Rae campaign – I think he’s doing that for himself in Toronto as we speak.

3:14:36 PM
What is his “ideal scenario” for Wednesday, wonders CBC’s Susan Bonner. Funny she should ask – he’d love to see the caucus come together around Ignatieff as leader, and then look towards ensuring grassroots participation.

More baiting on Rae, who, LeBlanc notes, has no compunction about speaking on his own behalf. He – LeBlanc – just doesn’t think it would be “responsible” to wait until mid-January.

3:16:18 PM
Finally, the elephantine question in the room, courtesy of CJAD’s Brian Lilley – wasn’t he among the trio of leadership candidates who were unswervingly supportive of Stephane Dion just last week? Why should Canadians believe that any of them have a clue what they’re doing? (Slightly paraphrased, of course, but that’s the gist.)

LeBlanc points out that there have, in fact, been a few developments since then – the prorogation of Parliament, that sort of thing – which have changed the circumstances “dramatically”. Lilley then snipes about the recent “dramatic” polls that have shown that Canadians are wildly opposed to the coalition, and LeBlanc reminds him that you can’t judge from those polls how a coalition led by someone other than Dion might go over with the public. It was “a pretty effective wakeup call” for the current PM, he points out – and they’ll just have to wait and see what happens in January.

3:21:21 PM
Aw, LeBlanc reveals that actually, he’s been having a pretty good time running for leader, and if he had his druthers, he’d like to see the convention go ahead in May – but alas, this is just too critical a moment in history. “Canadians want someone to clean up this mess,” he says for the second or third time – but agrees that there should be “a form of democratic expression”, although he declines to come out in favour of any one of the options under consideration at the moment. I wonder how he’d vote in the ITQ poll?

3:23:43 PM
The Globe’s Campbell Clark reminds LeBlanc that, actually, the party requires that any leadership decision be ratified at a convention – nobody likes a constitutional smartypants, mister, even if it is just a party constitution – and the two quibble over whether Ignatieff – or whoever (read: Ignatieff) – would be an interim or permanent leader after the decision by the national executive.

3:26:26 PM
The Toronto Star is up, and Tonda McCharles wonders when, exactly, he decided to drop out, and whether he spoke to Rae before he did so. LeBlanc tells her that he became “increasingly uncomfortable” last week – all because of Stephen Harper’s antics, just to be clear – but doesn’t seem to want to give a direct answer to the question of whether he told Rae personally of his decision.

3:28:08 PM
CanWest Newshound David Akin gives everyone flashbacks by noting that, in his statement, Dion once again said that he would remain as leader until a successor has been chosen, and wonders why LeBlanc seems so fixated on what will happen on Wednesday, when the caucus meets. Why not have the “consultative exercise” first, and then allow the caucus to weigh in? LeBlanc doesn’t give the obvious answer – “Because we really can’t afford another day under Dion” – but again points to the urgency. Urgent! Akin wonders whether he’s asked Rae to step aside, and LeBlanc demurs. Conversations he’s had with other candidates are confidential. Former-candidate-non-former-candidate privilege, I guess.

3:32:22 PM
Man, I can’t imagine how grateful the Liberals are to be reminded of the fact that they just suffered their worst electoral defeat in history at any and every opportunity that presents itself. LeBlanc responds with surprising feistiness to a rather – shall we say triggering question from Roger Smith, who suggests that grassroots Liberals might not be thrilled by this attempt to impose a “backroom deal” on the party just days after the “backroom deal” that birthed the unholy beast known as the coalition.

3:36:26 PM
Did I mention that I’m really jealous of David Akin’s Arran-I-think sweater? It looks like something you could cheerfully wear while herding sheep in Siberia, although the sheep might be slightly less cheerful about that whole scenario.

3:37:50 PM
And we’re done – with one last ebullient grin from the once-and-possibly-future candidate, who is probably the only one of the three who can now knock off early and stop checking his BlackBerry every three seconds. Of course, he also has slightly less chance of becoming Prime Minister on January 28th, but still. Birds in hands vs. birds in bushes, y’all.

I’m going to trudge back through the tundra to my outpost on the Hill – hopefully, I’ll be able to catch the last few minutes of Bob Rae!