Martin Cauchon, a former justice minister, served 11 years as an MP in Outremont. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has reversed his stance and cleared the way for former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon to run for the nomination in the Montreal riding of Outremont.

The decision follows days of controversy and after several Liberal MPs went public with their views about the party's decision to reserve the nomination for business executive Nathalie Le Prohon.

Ignatieff, who will now allow an open nomination contest, said he received a call from Le Prohon on Friday, who said she thought the right solution would be for her to seek an open nominaton in the Bloc Québécois-held riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.

"I said let’s open up the nomination in Jeanne-Le Ber, let’s open up the nomination in Outremont and let the associations decide, and that’s what we’re going to do. The result I think is good for the party, it reinforces the unity of the party," Ignatieff told reporters Friday afternoon.

Ignatieff said Le Prohon made the decision on her own, without pressure from members of the party. 

Cauchon, a former justice minister who spearheaded legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, served 11 years as an MP in Outremont under Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, but retired from politics in 2004 after Paul Martin took power. He now wants to return to political life.

But last week, the Liberal Party's Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, sidelined Cauchon when he announced the Outremont nomination would be reserved for another candidate of his choosing.

Star candidate

That nominee was widely reported to be Le Prohon, who was president of Nokia Canada and served as a senior executive at IBM and Hydro-Québec.

Earlier this week, Cauchon appealed to the Liberal leader to reverse Coderre's decision. But Ignatieff sided with his lieutenant, saying it was part of a strategy to renew the party by recruiting female star candidates to run in winnable ridings.

Ignatieff's decision created divisions between Coderre and Cauchon supporters and a backlash in the blogosphere.

On Thursday, Ignatieff's office confirmed to CBC News that he spoke with Cauchon by phone and offered him the Liberal nomination in the Bloc Québécois-held riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.

Outremont, a longtime Liberal stronghold, was won by New Democrat Thomas Mulcair in a 2007 byelection upset.