Former Liberal cabinet minister Martin Cauchon has failed to win the support of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to run in the Quebec riding of Outremont in the next election.
"Martin Cauchon was an excellent minister, an excellent MP, and a good Liberal. I spoke to him last night, and yes, I have made my decision," Ignatieff said Monday while speaking at the Toronto Board of Trade.
"I told him that we have been soliciting female candidates and we not only intend to have women candidates, we want them where they can win."
Last week, Liberal MP and Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre announced the nomination was closed to Cauchon and instead reserved for a female Quebec candidate. Cauchon, a former justice minister, appealed to the Liberal leader on Sunday to intervene and reverse Coderre's decision.
A backlash has already built against the decision, with some Liberals privately admonishing it, and Cauchon supporters calling it anti-democratic and anti-grassroots.
Difficulties in Quebec
The controversy is a harbinger for other difficulties in the Quebec wing of the party. Coderre has pressured some long-serving MPs with safe seats to resign, according to a number of Liberal sources. They told CBC News the party wants those seats for star female candidates as part of its renewal process.
The sources said former party leader Stéphane Dion, along with Bernard Patry, Raymonde Folco, and Lise Zarac, have all been asked to step aside.
Two of those MPs are publicly downplaying the suggestion. Patry said he did speak to Coderre about his future candidacy, but when asked by CBC News if he felt pressured to resign, he said, "Not really."
"He asked me if I thought I would run again and I told him yes," Patry said.
In an interview, Folco said she had heard rumours that she was going to be asked to resign, so she made an appointment to meet with the leader.
"I said, 'I want to stay' and he said, 'It's true, I want renewal, but you will stay in the party and be the candidate for Laval-Les Îles.'"
As for the Cauchon decision, Folco said: "I feel badly for Mr. Cauchon, he was an excellent minister and an excellent MP."
Several Liberals, who would not speak publicly, told CBC News that Coderre's style and approach to the Quebec election strategy is too divisive.
They said the leader should strip Coderre of his responsibilities in Quebec before it threatens party unity.
Coderre could not be reached for comment.