Days after losing a judicial recount, Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal leader said Tuesday he is quitting politics.
"We have to start to rebuild the party. Let's face it," said Gerry Reid, who led the Liberals to their worst showing in post-Confederation history, with just three of the 48 seats in the house of assembly.
"We have a rebuilding process, but the Liberal party is alive and well," Reid told reporters. "We have members in every single town, community and village throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We've got a strong base, and we've got to work on it."
Reid's resignation will take effect when the party executive appoints an interim leader.
Party president Danny Dumaresque told CBC News that will happen on Sunday.
He also said that a Liberalgeneral meeting that had already been planned for October 2008 will now be a leadership convention.
In an at times emotional address, Reid said he decidedto resign as leaderafter a judicial recount last week showedProgressive Conservative Derrick Dalley defeated him by 12 votes in the Isles of Notre Dame district.
"I thought it was best for me to leave now, and allow the interim leader to take over, both as the house leader and the leader of a party," he said.
Reid has had a low profile since shepherding the Liberals to a blowout in the election.
Even though the Liberals have their smallest caucus ever, Reid said no one should assume the party is down for the count. He pointed to the federal Progressive Conservatives being cut to two seats in 1993, and the complete Liberal sweepin New Brunswick in 1987.
In both cases, he noted, Tories were eventually able to form governments.
Reid was reluctant leader
Reid took the reins of the Liberal party reluctantly. After serving as interim leader following former premier Roger Grimes's retirement in 2005, Reid surprised party insiders when he declined to run inthe leadership race. At the time, Reid said the timing was not right for a leadership bid.
Jim Bennett, a Daniel's Harbour lawyer, was acclaimed in that position in early 2006, but clashed with some caucus members, including Reid.
When Bennett quit in May 2006, Reid agreed — despite public opinion polls that showed the governing Tories well in the lead —totake the party into an election. Reid acknowledged after the election that heknew the Liberals could notwin inOctober.
On Tuesday, Reid said he could not deny that he felt some relief in his decision to step down.
"There are stresses and strains that are obviously not here today that I had even just a few short weeks ago," he said, adding: "My wife and my kids are happy that I'm calling it quits."
Reid was first elected in 1996, having served in the then Liberal government for seven years as an executive assistant. He later served in cabinet, in the governments of former premiers Brian Tobin and Grimes.
Won't rule out return to politics
Reid said Tuesday he has no immediate plans, exceptfor some household chores and totake some time off for a vacation.
He did not rule out a return to political life in the future. He cautioned, though, "right now I have no plans of continuing with politics."
In a statement, Premier Danny Williams said that while he may have sparred with Reid as a political rival, he respected Reid and wished him well.
"The demands placed on those who serve in public offices are great," Williams said. "They require tremendous amounts of time, a strong commitment to others and considerable personal sacrifices."
Shortly after the October election, John Efford, a former minister in both provincial and federal cabinets, expressed an interest in the leadership should Reid resign.
Dumaresque said he expects Efford and St. John's businessman Paul Antle to consider a run, among others.
"Bothof them have expressed an interest of recent times, and undoubtedly, I am convinced, there are going to be others," Dumaresque said.