Day aims to put past behind him in leadership bid

Stockwell Day has announced he'll run for the Alliance leadership

Stockwell Day has begun his campaign to lead the Canadian Alliance party saying he has learned from past mistakes and the party is in better shape than it has been in a long time.

During an interview Tuesday, Day said Canadians, and the Liberal government, are looking at Canadian Alliance policies in a new light since September 11.

"The interesting thing that happened with that dark tragedy was that it showed our policies on safety and security, a common sense refugee system, support for our armed forces all the things the Liberals hate to do are what Canadians want to see happen," he told CBC Newsworld.

During a speech in Montreal Monday night announcing his candidacy, Day criticized the party's elite, many of whom spoke out against his leadership and pushed him to step down.

"Once again, the elites are saying this campaign cannot succeed," Day said in his speech. "We will show them that we will not be intimidated; we will stand strong for conservative principles and grassroots democracy, and we will not let them tell us how to think, speak and vote."

Other candidates' reaction

Earlier Monday, the others already in the race welcomed Day's entry.

"Day's entry shows that democracy is going to be the thing that drives our party," said Grant Hill. "My entrance in the race, of course, is because I think we need fresh new leadership."

Diane Ablonczy, one of the first to announce she'd run, said Day's decision will mean Alliance voters have a clear choice to make. "Mr. Day's entry will, I think, give members a chance to decide whether they want to go with the status quo, or whether they want to move the party in another direction," she said. "I think that'll be a very good debate."

Some critics had questioned Day's decision to announce his candidacy in Quebec, accusing him of hiding from Alliance supporters in the party's Western strongholds. But supporters countered that Day was simply trying to show he's the only candidate with a national profile.

Stephen Harper, considered by some to be the front-runner, said it didn't matter where Day made his announcement. "I think all the candidates will be focusing their efforts across the country," he said. "I think we've got good candidates and I think ultimately people are more concerned about the quality of the candidates than whether they live in a particular province."

Day promised to resign last summer, to calm the storm that had raged around the quality of his leadership for months. A poor showing in the 2000 federal election, coupled with a litany of gaffes, created a stream of Alliance members deciding to quit - or be pushed from - the party.

"This criticism turned into a full-fledged rebellion against not only my leadership, but against your values and your right to choose the leader of our party," Day said Monday. He said he felt bound to seek the leadership again because he still believes he's the most qualified candidate.

The Alliance will choose a new leader by mail-in vote in March.