Day fends off leadership questions as key caucus members resign

Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day says he won't step down as party leader in spite of resignations by two of his most trusted lieutenants.

Deputy leader Deborah Grey and House leader Chuck Strahl gave up their caucus jobs Tuesday morning, saying they can no longer back Day as head of the party.

Later in the day Grant McNally has stepped down as deputy House leader.

At a public appearance in Kingston, Ont., Day rejected reporters' questions about his leadership, saying he would "absolutely not" step down as party leader.

Said Day, "I am the leader of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition and ... I love what Her Majesty said. She's 75 years old and has no plans to retire."

In an interview with CBC News, Grey said she decided to step down because she couldn't back the leader 100 per cent anymore.

"I think his style of leadership is certainly different than what I was used to," she said. "It's new, it's different."

But she denied trying to force Day to step down. "I am not calling on him to do that, I am calling on him to take a long hard look at this," she said.

In a news release issued earlier, Strahl echoed those comments and said it's time for the party to build coalitions with other parties to end vote-splitting.

Grey and Strahl will continue to serve as Alliance MPs.

Mixed reaction in the ranks

The resignations have dismayed some in the Alliance's ranks.

"It's not good," said Alliance MP Monte Solberg. "I can't put a good face on it. It's a disappointment."

But others say the open debate is healthy. Alliance MP Art Hanger, who has openly called for Day's resignation, says he is pleased that the issue is now before the public.

"The issue of dealing with the Liberals is slipping through our fingers," he said. "I think the leader is squandering a wonderful opportunity."

But party whip John Reynolds denied that the resignations are part of a wider wave of discontent within the party. He said the Alliance is bigger than individual members.

"This has happened in the past in Canadian politics. Things will move on," he said.

Alliance MP Randy White, a Day supporter, agreed. "There is no revolt. These are people who haven't accepted Stock's leadership since he won it," he said.

Other parties reaction restrained

Conservative MP Peter MacKay said Grey and Strahl are welcome to join the Tories.

"I think philosophically they would be very comfortable with us," he said.

Prime Minister Jean Chrtien called Day's woes "pretty serious" but refused to comment further. "It's not my problem," he said. "For us, we're doing our job, our party's united, we have our agenda."

Complaints brewing for weeks

The moves come one day after Day's chief of staff, Ian Todd, resigned, the second chief of staff to step down during Day's nine-month tenure.

During the past few weeks there have been complaints by some party members, especially from those who were allies of former leader Preston Manning.

They expressed concern over Day's handling of recent issues, including the controversy over whether he met a private investigator the party was considering hiring.