Levant decision to stand hurts Canadian Alliance party: observers

Observers call Levant's refusal to step down for new leader harmful to party unity.

Ezra Levant's decision to run in an important byelection will do nothing to help the Canadian Alliance unite behind the new leader, say political insiders.

On Wednesday, Levant announced that he was not going to step aside as the candidate for the Alliance in Calgary Southwest, the riding left vacant when Preston Manning resigned. Stephen Harper, the new Alliance leader, had said he would like to run in the riding.

Now some are criticizing Levant's move.

According to Alliance MP Scott Reid, Levant's decision will only make him look bad within the party.

"If Ezra had made the decision to step aside, he would have come in as a conquering hero in two years. Obviously that heroic welcome will no longer be there," said Reid, co-chair of Harper's transition team.

Public opinion researcher Bruce Cameron believes Levant's decision will cause further bickering within the party.

"You can only picture it as defiance of the new leader, really. Regardless of the spin they try to put on it," said Cameron.

The prime minister also weighed in on the issue, calling seven byelections for next month, including Calgary Southwest.

Harper says the timing of the byelections, coupled with Levant's decision to stay, make it almost impossible for him to run.

"There's obviously no way, with a week into the leadership, with a party assembly coming up and a nominated candidate in field that I could run in this byelection at any case," said Harper.

The riding's Progressive Conservative candidate is running on a Tory-Alliance unity platform. Jim Prentice says he plans to capitalize on what he calls the rift between Levant and Harper.