Liberal loss 'long time coming': Manley

Former deputy prime minister John Manley says the Liberal Party's loss in the May 2 election was a long time coming, and it needs a fundamental change of attitude.

John Manley

12 years ago
Duration 15:08
The former Liberal cabinet minister and leadership candidate on last week's election

Former deputy prime minister John Manley says the Liberal  Party's loss in the May 2 election was a long time coming, and it needs a fundamental change of attitude.

"The erosion of traditional Liberal support started quite a while ago and it has continued through this election, losing some constituencies that had been held for a long, long time and, more importantly, some groups that had been Liberal supporters for a long, long time," Manley, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2003, told Evan Solomon on Power & Politics.

"I have to say some of the powerbrokers in the Liberal Party that controlled power right through to a week ago basically always thought there was a right that that party had, [as] the natural governing party, to resume office and  to restore entitlements."

The Liberals went from 77 seats before the election to just 34, losing official opposition status to the NDP. Leader Michael Ignatieff lost his own Etobicoke-Lakeshore seat.

Manley said the election defeat wasn't Ignatieff's fault.

"I think he ran a good campaign, I think he did the best that he could, but he inherited a problem that had been a long time coming."

The former Liberal, who said in the interview he's not a partisan, was an MP from 1988 to 2004. He says there's room in Canada for a party that's fiscally responsible and socially progressive, and suggested the party give free memberships to encourage people to join. He also suggested eliminating many of the smaller groupings within the party.

"Get rid of all these commissions of minor power brokers. The youth commission, the women's commission, the aboriginal commission, the elders commission. This is all part of a structure that rests like a burden not only for costs but on the decision making."

New rules for interim leader

Manley spoke the day after Liberal brass approved rules which seemed designed to prevent Bob Rae and Ralph Goodale from becoming interim leader of the decimated party.

The party's national board has issued a final statement outlining a plan to defer a vote for permanent leader for up to two years and laying down conditions for choosing an acting leader in the interim.

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The final plan, obtained by The Canadian Press, is not much different than a draft plan leaked Monday, which seemed designed to prevent Toronto MP Rae from becoming interim leader if he has full-time leadership ambitions.

But the final plan now stipulates that the interim leader must be bilingual, whereas the draft had suggested a unilingual leader would be acceptable provided that a "native francophone" deputy was appointed.

The final version would seem to rule out Goodale, a veteran Saskatchewan MP who speaks little French.

The board also now says that Liberal senators, who were excluded in the draft plan, will be given a partial say in choosing the interim leader, although their views will carry less weight than elected MPs.

The board is continuing to insist that the interim leader must vow, in writing, not to seek the permanent leadership or pursue any discussions about merging the Liberal party with the NDP.

With files from The Canadian Press