Liberals choose renewal in electing Crawley

Federal Liberals have elected Mike Crawley as their new party president. Liberals also voted in favour of legalizing marijuana, against severing ties with the monarchy, and in favour of a preferential balloting system.

Favour legalizing marijuana, reject severing ties to monarchy

Federal Liberals elected the former head of the party's Ontario wing Mike Crawley as their new party president, choosing him over Chretien-era, former cabinet minister Sheila Copps.

Crawley and Copps were said to be the two front-runners in what was deemed to be a very tight, and hotly contested race.

Liberal officials confirmed three requests for recounts were made by party brass before announcing the results. Sources told CBC News the race for party president was one of them.

The new Liberal party executive

  • President: Mike Crawley
  • Vice-President (English): Chris MacInnes
  • Vice-President (French): Imran Ahmad
  • National policy chair: Maryanne Kampouris
  • National membership secretary: Matthew Certosimo

"I am re-energized by all of you," said Crawley in his acceptance speech.

"The convention has expressed something very clear, that the way forward is about much more than all of us within these four walls. The convention signals a party that is clearly focused on the future."

"A party that will provide a truly new and fresh alternative to Canadians in the months and years ahead," said Crawley as he thanked Liberals for an "extraordinary" weekend.

Speaking to reporters after the results were announced, Copps said Crawley would make a "fantastic president."

Although gracious in her loss, Copps was not afraid to let her disappointment show, saying "I would have preferred a different result but democracy speaks."

"Mike has the leadership skills to pull it all together. I have complete confidence in Mike Crawley and the executive that's been elected," said Copps.

Liberals Alexandra Mendes, Ron Hartling and Charles Ward were also in the running for party president. Ward, however, dropped out of the race on Friday and endorsed Crawley. Crawley replaces outgoing party president Alfred Apps.

Priority resolutions

In his closing speech, interim party leader Bob Rae said it was clear that this convention was about "change and openness."

"We, Liberals, have embraced change as we rebuild this great national party," said Rae to a cheering crowd of supporters.

Earlier Sunday, Liberals voted in favour of legalizing marijuana, against severing ties with the monarchy, and in favour of a preferential balloting system.

An attempt to adopt a U.S.-style primaries system to choose the next party leader did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass, although Liberals did vote 52 per cent in favour of using a system of staggered regional voting days to elect a party leader.

With respect to the resolution on legalizing marijuana, Rae said "the war on drugs has been a complete bust."

When asked by reporters whether he favoured legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing it, Rae only said he was "comfortable" with the spirit of the resolution but that the party would have to look at the practical implications of turning it into official party policy.

Sunday's votes on party resolutions are not binding on the party leadership, but rather meant to give direction on positions the membership wants the party to take.

To that end, president of the Young Liberals of Canada Samuel Lavoie said he hoped to see the marijuana resolution in the next party platform in 2015.

The "overwhelming" support for the motion, would make it "hard for anyone to deny its existence," added Lavoie who was re-elected president of the Liberal youth wing.

The resolution, which was pushed by the Young Liberals, states that "a new Liberal government will legalize marijuana and ensure the regulation and taxation of its production, distribution, and use, while enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving."

Passionate arguments were heard on both sides of each policy debate, and in the case of the marijuana resolution Liberals voted 77 per cent in favour of legalizing the substance.

Quebec marijuana activist Marc-Boris St-Maurice urged Liberals to support the motion, adding "legalization is a good policy, prohibition is not."

Liberals also voted 67 per cent to reject a motion that would have seen Canada sever its ties with the monarchy. One young Liberal speaking against the motion, called it a "fringe issue," while another said it would be very "divisive" for the party.

Quebec Liberal MP Marc Garneau disagreed. He spoke in favour of severing ties with the monarchy, saying it was "important that we kick off this debate."

Finally, Liberals also voted 73 per cent in favour of a preferential balloting system. The motion states that the party "implement a preferential ballot for all future national elections."

Quebec Liberal MPs Justin Trudeau and Stephane Dion spoke in favour of it. Dion said the motion would lead to a "more civilized debate in our country."

Party leadership

On Saturday, the Liberals voted to allow "supporters" or non-members to vote for their next party leader.

Rae described that change as the "most significant issue" of the three-day conference.

"We're saying, literally, that the choice of the next leader should be up to all Canadians who are sympathetic to or supportive of the Liberal Party."

Rae still refused to say whether he would officially run for party leader, and Crawley would only say that "any decision with respect to the rules would be up to the executive of the party."

Director of the National Citizens Coalition Stephen Taylor released an attack ad via the PoliticsOntario YouTube channel Friday, giving Rae sympathizers a taste of what conservatives would do if Rae ran for the leadership of the party.

"He had doubled Ontario's debt and 100,000 people were left out of work. If he gets the chance, he'll do for Canada what he did for Ontario," says the negative attack ad.  

Other prominent Liberals such as David McGuinty, Marc Garneau, Dominic Leblanc, even Martin Cauchon have all left the door open to running for the Liberal leadership.  

A federal Liberal leadership race is not expected until 2013.