Michael Ignatieff quits as Liberal leader

Michael Ignatieff is quitting as the Liberal leader after his party took an electoral drubbing on Monday night.

Ignatieff news conference

11 years ago
Duration 16:41
Liberal leader resigns and then takes questions

Michael Ignatieff is quitting as the Liberal leader after his party took an electoral drubbing on Monday night.

The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats in the House of Commons down from 77 and won only 18.9 per cent of the popular vote.

Not only did Ignatieff lead the party to its worst showing in its history, but he also lost his Toronto-area seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Ignatieff told a news conference that he will "not remain leader of party" and "will arrange succession in due time."

Ignatieff said he's asked Liberal Ralph Goodale to call a caucus meeting next Wednesday in Ottawa.

Despite his party's disastrous showing, Ignatieff said he believes the party can return as a political force. He said the Liberals were devastated in 1958 by John Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservatives and returned with Lester B. Pearson's minority governments.

'I think the surest guarantee of the future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP opposition.'—Michael Ignatieff

During the news conference, Ignatieff said Canada needs a party of the political centre. He downplayed talk of a merger with the NDP.

The NDP and the Liberals hold different traditions, and that, Ignatieff said, will make it difficult for the two parties to merge.

"People ask whether the Liberal Party has a future. I think the surest guarantee of the future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP opposition," Ignatieff said.

He said he found it difficult to recover from the negative advertising the Conservatives rolled out against him prior to the election campaign.

"Of course they attacked me, of course they vilified me," Ignatieff said. "Of course they engaged in an absolutely unscrupulous campaign of personal attack. But look, the only thing Canadians like less than a loser is a sore loser, and I go out of politics with my head held high.

"When Canadians met me, they thought, 'Hey, he is not so bad.' But I didn't meet enough Canadians."

The outgoing Liberal leader said he does not know what is next in his future, but he said he hopes to teach young Canadians.

Caucus to select interim leader Wednesday

"What I would like to do is go back and teach young Canadians," Ignatieff said. "I am a teacher born and bred, and I am looking — really looking — forward to teaching. No offers yet and no reasonable offers refused. But that is where I will go."

The Liberals caucus will meet next Wednesday to select an interim leader, and then the party must go through the process of picking a full-time leader.

Ignatieff said the process to select a permanent leader could happen by the fall. He said he's hoping the next Liberal leader may be a young woman.

"There must be someone out there, possible in the room this morning and possibly watching on television, who looks at me and thinks, 'He didn't get there, but I will," Ignatieff said.

"And I just hope that that person, possibly a woman, possibly a young woman, I hope it is a young woman, will hold true to that dream of public life and public service. It's what I believed in. It's what I've always believed in."

There is already speculation about possible replacements for Ignatieff.

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, who briefly launched a leadership bid in 2008 before dropping out to support Ignatieff, is not ruling out a potential run.

"I think I can and should play a big role in the rebuilding and the renewal of our party," LeBlanc said.

"I'm relatively young, I have the advantage of … being a francophone outside Quebec — which I always thought is an important ingredient in rebuilding our party."

Ignatieff lost key Liberal strongholds

Under Ignatieff's leadership, the Liberals suffered electoral casualties across the country, including in some of the party's traditional strongholds.

The Liberals were reduced to 12 seats in Ontario from the 37 they held before the election was called. Ontario had long been a fortress for the Liberals in federal elections, particularly when former prime minister Jean Chrétien won his three majority governments in 1993, 1997 and 2000.

The Conservatives and NDP each capitalized on the disastrous Liberal campaign that saw the defeat of many high-profile Liberals, such as Ken Dryden, Martha Hall Finlay, Gerard Kennedy and Mark Holland. Many of the Liberals that were defeated had also been considered future Liberal leaders.

Dryden, Hall Finlay and Kennedy had all run for the Liberal leadership in 2006.

The Liberals saw their seat count cut in half in Quebec. Early in the election campaign, the Liberals had hoped to win back seats in Quebec that they had lost to the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives.

Instead of adding new seats in Quebec, the Liberals were reduced to seven seats from 14 seats when the election was called. The NDP, meanwhile, was elected in 58 of 75 ridings.

Joined federal politics in 2006

Ignatieff was elected for the first time in Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 2006.

He became Liberal leader in 2009 after Stéphane Dion resigned as the party's leader.

Liberals Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc had declared their intentions to seek the party's top job but pulled out to endorse Ignatieff.

Before entering federal politics, Ignatieff had a successful academic career. Ignatieff taught at the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, Cambridge in Britain, the London School of Economics and l'École des Hautes Études in Paris.

He was also a professor at Harvard, where he was the director of the Carr Center for Human Rights for five years.