Bob Rae On Liberal Leadership: Not Angling To Remove 'Interim' From His Title

Bob Rae

First Posted: 12/06/11 06:09 PM ET Updated: 12/07/11 03:26 PM ET

OTTAWA - Bob Rae says he enjoys being interim leader of the federal Liberals but that doesn't mean he's angling for the job permanently.

While he did not absolutely rule out a run for the permanent job, Rae took pains Tuesday in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press to quell tensions that have arisen within the party over his long-term aspirations.

Rae noted that the party's national executive appointed him as interim leader last May on condition that he promise not to run for the permanent job.

"The party has made its rules clear and I said at the beginning that I accepted those," he said.

"And I don't want there to be a kind of a continuing (issue) or any sense of ambiguity about that. It seems to me that's been pretty clear."

However, a new Liberal executive is to be elected next month and could choose to change the rules to allow Rae — under whom the Liberals have enjoyed a modest revival since their drubbing in the May election — to seek the top job permanently.

Former cabinet minister Sheila Copps, considered a front-runner for the party presidency, has said she personally thinks the prohibition against Rae should be dropped. However, other Liberals, including some MPs, are dead set against the idea, maintaining it would give Rae an unfair advantage in the leadership contest which is set for 2013.

Rae refused to speculate on what he might do should the executive change the rules. But he hinted he wouldn't necessarily jump at the chance to seek the job beyond the two years to which he's agreed to serve as interim leader.

"That'll be up to (the new executive) and anything they decide isn't binding on me ... I'm just not going to engage in that kind of speculation," he said.

Privately, some Liberals see recent high-profile speeches and an appearance Quebec's popular TV show, Tout le monde en parle, as signs that Rae is preparing the ground for a bid for the permanent leadership. He denied it.

"I certainly don't think I'm contributing to (the speculation). I'm just doing my job," Rae said.

"Somebody said to me, 'Well, you're obviously enjoying this, that means you want to be leader forever.' I said, 'No, it means I'm enjoying doing it now.'"

He pointed out that he said from the outset he wasn't interested in being simply a place-holder until a new permanent leader is chosen. He stipulated that he'd agree to the interim post only if he had at least two years in which to begin the hard work of rebuilding the shattered party.

"I told the party that if you want me to do this job, I'm going to do it and it's going to be done in a vigorous way and I think that's something that people expect."

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Filed by Christian Cotroneo  |