The race to find a permanent leader for the federal Liberal party will kick off in July, setting off a 10-month campaign that will culminate in the spring of 2013, the party's national president says.
In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Mike Crawley told host Evan Solomon the leadership race will be triggered after the party's national board meets on June 13 to "clarify" the rules and "make clear under which circumstances" interim leader Bob Rae "would be able to run for the permanent leadership [of the party]."
Crawley would not confirm that the party will allow Rae to run. However, sources told CBC News on Thursday that the party's national board had already made up its mind and will permit Rae to enter the race.
"Our objective is to have a fair, open, transparent, and competitive leadership contest with multiple candidates, so you could expect the motion to reflect that," Crawley said.
The board will vote on the matter next Wednesday, and Crawley said its decision doesn't have to be unanimous.
When asked if 50 per cent plus one would be enough, Crawley said "a majority vote is certainly enough for that decision but we'd obviously be seeking greater consensus than that."
Rae is expected to announce his decision to enter the race within days of the party brass making the word official. Sources told CBC News on Thursday that he will give up the interim leadership post when the House adjourns for the summer recess at the end of June.
In a television interview that aired Wednesday on CBC's Power & Politics, Rae said he would be making an annoucement as soon as the party is clear on the rules.
"My understanding is the executive is going to be meeting next week. Once they've made their decision, you know, it'll take a few days for me to make mine," Rae told Solomon.
"But it won't take long. I think things will be cleared up, you know, in June."
Sources told CBC News that Rae has made his decision and has started prepping a team of staff to help with his leadership bid.
Reaction to Rae throwing his hat in the leadership race for the third time has been mixed. While political opponents have attacked him for his economic record during his time as Ontario Premier, some of the harshest criticism has come from within the party roots.
Liberal bloggers and grassroots activists have asked, in some cases even accused, Rae of breaking a promise he made to the national board last May not to run for the permanent leadership of the party.
When asked about this pledge, Crawley said he wasn't a member of the board at the time but "there was an understanding that the will of the board was that he [Rae] would not seek the permanent leadership as interim leader, that whomever was the interim leader would not do so, and that he [Rae] accepted that as the will of the board at that time."
When asked if Rae's time as interim leader would give him a leg up on other candidates seeking the permanent leadership, Crawley said the national board will be looking to "ensure" that "any candidates for the leadership would be on the same level, that no candidate would have any advantage over another by virtue of the office that they hold."
Crawley said the board's decision this week will "bring some clarity" to the issue.
"Profile isn't always the biggest consideration" going into a leadership race, he said.
Rae ran for party leader in 2006 and lost to Stephane Dion. In 2009, under pressure from within the party, Rae agreed to step aside as Michael Ignatieff sought to become leader. Rae was the Premier of Ontario from 1990 to 1995.
Other potential leadership contenders include New Brunswick MP Dominic Leblanc, Ottawa MP David McGuinty, astronaut-turned Montreal MP Marc Garneau, and former Toronto MPs Gerard Kennedy and Martha Hall Findlay.
David Bertschi, who waged an unsuccessful bid to represent the Ottawa-Orleans riding under the Liberal banner during the last election, is also considering a run for party leader.
Although Quebec MP Justin Trudeau hasn't denied having leadership ambitions, he has said that due to family reasons he does not plan to run for the time being.
The next interim leader will be appointed by the national board based on a recommendation made by the party caucus.
Crawley said a "very long" leadership race will "create the environment for a real vigorous debate about the way forward for the Liberal party and a way forward for Canada."
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