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."
Best MPs On Twitter
Here's our totally unscientific look at which Canadian politicians are making the best use of Twitter. (CP)
14. Rona Ambrose
Tory ministers dominated our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/09/worst-mps-twitter-canada_n_1504199.html?ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">worst MPs on Twitter list</a>, but <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/MinRonaAmbrose" target="_hplink">Rona Ambrose</a> is an exception to the rule. While she could stand to pick up a few more followers, Ambrose is on the right track, heavily peppering her feed with retweets. She also responds to journalists, a sure sign of a strong political account. (CP)
13. Marc Garneau
Besides tweeting at a furious pace, former astronaut and current Liberal MP <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/MarcGarneau" target="_hplink">Marc Garneau</a> can be seen regularly carrying on conversations with other users. Nothing warms our hearts more than to see one of our politicians engaging with Canadians. (CP)
12. Peter Julian
NDP MP <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/mpjulian" target="_hplink">Peter Julian</a> is active, interesting and engaged. Good number of photos as well. (CP)
11. Denis Coderre
With nearly 60,000 followers, <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/DenisCoderre" target="_hplink">Denis Coderre</a> is one of the most popular Canadian MPs on Twitter. He responds to users, retweets news and generally keeps things lively and diverse. And although most of his tweets are in French, he's not afraid of an English post from time to time. (CP)
10. Carolyn Bennett
Liberal MP <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/Carolyn_Bennett" target="_hplink">Carolyn Bennett</a> has more than 7,000 tweets, a sure sign of a Twitter addict. She also has been known to <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/Carolyn_Bennett/media/slideshow?url=http%3A%2F%2Fyfrog.com%2Fnyvsfevj" target="_hplink">tweets photos of her dinner</a>, a sure sign she stays connected at all times. (CP)
9. Olivia Chow
With more than 17,000 followers, Olivia Chow doesn't need our help. But we love her tweets, especially the funny ones. This <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/oliviachow/status/198021722232979457" target="_hplink">Rob Ford zinger stands out</a>: "Dear journalists, the lilac tree in front of my #Toronto house is in bloom, come and take a photo by the fence, I won't call 911." (CP)
8. James Moore
Another Tory minister who bucks his party's Twitter trend is <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/JamesMoore_org" target="_hplink">James Moore</a>. His account shows all the usual signs of engagement, but to be perfectly honest it was the <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/JamesMoore_org/media/grid" target="_hplink">cute photos</a> of his <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/JamesMoore_org/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2FrFgZ2LPR" target="_hplink">two dogs</a> that secured his spot on the list. (CP)
7. Megan Leslie
NDP MP <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/meganlesliemp" target="_hplink">Megan Leslie</a> has one of the most active accounts in Parliament. Our favourite tweet in recent months? "Finally found a parking spot in Whitehorse. No need to call Bev Oda's driver. http://yfrog.com/nwtxmtzj" (CP)
6. Peggy Nash
Unlike <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/09/worst-mps-twitter-canada_n_1504199.html?ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">Thomas Mulcair, who has stopped tweeting</a> since the end of the NDP leadership contest, <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/PeggyNashNDP" target="_hplink">Peggy Nash</a> continues to post up a storm. Her appearance on this list also has a lot to do with her <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/PeggyNashNDP/status/197057876865454081" target="_hplink">recent allusion to the cartoon "South Park."</a> (CP)
5. Justin Trudeau
What can you say about <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/JUSTINPJTRUDEAU" target="_hplink">Justin Trudeau</a>? He's the rock star of Canadian politics and his Twitter stats show it. More than 130,000 followers and a verified check mark -- the surest sign of an online celeb. And while <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/13/justin-trudeau-blackberry_n_1342509.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost got into a minor tiff with Trudeau over a tweet</a> he sent out earlier this year about his BlackBerry, we're still big fans of the Liberal MP's stream. What other Canadian politician would have the guts to tweet a photo like <a href="http://twitpic.com/3aqlx9" target="_hplink">this</a>. (CP)
4. Jason Kenney
<a href="https://twitter.com/#!/kenneyjason" target="_hplink">Jason Kenney's Twitter stream</a> often resembles a travel journal. The Immigration Minister spends a lot of time travelling the country and it shows in his feed and photos. Something else we've learned from following Kenney? <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/kenneyjason/media/grid" target="_hplink">He loves purple ties</a>. (CP)
3. Tony Clement
Alright, we know we already put <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/tonyclementcpc" target="_hplink">Tony Clement</a> on our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/09/worst-mps-twitter-canada_n_1504199.html?ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">worst MPs on Twitter list</a>, but we do have a love hate relationship with the Tory minister. While his tweets have grown less interesting since <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/10/tony-clement-jackass-twitter_n_1196261.html" target="_hplink">Jackass-Gate</a>, Clement is still miles ahead of most MPs when it comes to using social media. No wonder he's been<a href="http://www.canada.com/news/Tony+Clement+vows+innovative+open+government+critics+point+poor+record/5940420/story.html" target="_hplink"> tasked with leading the Conservatives' Open Government initiative</a> to put more federal info online. (CP)
2. Bob Rae
'Interim' Liberal Leader Bob Rae may not have captured his party's permanent top job yet, but he definitely hold the attention of his Twitter followers. All 26,000 of them. He gets in on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/bobraeMP/media/slideshow?url=http%3A%2F%2Fyfrog.com%2Fh03w0bmj" target="_hplink">photo meme action</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/14/bob-rae-twitter-bs-young-liberals_n_1149155.html" target="_hplink">isn't afraid to use colourful language</a>. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/09/worst-mps-twitter-canada_n_1504199.html?ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">Compared to the accounts of fellow leaders Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper</a>, an absolute gem. (CP)
1. Elizabeth May
She may be the leader of the smallest party in Parliament, but <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/elizabethmay" target="_hplink">Elizabeth May</a> punches way above her weight online. The Green Party leader has nearly 40,000 followers, roughly triple the count held by <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/thomasmulcair" target="_hplink">Thomas Mulcair</a>. How did she become such a digital success? One word: engagement. May's stream shows consistent interaction with followers and journalists. The leaders of the larger parties could learn a thing or two from this plucky underdog. (CP)