POLITICS
08/14/2011 03:27 EDT | Updated 10/14/2011 05:12 EDT

Liberals In Quebec: Bob Rae Says Party Faces 'Particular Challenge'

Flickr: scazon

MONTREAL - The Liberals face "a particular challenge" as they try to win back support in Quebec, says the party's interim leader Bob Rae.

Rae said Quebecers showed a willingness to look for change when they voted for the NDP in record numbers on May 2.

But he said the Liberals need to figure out why they weren't the party of choice for most Quebec voters.

"Quebecers showed an openness to change, but they didn't choose us," Rae told reporters in Montreal. "I think we have to recognize that."

Rae was in the city as part of a countrywide tour leading up to a Liberal caucus meeting at the end of August, as the party tries to rebuild following its devastating result in the last election.

The Liberals had their worst showing in Canadian history. More than half their caucus was defeated and the NDP replaced the Liberals as official opposition, as the party jumped from a single seat to 58 in Quebec.

The good news, Rae said, is that the era of Bloc Quebecois dominance in the province appears to be over.

The goal now should be to figure out how to win back voters from the NDP, he said.

Pundits have argued the party is still haunted in Quebec by controversies of its recent past, such as the sponsorship scandal.

May's election left the Liberals with seven MPs in Quebec.

"I think we face a particular challenge in Quebec," Rae said.

"We obviously have work to do to persuade Quebecers in particular that we are a party of change, we are a party that listens to them, and we are a party that wants to be their voice."

Following a meeting with party members, Rae attended Montreal's annual gay pride parade Sunday afternoon.

New Democrat interim leader Nycole Turmel also attended the festivities.

After a tumultuous start to her post as interim leader, in which it was revealed she was formerly a member of the Bloc Quebecois, Turmel said she's now preparing for the fall parliamentary session.

"I feel confident," she said. "I would say that this is the past, what happened. I'm really focusing on the future of the NDP.

By Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press