Bob Rae, 63, who has been interim head of the Liberals since Michael Ignatieff resigned after the 2011 election, stunned his colleagues Wednesday by revealing he would step aside.
“It hasn’t been an easy decision,” said Rae, who promised last year when accepting the interim leader’s post that he would forgo a bid for permanent leader.
“As time went on, more and more people started saying, ‘Well, are you interested in the permanent job?’” the former Ontario premier explained.
“I therefore have naturally been thinking about this question and been wrestling with it,” he said. “I’ve reached the conclusion that the way in which I can serve the party best is by not running for the permanent leadership.”
Since last summer, Rae provided his party with dynamic leadership in Parliament and most observers expected him to try to keep the job on a long-term basis. But some Liberals said privately Rae was hit with an unexpectedly negative backlash from within his own party after CBC-TV ran a story last week saying he was going to join the leadership race.
“What was clearly a trial balloon — leaking this stuff last week — clearly, the trial balloon did its job,” said one former Liberal MP. “The response was not, shall we say, what Bob was hoping for.”
The idea that Rae would go back on his pledge not to seek the permanent leadership angered some Liberals, insiders said.
Rae acknowledged the importance of this issue Wednesday, telling reporters: “For me, the foremost question was the reality that in accepting the interim leadership, I did it with the public expectations that I would not run for the permanent leadership.