Cablegate: Dumping Dion (Part Ii)

DE RUEHOT #1529/01 3432025
O 082025Z DEC 08

"C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001529


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2018

B. OTTAWA 1518
C. OTTAWA 1516

Classified By: PolMinCouns Scott Bellard, reason 1.4 (d)

1. (C) Summary. Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion on
December 8 indicated his intention to resign as leader of the
Official Opposition. Michael Ignatieff remains the front
runner to replace him, but it appears that the selection
process is still not a slam dunk. Technically, the 77-member
Liberal caucus of MPs does not have the authority to name an
interim leader; only a separate 32-member National Executive
can. Rival Bob Rae is still fighting to have the National
Executive, with possible support from the large patches of
Canada that do not have Liberal MPs, insist on a
one-member-one-vote selection process instead. All this
confusion is probably welcome news for the ruling
Conservative Party. One way or another, Canada's unexpected
and unusual political drama will continue well into 2009.
End Summary.

2. (C) The beating of wardrums clamoring for the immediate
resignation of Official Opposition Liberal Party leader
Stephane Dion picked up new rhythm with a December 6 op ed
piece by Liberal former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley in
""The Globe and Mail."" Dion was already a lame duck leader
(ref a), having immediately after the disastrous Liberal
showing in the October 14 federal election announced his
intention formally to resign following an expected May 2,
2009 vote at the national Liberal convention. His inept
performance during the political dramas during the week of
December 1 (refs b and c) was apparently the final straw for
Liberal loyalists.

3. (U) Dion made public his resignation letter on December
8, insisting that his ""earlier departure does not change the
facts of the situation that the Prime Minister has created in
the last two weeks."" The letter further made explicit that
his resignation, however, would come into effect ""as soon as
my successor is chosen."" He reiterated support for the
Liberal/New Democratic Party alliance as a ""solid basis to
give Canada a government that reflects both the aspirations
of the majority of Canadians and the support of the majority
of Members of Parliament.""

4. (C) Unfortunately for the Liberals, the mechanics of
choosing a new leader are more complex than many may have
realized. According to the Liberal Party constitution, a
permanent leader can only emerge from a vote at a national
convention of elected delegates. Currently, the selection of
delegates will be March 6-8, 2009, with the convention in
Vancouver April 29-May 3. The party constitution nonetheless
stipulates that, should a leader resign or announce the
intention to resign, only the National Executive -- a 32
member board of whom the party leader and another caucus
representative are the only MP representatives, while others
are mostly senior officials of the national party and heads
of the provincial Liberal parties -- can choose an interim
leader. The National Executive is obliged to meet within 27
days of the resignation of the leader, and only to hold
""consultations"" with members of the caucus.

5. (C) Further complicating the situation is that
leadership candidate Bob Rae has not bowed to the perceived
momentum toward choosing Michael Ignatieff as interim party
leader (whose position would logically then receive formal
endorsement at the May 2 party convention vote). (By
contrast, would-be rival Dominic LeBlanc stepped aside on
December 8 in favor of Ignatieff, ""the consensus choice."")
Ignatieff supporters have claimed that they have at least 55
members of the 77 person Liberal caucus supporting him.
However, in an open letter/email message to Liberal members
on December 7, Rae underscored that the caucus was
unrepresentative of the party, with only ""literally two
Liberals between North Bay, Ontario and Vancouver, BC"" and
""without representative from most of francophone Quebec
outside of Montreal."" He called instead for use of a
""one-member-one-vote democratic leadership selection"" --
which other Canadian parties use but which the 2006 Liberal
national party convention had explicitly rejected -- and
claimed that the National Executive was ""working on"" such a
plan to put in place immediately. He urged members to weigh
in with the National Executive and ""put a stop to this hasty,
ill-considered idea"" of permitting a ""closed caucus vote"" to
decide on an interim leader.

6. (C) Comment: The ruling party Conservatives may well be
cackling with glee as they watch yet another unnecessary
mis-step by Dion as well as the resurgent leadership
rivalries -- and long-standing enmities -- within the Liberal
Party. Ignatieff's selection would likely be the death knell
of the Liberal/NDP coalition, whereas Rae's selection would

OTTAWA 00001529 002 OF 002

keep this option alive -- and this is the additional factor
that Liberal MPs and nationwide members are also probably
weighing. One way or another, Canada's unexpected and
unusual political drama will continue well into 2009.

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