Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion moved yesterday to regain control of his Quebec troops, calling on them to show a "steely discipline," although he would not say what he would do if other dissenters pop up.
He has endured a series of attacks on his leadership in the past week from Liberal officials who say the party is unprepared for the next general election in Quebec.
After a series of meetings in Montreal yesterday, he publicly addressed the issue head-on for the first time, stating he will not tolerate any more open criticism as the party faces up to its "difficulties" in Quebec.
"I am the leader and I don't want people to be undisciplined," he said. "Our party comes back from far in Quebec, we have an enormous amount of work to do."
Mr. Dion reminded Liberals that they have to start getting in line immediately to be ready for the next campaign.
"In an election, a steely discipline is necessary to win," he said. Asked about the sanctions at his disposal, he refused to elaborate, stating the party has "procedures" in place.
Also yesterday, a Montreal newspaper reported that Mr. Dion's leadership was privately called into question by deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
Mr. Ignatieff issued a statement later in which he denied making negative comments about Mr. Dion, and reaffirmed his loyalty.
"I have worked tirelessly for our party and our leader and will continue to work with our strong Liberal team to ensure we win the next election," Mr. Ignatieff said. "No one has the right to call my loyalty into question."
Mr. Dion insisted that he has the support of Mr. Ignatieff and his entire caucus.
"I have a much better team than [Conservative Leader and Prime Minister Stephen]Harper. Not only is it better, it's united," Mr. Dion said.
Mr. Dion's close supporters in Quebec, including Trudeau-era minister Serge Joyal, also called yesterday for greater discipline among party activists.
"They don't seem to realize that we are in a war and in that war, you shoot at the outside, not the inside. You won't improve the situation if you kill some of your own soldiers," Mr. Joyal, who is now a Liberal senator, told CTV News.
However, a Liberal strategist said that while Mr. Dion has the right message, he still has to prove that he can deliver a strong campaign in Quebec.
"It will take more than a news conference to convince people that things are going to change," the strategist said.
Liberal MP Raymonde Folco openly questioned the party's election readiness in Quebec this week. She argued it takes too long to name candidates in ridings that are actively being courted by the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Conservative Party.
She called on Mr. Dion to set clear deadlines for his organizers to be ready in Quebec. "Now's the time for him to show what he is made of," she said in an interview two days ago.
"He is my leader, he is the person elected by the members of the party and I respect that. But he has things to do, and he has to do them quickly."
Steven Pinkus, the Liberal vice-president for Quebec's anglophone community, said the results "won't be pretty" in Quebec if there is a general election.