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The contest for the next Liberal party president will be decided by 2,500 party delegates who will gather in Ottawa from Jan. 13-15. (Jonathan Hayward/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
The contest for the next Liberal party president will be decided by 2,500 party delegates who will gather in Ottawa from Jan. 13-15. (Jonathan Hayward/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Liberals to vote on complete overhaul Add to ...

Federal Liberals will be asked to decide whether their party needs a complete overhaul when they choose their next party president at a convention next week.

There are five people in the race to succeed outgoing president Alf Apps. The front-runners appear to be former cabinet minister Sheila Copps and Mike Crawley, the former president of the party’s Ontario wing.

Mr. Crawley has said he would introduce fundamental changes to the way the party operates. The Liberals endured a stunning defeat during the spring election, losing Official Opposition status. The party has opted to go through a period of rebuilding before electing someone to replace former leader Michael Ignatieff.

The next party president will steer that rebuilding process.

On Tuesday, Mr. Crawley received some high-profile support for his proposals for change.

Belinda Stronach, another former cabinet minister who started her political career as a Conservative but ended it as a Liberal, said she would be backing Mr. Crawley.

“We now have a fantastic opportunity to innovate and to entertain bold new ideas. We need a president who reflects this,” Ms. Stronach said in making her endorsement public .

Mr. Crawley’s “dedication and commitment to modernizing the party and ensuring our members have a direct voice in policy development, in constitutional change and in the election of our leader are (his) great strengths,” she said.

Ms. Copps has received some high-profile endorsements of her own, including that of former cabinet minister and party president Iona Campagnolo and Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

In a letter sent to Liberals this week, Ms. Copps says is it time to identify and mobilize Liberal voters.

“We failed to achieve this last May, when 1,500,000 Liberals stayed home on Election Day. We performed so poorly that we lost our deposit in one-third of the ridings.

“Never again,” she writes. “Let’s start work now to win the next election, by establishing ourselves as the only practical alternative to the Harper neoconservatives.”

Also running for party president are Ron Hartling of Kingston, Ont., Charles Ward of Lethbridge, Alta., and Alexandra Mendes, a former Montreal MP.

The contest will be decided by 2,500 party delegates who will gather in Ottawa from Jan. 13-15.

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