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Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks during an Ottawa news conference on June 9, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks during an Ottawa news conference on June 9, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Rae seeks alms to help Liberals fight Harper's 'permanent campaign' Add to ...

The pitch for money has begun again, less than two months since Canadians went to the polls and elected a majority Conservative government.

Bob Rae, the Interim Liberal Leader, sent out a fundraising letter late last week urging supporters to donate so Grits can have the "muscle to go toe-to-toe in the 'permanent campaign' that has become the hallmark of the Harperites."

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And this weekend, Senator Irving Gerstein, the chief Tory fundraiser, warned Conservative delegates at their policy convention not to be complacent, calling on party supporters not to let the "momentum slip away."

The Conservative government's decision to end the $2 per-vote taxpayer subsidy means they will lose $12-million, he noted. But the Liberals will be hit even harder by the elimination of the subsidy since they do not raise funds as effectively as do the Tories.

So Mr. Rae's pitch was aimed at engaging the grassroots. He says the party needs to be rebuilt from a "top-down machine" into a "bottom-up movement." Although tiny, Mr. Rae vowed the caucus will be "effective" and provide "vigorous opposition to the Conservatives and a source of lively competition for the NDP."

"Starting now, we must plant the seeds of this movement, one where the best ideas can emerge from your one-on-one conversations and quickly rise to the top," he says in his letter.

And in a follow-up blog post this weekend, Mr. Rae urged his members to listen carefully to the "triumphalist tone of the Conservative meeting in Ottawa" as it provides some clues as to future strategy.

"It confirms what anyone watching politics in North America and around the world knows only too well. The Conservatives and Republicans are running 'permanent campaigns' - their discipline and focus are admirable, their goals not so much," he wrote.

"Liberals have to understand that the campaign for the election in the fall of 2015 starts now. An election campaign no longer begins five weeks before e-day. It began on May 3rd. A campaign is about persuading people, identifying people, and then making sure they actually vote. The last step alone happens during the writ period. Everything else happens now."

SHOULD CANADA HELP OUST GADHAFI?

MPs are to debate the extension of the military mission in Libya on Tuesday, followed by a vote Wednesday. The Conservative government wants to fight for another three and a half months, ending the mission at the end of September. The motion has not yet been introduced but there are some hints as to what it will say.

The mission: When pressed on CTV's Question Period Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird would not go so far as to say the purpose of the mission now is to remove Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Rather, he said, "as a political objective, obviously we'd like to see him go."

The Liberals have a harder view. "As long as Mr. Gadhafi's in place and he has disregard for human life that by some means or another he must be eliminated from the scene, and so ... you're going to have to deal with that reality," Liberal defence critic John McKay said.

The motion: Mr. Baird allowed a few clues as to what MPs will debate Tuesday regarding the Libyan mission. He said the government has tried to make this a "non-partisan" debate and to "depoliticize it."

In addition, he ruled out putting boots on the ground. "We made a decision, the think the correct on, not to have ground troops," he said Sunday. "I don't think that will change."

Given that, he said the motion will also deal with a greater need for diplomacy and humanitarian aid - and "particularly to tackle the growing challenge of rape as an instrument of war," which he characterized as a war crime.

"This is something that is morally reprehensible to Canadian values, and it's something the opposition parties have pushed."

The money: So far the mission has cost $26-million and is expected to cost another $34-million by the end of September, for a total of $60-million. Mr. Baird noted that $8-million has already been put into humanitarian aid.

The opposition: The NDP and the Liberals simply want to know what extending the mission will entail. What began as a mission aimed at protecting civilians seems to have changed into trying to affect "regime change by force," NDP defence critic Jack Harris says. "We have some serious concerns about mission creep."

Mr. McKay noted that it's not clear to Liberals where Mr. Baird, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Prime Minister Stephen Harper want to take Canada's role in the mission.

"We have a stalemate, almost a bombing stalemate, and so it will be really good if the Prime Minister would lay forth some plan, particularly in the area of diplomacy and the area of aid, as to what we're going to be doing for the next three months, because in three months he may be back asking parliament for the same sore of thing."

Regardless, with the Tories now in control with a majority government, the opposition's vote is only symbolic.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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