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Liberal leader Bob Rae rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal leader Bob Rae rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Rae won't rule out bid for permanent Liberal leadership Add to ...

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae says he’ll stay at the helm of his party until it selects his successor – he just won’t say whether that successor could be him.

Banned from running under current party rules, Mr. Rae won’t be pinned down on whether he thinks a change in those rules is in order.

“Now you’re asking what President [Franklin]Roosevelt used to call iffy questions,” said Mr. Rae at a news conference Friday. “And I don’t answer iffy questions.”

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“The party made a decision with respect to the choice of the interim leader,” he said. “They have made rules, and I’ve said all the way through that I’d live by those rules.”

Mr. Rae, at an end-of-year news conference in downtown Toronto, attacked the Conservatives on the economy. He said Stephen Harper’s government is out to protect the interests of the rich at the expense of the working class.

Payroll taxes, including employment-insurance premiums, are due to rise Jan. 1, at the same time that Tories are mulling a cut in corporate taxes, he said. Such measures will set back Canada’s economic recovery and take “money right out of the pockets of low-income people,” he added.

Mr. Rae was appointed interim Liberal leader this spring after Michael Ignatieff led the party to a third-place finish for the first time in its modern history. The Tories garnered a majority government as the NDP took over the Official Opposition.

“The lesson is you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you start all over again,” Mr. Rae said. “The key word is resilience.”

Last summer Mr. Rae took over the party on the condition that he not use his heightened profile to seek the job permanently. Yet some Liberals feel he has done such a good job filling the role that they are suggesting that rules change before the party holds a leadership convention slated for 2013.

Having never shut the door on a leadership run, Mr. Rae, a former Ontario Premier, certainly sounds comfortable in his job.

“We’re an effective opposition party. I’ve been in a lot of three-party contests before. I did that in another life, in another movie, and we can do it again,” Mr. Rae said Friday.

“It’s just a matter of being relevant, being focused, having something to say and saying it a way people will remember.”

He said the Liberals will be stumping in Quebec in early 2012 to pick up votes that now appear to be up for grabs. “I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time there in the new year and doing what I can to have an impact.”

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