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A quick survey of Liberal insiders reveals that the leader's Toronto-centric inner circle is nothing new in the history of the party - Lester (Mike) Pearson being a prime example.

Only in recent history is it an aberration.

"Ignatieff is going back to the past," says biographer John English, "rather than doing something that's a break from it." Mr. English should know. A former MP himself, Mr. English is known for his authoritative works on former prime ministers Lester Pearson, Arthur Meighen, Robert Borden and Pierre Trudeau.

So why Toronto? In the rivalry between Upper and Lower Canada, the former Montreal borough Westmount guarantees that Lower Canada wins in terms of old money. But while Montreal had the money, Toronto had the communications apparatus. "The media centre of English Canada was Toronto," says Mr. English, "and Keith Davey and Jerry Grafstein knew it."

Mr. Davey and Mr. Grafstein, now a senator, were two of the Torontonians who, after the Liberal election losses of 1957 and 1958, formed the group Cell 13. The group's goal was to strengthen the party in Ontario and rally behind their newly minted leader, Lester Pearson.

Over the years, Mr. Davey became synonymous with Liberal Party power brokering. He was a sales manager at a Toronto radio station before teaming up with Liberal heavyweight Walter Gordon to work in politics. Both operators brimmed with so much optimism for the party that author Christina McCall, in her 1982 chronicle of the Liberal Party, Grits , cast "Keith Davey as Candide and Walter Gordon as Don Quixote."

Mr. Trudeau at first surrounded himself with Montreal friends. However, after his near loss in 1972 he brought on Mr. Davey and his protégé, Jim Coutts, to help run the show.

Jean Chrétien appointed Jean Pelletier, the former mayor of Quebec, to run the Opposition Leader's Office prior to the 1993 election victory.

Along with Quebec lawyer Eddie Goldenberg, the two were Mr. Chrétien's most important advisers. But, as Stephen Clarkson relates in his Liberal Party history The Big Red Machine , "Chrétien was still not taken seriously." The party was not rallying behind him. In response, Mr. Chrétien gave important positions to people who also had ties to Toronto and English Canada: Peter Donolo, Chaviva Hosek, Dominic LeBlanc and John Rae.

Paul Martin is remembered within party ranks for disavowing himself from all things Chrétien. "They purged incumbents connected to the old regime, which they disowned by announcing major restructurings," writes Mr. Clarkson. However, his selected advisers still carried Toronto gravitas: Tim Murphy, Karl Littler and David Herle were all from Ontario.

Does the party's indebtedness to Toronto affect national relations?

The question now is whether the current heirs to the Rainmaker throne can do what their predecessors did for Pearson and Trudeau: deliver a win.