Liberal nomination races are heating up in Montreal as candidates are hoping to reclaim party strongholds or inherit the storied riding of Mount Royal that is widely expected to be left vacant by MP Irwin Cotler in the 2015 election.
The Liberal Party of Canada will hold its biennial convention in Montreal in February, where would-be candidates will be able to promote themselves for the open nomination meetings that will be held in all ridings later in 2014 or in 2015. A major push will come from Liberal supporters who will seek to run in a number of traditional Liberal strongholds in Montreal that were overtaken by the NDP during the 2011 "Orange Wave." Many Liberals hope the string of defeats that they suffered in Quebec in the last election will turn out to be a one-off event, and they point to the overall popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau among federalists in the province.
One of the hottest races is already under way in the newly created riding of Ville-Marie, in downtown Montreal. There are already two candidates seeking the Liberal nomination, and provincial political organizer Brigitte Legault is expected to jump into the race as well, sources said. Ms. Legault will continue to act as the senior organizer for the third-place Coalition Avenir Québec if the next provincial election is called in coming weeks, and then plans to return to her previous political home in the Liberal Party of Canada, sources said.
Ms. Legault ran for the Liberals in the 2008 federal election and worked as an organizer for the party before moving to the CAQ. The Liberal nomination in Ville-Marie is also being solicited by lawyers Bernard Amyot, who is a colleague of former prime minister Jean Chrétien, and Marc Miller, a boyhood friend of Mr. Trudeau.
While not all Liberals agree with the decision to hold nomination races across the country, Mr. Trudeau and his team feel it will ensure all candidates are grounded in their communities and have an organization in place when the election comes.
In the riding of Mount Royal, senior Liberal officials are operating on the assumption that Mr. Cotler, first elected in 1999, will not run again in the next election, sources said. In an interview, the 73-year-old Mr. Cotler said he has not made a decision about his future. Because the Liberals will hold open nomination meetings in all ridings, including his own, Mr. Cotler said he will need to make up his mind this year, instead of waiting closer to the election date as he had done in the past.
Mr. Cotler's departure would open up Mount Royal, which was held by Mr. Trudeau's father for nearly two decades. The Conservatives mounted a campaign to take over the riding, which has a strong Jewish community, but lost by more than 2,000 votes in the last election. The Conservative candidate in the riding, Saulie Zajdel, has since been charged with fraud in relation to his role in Montreal municipal politics.
Another well-known riding – St-Maurice-Champlain – is expected to be open in the next election. Liberal officials said that Lise St-Denis, who was elected as an NDP candidate before crossing the floor to the Liberal Party, "is not coming back." The departure would mean the arrival of a new Liberal candidate in an area that was long represented by Mr. Chrétien.
Some former Liberal MPs, namely Pablo Rodriguez and Alexandra Mendes, have also stated that they plan to run in their old ridings in Quebec. Still, the party is banking on Mr. Trudeau's star power to bring in fresh blood in their targeted ridings.
"We have been approached by dozens and dozens of people," said Mr. Rodriguez, who is acting as Mr. Trudeau's top organizer in Quebec in the lead-up to the election. "There are a lot of young professionals in their thirties and forties, men and women, who are interested in running for us."