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Liberals urged to take stunning blow on the chin

Michael Ignatieff announces his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party at an emotional press conference on May 3, 2011.

Mike Cassese/Reuters/Mike Cassese/Reuters

Calling their election defeat "a deeply personal experience," Liberal Party president Alfred Apps is appealing to all Liberals now to put that behind them, regroup, assign no blame and begin the long process of rebuilding.

"Our future as a party will depend, more than ever, on preserving our unity, broadening our vision and keeping clear and cool heads over the coming weeks and months about what we need to do," Mr. Apps wrote in a two-page letter to Liberals, released Wednesday.

Many Liberals fear that the election result has now divided the country more sharply between left and right, leaving little room for a party of the centre.

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But Mr. Apps is not giving up on Liberalism. He says it's not "dead in Canada."

"Far from it," he wrote. "Our commitment as Liberals remains to a resolutely centrist political party, to a program that blends and balances fiscal responsibility with social compassion. … We must not now surrender to tired ideologies, whether of the right or left, in search of what can work in the real world to make the lives of Canadians better."

The Toronto lawyer, who was one of the troika to travel to Cambridge, Mass., to encourage Michael Ignatieff to quit Harvard University to join the Liberal Party - with the idea of him eventually becoming leader - is now warning about falling into the trap of finding an easy fix.

"This is not the time for making rash judgments or speedy conclusions," he said. "This is not the time for Liberals to be seduced by political expediency or parliamentary convenience."

He said, too, it was not a time to point fingers or for hand-wringing. Rather, "we need to move forward to a reasonable period of constructive stability and collective reflection."

Mr. Ignatieff announced his intention Tuesday to resign as Liberal leader after the disastrous outcome Monday that saw the party reduced to a mere 34 seats. Mr. Ignatieff lost his own seat in Toronto, where the once-mighty Liberal fortress there collapsed.

It was a humiliating loss.

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Mr. Ignatieff's announcement means yet another Liberal leadership convention; every election, it seems, there is a new Liberal leader. It will be the fourth since Paul Martin took over from Jean Chrétien in 2003.

Liberal caucus is to meet next week to decide on an interim leader; the national board of the party will have to decide on a date for a future convention - the earliest possible date would not be until next year.

In his letter, Mr. Apps also appealed for the party to be more inclusive through this renewal process and to "respect the honestly held viewpoints of each party member, including all in our deliberations."

This is no time for the "faint-hearted," he wrote, asking those who want to help to "dust" themselves off and commit to work.

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