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Liberal buttons await supporters at Michael Ignatieff's election-night headquarters in Toronto on May 2, 2011. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Liberal buttons await supporters at Michael Ignatieff's election-night headquarters in Toronto on May 2, 2011. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

A month later, Liberals seek fresh start free of 'middle-aged white guys' Add to ...

Grassroots Grits have spoken and they want nothing less than a revolution - a party no longer dominated by "middle-aged white guys," no merger with the NDP, an effort to reach out to Quebec, time for deep reflection and an interim leader who can "reclaim and articulate the progressive centre."

Or at least so says Alfred Apps. The Liberal Party president posted his assessment, dated June 3, of the state of the Grit union a month after the election debacle on Facebook Monday. In it, he also proposes the next steps for the party rebuilding effort.

"Exactly one month ago, on the morning of May 3rd, Liberals across Canada awoke to deal with the consequences of the worst election defeat in our history - including the defeat of our leader in his own riding," Mr. Apps writes, rather dramatically.

Clearly, Liberals have told him that they want lots of time to rebuild before having to choose a new leader.

"Liberals everywhere recognize that time is on our side," he says. "They see that for the first time since 2004 our party is not facing a minority Parliament. They know that the possibility of genuine renewal is no longer precluded by the inherent strictures either of power on the one hand, or of an imminent election on the other."

But this policy re-thinking and party re-organization and rebuilding must not in any way be"predetermined or pre-cooked by party insiders," he says. In fact, he notes that Grits want a "culture of change" that focuses on engaging more women and aboriginals, youth and new Canadians - "and with very special and concerted attention to Quebec."

That means getting rid of the "'middle age white guys' like myself," Mr. Apps writes.

"After churning through four leaders in eight short years, many Liberals expressed resentment and fatigue over the cult and conflict of leadership which many argued, has dominated our party and poisoned our culture for too long, they want to select a new and permanent leader as a united party in as open and democratic a manner as possible, and for the long haul."

He says Liberals want "generational transformation of the party's leadership but also a generational renewal of the party's membership."

A merger with any other political party was ruled out, too, Mr. Apps says. "While every aspect of the future of Liberalism in Canada remains a legitimate matter for internal party debate and discussion and while everyone is entitled to have and voice their opinion, Liberals spoke out loudly and clearly that such matters are not and cannot be a matter for negotiation."

This would only happen if there was a democratic vote at a party convention, Mr. Apps notes. The interim leader does not have the power to negotiate a merger, he said. (Bob Rae, who is now the Interim Leader, had speculated about a merger when asked about it on election night.)

And he makes it clear that the Interim Leader is just that - Mr. Rae will not contest for the permanent leadership.

On June 18, Liberal delegates will vote at a so-called "extraordinary convention," which will be presided over by former House of Commons speaker Peter Milliken, to approve changing the constitution to allow for the party's biennial convention to take place in January and for a leadership convention to be held sometime between Nov. 1, 2012 and Feb. 28, 2013.

If this does not pass there will be a leadership convention on Oct. 29, 2011.

Mr. Apps says he has also called for a meeting of the party's national board in early to July to do a post-mortem on the election and look at financial restructuring, given the reduced amount of funding the caucus will receive now as third party in the House of Commons and the phasing out of the public per-vote subsidy.

"The silver lining of our recent defeat is the opportunity for a completely fresh start and for genuine change in how our party works," Mr. Apps says.

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