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inside caucus

Liberal House Leader Liberal Ralph Goodale speaks to reporters in Ottawa on April 29, 2010.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Like an elephant, the Liberal House Leader never forgets.

In the national caucus meeting yesterday, veteran Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale stood up to make an important announcement. A colleague described him as "hot" - hot under the collar and agitated.

He told MPs and senators, according to sources, that no one was to honour, give accolades or make complimentary statements in the House about Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the NDP veteran who announced this week that she is leaving federal politics. Tomorrow is her last day; she says she wants to spend some time with her family but there is strong speculation she will announce her bid for the Winnipeg mayoralty.

Why should Mr. Goodale care if his colleagues pay tribute to the feisty MP who has devoted 13 years service to federal politics?

He has not forgotten Ms. Wasylycia-Leis's role in the defeat of the Liberal government in the 2006 election and how his name was dragged into it. In fact, he has described the event as one of the most painful of his career.

At the time, Mr. Goodale was finance minister in Paul Martin's minority government. Income trusts and how the Liberals would handle them was a big issue. In November, 2005, Mr. Goodale he revealed the Liberals would not tax income trusts.

But Ms. Wasylycia-Leis, the NDP's finance critic, wrote to the RCMP Commissioner at the time, Giuliano Zaccardelli, asking the force to investigate allegations of leaks around the announcement as trading of income trusts spiked just hours before the announcement.

And in the midst of the election campaign that winter, the RCMP sent a letter to the NDP MP confirming a criminal investigation was under way; in a subsequent press release the Commissioner asked that Mr. Goodale's name be included, according to a Globe and Mail report.

Ms. Wasylcia-Leis immediately called for Mr. Goodale's resignation; it is believed that this incident led, in part, to the defeat of the minority Martin government. Stephen Harper and his Conservatives won.

The RCMP later admitted that including Mr. Goodale's name was not in keeping with past practices.

This, of course, raised the question of bias in the midst of an election campaign. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission, however, found no evidence of wrongdoing of "illegal activity on the part of anyone" - and that included Mr. Goodale.

When asked about Mr. Goodale's remarks about Ms. Wasylcia-Leis to his colleagues this week, his spokesman said Liberals do not comment on what goes on inside caucus.