Canada opposition chief under gun after election

Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:11am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Stephane Dion, the leader of Canada's main opposition Liberals, will not have much time to decide if he will try to hang on to his job after the party produced one of its worst results ever in Tuesday's election, a senior party official said on Thursday.

The party won just 76 of Parliament's 308 seats -- a drop of 19 from the January 2006 election -- and gathered 26.2 percent of the vote, the lowest level since 1867.

Dion has not talked to the media since late on Tuesday. Aides denied a Toronto Star story that said the Liberal leader would announce on Thursday he was stepping down.

"They'll have to give him a week to think it over and then send in a delegation led by (campaign co-chair) David Smith," said one senior Liberal, who spoke on the grounds that he not be identified.

The Liberal said the delegation would not have the power to force Dion out, but added: "He's got to go."

Although Smith is urging Liberals to treat Dion with respect, party sources say feelers are already going out to potential replacements.

Major newspapers said Dion had to quit.

"With numbers like these, Dion does not deserve a second chance," said the Toronto Star, the country's largest circulation paper and a traditional backer of the Liberals.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Stephane Dion waves to supporters at his election night headquarters in Montreal, October 14, 2008. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>