Liberal leader to exit after successor named

Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:21pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Stephane Dion, leader of the official opposition Liberals, said on Monday he would resign in the wake of a humiliating election loss last week that he blamed on his rivals' attack advertisements.

Dion said he would stay on until the party can chose a new leader at a convention, most likely to be held in the first half of next year.

The Liberals last Tuesday 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 for the party since 1867.

"I will stay as leader until a new leader is chosen at a leadership convention that I have asked the party to begin to organize. I will not be a candidate for the leadership of my party at that convention," Dion said at a news conference.

Dion, a French speaker who has had trouble making himself understood in English, hampered his party's election chances by stressing the need for a carbon tax to cut greenhouse gas emissions at a time of high fuel prices and market turmoil.

Even before the campaign began, the ruling Conservatives ran advertisements portraying Dion as a weak leader and saying the proposed carbon tax would cause taxes to rise -- a point the Liberals vainly insisted was untrue.

"This propaganda cemented the mind-set of Canadians to the point that this was the main reason we lost," Dion admitted.

"To try to change that would be a tremendous effort and a risk that I don't need to impose on my party. There is another solution, that is, to prepare the ground for a new leader and to make sure he will not be vulnerable to the same kind of politics."   Continued...

<p>Stephane Dion listens to a question during a news conference to announce his resignation as leader of the Liberal party in Ottawa October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>