Ignatieff seen moving Liberals to center

Tue Dec 9, 2008 5:46pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberals will shift away from the left and name former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff to lead the party against the Conservative government after the Liberals suffered a crushing defeat at the polls in October.

The path cleared for Ignatieff to become leader of Canada's main opposition party on Tuesday, when the last of his rivals bowed out of the race to succeed Stephane Dion, who had moved the Liberals to the left when he took the party over in 2006.

Bob Rae, who is also on the left of the party, pulled out after he said it became clear he did not have as much support as Ignatieff.

"We have a fine leader in Michael. We've got every prospect of forming a government and winning whatever elections may come, or forming a government with our coalition partners," Rae told a news conference held to announce his decision.

Rae had been and remained an advocate of joining the left-leaning New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois in bringing down the minority Conservatives and installing a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

The three parties had signed an agreement to do just that a little more than a week ago, but Ignatieff subsequently said a vote against the government should not be automatic and the party should wait to see what is in the government's budget when it is presented on January 27.

The coalition idea fell flat with the Canadian public and boosted the Conservatives' support to the extent that they might win a majority government if an election were held now.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper reached out to the next Liberal leader, offering to sit down with him to find common ground on the economy and saying it was too soon for Canada to hold another election after the October 14 vote.   Continued...

<p>Liberal Member of Parliament Michael Ignatieff announces his candidacy for the Liberal Party of Canada leadership at a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>