Canada's Ignatieff quits as Liberal leader

Tue May 3, 2011 1:07pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Academic-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff quit as leader of Canada's once-mighty Liberals on Tuesday after steering his party from opposition to near irrelevance in Monday's federal election.

The Liberals, the second largest party in the outgoing Parliament, never captured voter attention in a five-week campaign that came to life only toward the end. They finished in a dismal third place for the first time in their history.

"I will not be remaining as leader of this party," a somber Ignatieff told a news conference the morning after the vote.

Ignatieff's approval ratings held below that of other party leaders throughout the campaign. The Liberals ended up with 34 seats, down from 77 in the outgoing Parliament, raising questions about the party's future as well as its leader's.

"People asked whether the Liberal Party has a future. I think the surest guarantee of a future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government, four years of NDP opposition," Ignatieff said.

The Conservatives won a solid majority on Monday, taking 167 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, and will be in power for four years. The New Democrats surged to take 102 seats and become the official opposition for the first time.

Ignatieff became Liberal leader when the party dumped his predecessor, Stephane Dion, after a poor showing in the 2008 election.

He said it will be up to others to decide whether the Liberals should now join forces with the New Democrats, but made clear his belief that the two parties have different traditions and values.   Continued...

<p>Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff waves as he and his wife Zsuszanna Zsohar leave after announcing his resignation as Liberal leader during a news conference in Toronto, May 3, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>