Ignatieff vows to stay as long as party wants

Despite a national defeat, Michael Ignatieff says he wants to go on as leader of the Liberals as long as the party wants him.

On Monday, Ignatieff’s party placed third, behind the Conservatives and the NDP. As of 3:30 a.m., May 3, the Conservatives had won 168 seats (40 per cent), while the NDP accumulated 103 seats (31 per cent) and Ignatieff’s Liberals garnered 33 (19 per cent).

At the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, supporters and members of the media awaited Ignatieff and his reaction as they watched the Liberals fall to third place on the television screens. He addressed the audience late Monday night.

“This party needs the continuity,” Ignatieff said.“This party needs the faith to continue the work that we have done. I’m willing to serve and help us do that work of renewal, reform and growth.”

Liberal supporters grew increasingly subdued as they watched CBC’s Peter Mansbridge describe that for first time in Canadian history the Liberals had fallen to third in a federal election.

Even so, when Ignatieff stepped up on the stage at the hotel, he told his supporters there shouldn’t be any tears.

“There should be pride: for what we fought for, for what we believed, for our faith in the great traditions of this party,” Ignatieff said.

Rheal Lavallee, a Liberal supporter at the Sheraton Centre, said the party has to start from scratch.

“(Ignatieff) should help the party and continue to build it,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee expressed worry over a Conservative majority government in Canada. Ignatieff also characterized the election results.

“We’ve seen … the emergence of a polarization in Canadian politics,” Ignatieff said. “We have a government that will pretend to govern from the centre and there’s a risk that it will move the country to the right. We will have an official opposition that will criticize from the centre, but possibly move the country to the left.”

The Liberal leader explained that his party’s role has always been to keep the centre of Canadian politics alive. Ignatieff said he would dedicate himself to rebuilding his party and its political role.

The Liberal leader will address the media later this morning.