Rae ponders Liberal leadership after riding win

The mood was one of reflection and victory for Liberal incumbent MP Bob Rae and his supporters — as they retained his seat in the Toronto Centre riding in Monday’s federal election.

Crowds of boosters gathered at a restaurant on Front Street not only to celebrate with the veteran politician but also in anticipation of a possible Rae bid for the Liberal leadership. It seemed obvious to many in the room that party leader Michael Ignatieff was on his way out, considering the Liberals’ dismal showing across the country and Igantieff’s loss of his own seat.

Standing beside his wife Arlene, Rae described his emotions as a mixture of glad and sad, and he emphasized the need for change in the Liberal party, in light of its new third-party status in the House of Commons.

“There’s been some bittersweetness,” he said. “Sweet because we’ve once again been successful in the constituency of Toronto Centre, and bitter because quite clearly we were defeated in this election, which means we now have to look back at what happened.”

For NDP challenger Susan Wallace, Rae was a worthy adversary, but not the face of change she believes Toronto Centre constituents want. She said she will not give up on building NDP fortunes in the downtown riding.

“I absolutely plan on running in the next election,” she said. “I’m building momentum by being present in the riding by knocking on doors and working with local youth groups like the Esplanade youth group.”

When asked if he will lead the Liberal party, Rae said he is not yet ready to make that decision. But his rather enthusiastic tone on moving the party forward may have suggested otherwise to some.

Well, that’s part of a longer discussion,” he said. “The leadership is part of the renewal process, which I think everyone has to consider what’s in the best interest of the party and the country, and I want to reflect on that before making any decisions.”

Some others already suggested as contenders for the Liberal leadership include Montreal MP Justin Trudeau, Ottawa MP David McGuinty and New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc.