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Cauchon to announce he will not seek Liberal leadership


From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Former justice minister Martin Cauchon will announce Wednesday that he will not enter the Liberal leadership race, which is now set as a battle of three.

In a statement obtained by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Cauchon says he wanted to run but it was simply too difficult to raise the money and build a machine.

“My passion for my country has never been stronger and I have been sorely tempted to enter the race. However, while my heart says yes, the realities of fundraising and organization are too daunting at this time,” he says in his statement.

Mr. Cauchon, once one of Jean Chrétien's Quebec cabinet heavyweights, is the last real potential contender to confirm he won't run, paving the way for a three-way fight featuring MPs Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc.

His decision to skip this year's race underlines how difficult it has been for potential challengers to find the backing to carve out a place in a race that in some ways seems like a second chapter to the 2006 contest.

Mr. Ignatieff is seen by many as the front-runner, but both he and Mr. Rae have established organizations from their 2006 bids, when they were overtaken on the convention floor by Stéphane Dion.

Mr. LeBlanc, a 47-year-old New Brunswick MP, is positioning himself as a youthful alternative to the two older men, both of whom are over 60.

Mr. Cauchon's move guarantees there will be no major Quebec candidate in the race. The last three Liberal leaders have all represented Quebec ridings.

In his lengthy statement, Mr. Cauchon warns that the Liberal Party has to stop bemoaning the strength of the Bloc Québécois, and make the party a palatable option for Quebec voters.

“Instead, we should be disappointed in ourselves for not offering a viable alternative. I have travelled virtually every road throughout the province and I know that we will succeed when we provide the kind of leadership and vision required to gain the trust and confidence of Quebec voters,” he says in the statement.

Mr. Cauchon's missive hinted that his political ambitions are not entirely in the past despite four years in the private sector, and many who know him believe the 46-year-old lawyer will run for the leadership one day.

Mr. Cauchon cited his own role in advancing the legalization of gay marriage, and argued that Liberals need to put forth “a clear plan to revitalize our economy, provide leadership on the environment, set a direction in world affairs and improve opportunities for our youth.

As he stepped aside, Mr. Cauchon also said he hopes this will be the last time the party chooses its leader at a convention. He called that an “antiquated” process and said technology should be used to give more Liberals a say in the choice.

Some Liberals have called for direct election of the leader by party members, or regional mini-conventions, rather than sending delegates to gather in an arena to make the choice. And several have warned that many elected delegates will not raise the money to travel to next May's convention in Vancouver.

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