Libs stick with Vancouver convention

Party to select successor to Dion from April 30 to May 3, 2009
Source: Canwest News Service; with a file from Christina Montgomery
OTTAWA — Vancouver will host the $10-million party when federal Liberals gather May 2 to pick a replacement for leader Stephane Dion.
Party president Doug Ferguson announced yesterday that the national executive decided to stick with Vancouver as the site of the convention, to be held April 30 through May 3, 2009.
The 22-member executive rejected rival bids from Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City to host as many as 10,000 delegates and rake in at least $10 million.

Early this month,Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan asked the party to stick with its original choice of Vancouver’s new convention centre.
“Relocating the convention to Central Canada will result in a lost opportunity to showcase Vancouver as host of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Sullivan wrote at the time.
Yesterday, Sullivan — who admitted he was a “loyal Conservative but also a loyal mayor of Vancouver” — told The Province he was “delighted” that the convention and its broad TV audience would provide a look at preparations that have been made for the Games.
Ferguson said he hoped the choice of Vancouver would “energize our grassroots in a region of the country which has never hosted a Liberal leadership convention.” Some Liberals sought a more central location than Vancouver to reduce delegate travel costs, which the cash-strapped party has to subsidize.
The national executive also set an entry fee for leadership candidates of $90,000, providing a rebate that depends on how much money a candidate raises for the Victory Fund, a Liberal fundraising initiative. The fee is higher than the $50,000 refundable deposit paid by candidates in the 2006 race.
The ceiling on candidate spending is $1.5 million, nearly half the $2.8 million allowed last time, though none of the 11 candidates last time spent near the limit.
A Quebec wing proposal that would exclude leadership candidates who still haven’t paid their debts from the 2006 race was shot down. That would have barred Gerard Kennedy and Martha Hall Findlay, Toronto MPs who each still owe nearly $200,000, and are among six individuals who are waiting for the executive decisions this weekend before finalizing their decisions on whether to run.
The three certain candidates so far are Toronto MPs Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, who came first and second on the first ballot at the 2006 convention, and New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, son of former governor-general Romeo LeBlanc.
Many MPs said as they gathered for a caucus meeting that they want a leadership race among a select group of serious candidates.
They said they don’t want to relive the 2006 race that started with 11 candidates, three of whom dropped out before the convention. This time, at least nine people have expressed an interest in running.
When the leadership rules are out of the way, Ferguson said the executive will drill down on a plan to rebuild the party.
“The mood is optimistic,” he said. “The good thing about this, the silver lining about what happened in the election, is that there seems to be a common sense around the whole party — caucus, ridings, national executive — that the party’s interests must come first.”