Liberals Name Bob Rae Interim Leader
The Toronto MP and former Ontario premier said he was honoured to accept the position.
"I'm looking forward very much to our work in the House as well as our work in the wider country," Rae said at a news conference in Ottawa after the caucus meeting.
Montreal MP Marc Garneau, the only other caucus member who had publicly expressed interest in the job, was standing by Rae's side.
Rae thanked Garneau for his support, saying he acted with integrity throughout the "conversation" the Liberal MPs had while choosing the temporary leader.
A lot of work ahead
Rae said the caucus has a lot of work to do to rebuild after the May 2 election, which reduced the Liberals to a third party and cost them their Official Opposition status. The defeat also led to Michael Ignatieff's resignation as leader of the party, which is why the Liberals found themselves in need of a new leader.
Rae said Canadians sent Liberals a "tough message" in the spring election.
"It's a message that we have received and we have understood," Rae said. "We know that we have a lot of rebuilding to do, we know that we have a lot of work to do."
Rae was considered the front-runner with wide support among the 34 remaining Liberal MPs and 45 Liberal senators, but Garneau had kept his name in the hat.
"We elected a great leader," Garneau said after Rae's spoke. He said he felt "very serene" about the whole process and was "looking forward to the next steps."
Ahead of the meeting, Garneau said he was going for the job because he loves the party and feels he has the qualities needed to help rebuild it. He did not rule out trying for the more permanent job of leader if he lost his bid for the temporary position.
"That's something that I might consider but at the moment that's not my intention," said Garneau, a former astronaut and head of Canada's space agency.
Garneau said he didn't view Wednesday's selection of an interim leader as a race between himself and Rae.
"We all move together, unified, after the selection is made," he said.
Interim leader optimistic
Rae said the Liberals are going through a difficult time since their huge defeat, but he is optimistic about the future.
"I'm very confident about the future of the party and the future of the country, so we just have to look at it in a positive spirit," he said.
The national board of the Liberal Party set ground rules for the interim leadership, which limited the number of candidates. Those interested in the job had to be bilingual and agree not to run as permanent leader or to pursue any merger talks with the NDP.
Rae made it clear he only wanted to be interim leader if it lasts longer than a "summer job." He told fellow Liberals he would only take the job if it is for 18 to 24 months.
According to the party's constitution, Ignatieff's permanent replacement must be chosen by October. Many Liberals, however, want a leadership convention to be put off until at least 2012. On June 18, the party will hold a mini-convention via teleconference where a proposal to change the constitution will be voted upon so a permanent leadership contest can be delayed.