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Martin to officially resign as Liberal leader on weekend

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:35 p.m. March 16, 2006]

OTTAWA  — Former prime minister Paul Martin Thursday informed the Liberal party in writing that he will officially resign as leader on the weekend.

In a letter to Liberal party president Mike Eizenga, Martin said he will resign upon the formal call of the convention, which is expected to happen on the weekend at the conclusion of a weekend meeting of the Liberal Party's national executive in Ottawa. 

"It has been an honour and my great pleasure to serve as leader and to have worked with so many dedicated volunteers, candidates, caucus members and party officials," Martin wrote.

"I look forward to continuing to serve and contribute to the party that I have always and will always regard as my second family."

Martin's decision to resign comes just three days after a Liberal riding association in Quebec issued a press release supporting the former PM to lead the party in the next election. 

"We have consulted our militants as well as dozens of others in Mauricie, Lanaudière, the Laurentians and Eastern Montreal, and 90 per cent of those consulted wish the return of Paul Martin and offer him the respect he deserves while admiring the courage he demonstrated when faced with adversity in his leadership of a minority government in the last election," said the members of the Berthier-Maskinonge riding association.

"Despite the January 23 loss, and following in the footsteps of some of the best Liberal leaders from Quebec and Canada, Paul Martin must now reclaim his position as leader."

The Liberals had been in an interesting situation as Opposition Leader Bill Graham was leader of the party in Parliament, but Martin maintained official party leader status.  Martin originally planned to remain party leader until the party picked a replacement at a national convention. 

The situation led to questions about what would happen in the event of a sudden defeat of the government in the House of Commons and rumours about Martin and his supporters staging a comeback. 

Martin said on election night that he would not lead the party in another election. 

The party's executive will meet this weekend to develop rules and a date for the party's leadership race and convention. 

To date, that leadership race has seen more big names rule themselves out of contention than enter the race. 

The only official candidate so far is a Toronto lawyer, Martha Hall-Finlay, who was a candidate for the Liberals in the 2004 election. 

Some Liberals do not believe a proper leadership race and convention could be held within the calendar year, but this November or February of next year are the two months most Liberals believe their convention will be held. 

A Globe and Mail article recently reported that some party executives, who do not want Martin and his advisers to make a comeback, were looking at ways to rapidly choose a new leader in case of a sudden election call, including an electronic leadership vote by delegates. 

Graham told reporters last month that it would be up to the national executive to pick a leader in the event of an election. 

When Martin made the decision shortly after the election to remain as leader he cited the example of former prime minister John Turner exiting in a similar fashion in 1989. However, one difference was Turner's departure happened while the Conservatives had a majority government and a sudden election was not a possibility.

: Related Links

> Letter of Resignation of Paul Martin as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

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