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Liberal transition team named 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:05 p.m. February 3, 2006]

OTTAWA  — An official in the office of Leader of the Opposition denied that Tim Murphy, the chief of staff to outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin, has received any formal appointment to the office.

Gene Lang, chief of staff to the new leader of the Official Opposition, Bill Graham, confirmed to PoliticsWatch that Mr. Graham has not offered Murphy a position on his staff. 

"Mr. Murphy has not been appointed to Mr. Graham's staff, nor will he be acting in any capacity for Mr. Graham," Lang told PoliticsWatch.

Lang confirmed that no individuals from Martin's former PMO will be involved in the transition process.

PoliticsWatch has learned that a transition team is currently in place and  will include Lang, who was Graham's chief of staff, House veteran Jerry Yanover and Bill Charnetski, who has worked for both Graham and former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock.

Susan Smith, an Ottawa Liberal strategist, will be acting as the media spokesperson during the transition period. 

Murphy was in attendance at a meeting of Liberal chiefs of staff on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. 

At that same meeting Martin's communication director Scott Reid went around and poured glasses of champagne for each participant. 

Many of the now out of work chiefs of staff questioned what there was to celebrate. 

Sources tell PoliticsWatch that they were left with the impression at that meeting that Murphy would have a role to play regarding resumes. PoliticsWatch has had confirmed that Murphy raised the issue of forwarding resumes in the meeting.

In an interview with PoliticsWatch, Smith made it clear that all staffing decisions would be left with the transition team.

"There's a transition team of three advising Mr. Graham and that transition team will be the team that's determining the staffing and the structure of the (Opposition Leaders' Office) and handling any issues in the interim in the transition period."

Graham was named the interim leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons at Wednesday's Liberal caucus meeting. 

Martin plans to stay on as leader of the party until a new leader is elected at a leadership conference in approximately one year from now. 

Both Martin and Graham said Wednesday Martin staying on as party leader was following the example set in 1990 by John Turner. Turner handed his  opposition leadership duties and powers to Liberal MP Herb Gray. 

Graham said Wednesday Martin told him he would be assuming a role similar to that of Gray.

"He's made it very clear to me I'm going to be in charge," Graham said. "He's made it very clear that he expects me to be the complete leader of the opposition, just the way Herb Gray was."

When Turner left the leaders' office, virtually all staff immediately went with him. 

Murphy along with other members of Martin's inner circle are being blamed by Liberals for the party's January 23 election defeat. 

In an interview with CTV on the weekend, Murphy said he took responsibility for the defeat. 

"I accept responsibility for all the campaign's strength and weaknesses," he said.

There is much speculation about Martin's team of advisors latching on to another leadership candidate. 

In the final weeks of the campaign La Presse reported that Martin's team would support Canada's ambassador to Washington, Frank McKenna, if Martin lost the election. 

But McKenna announced this week he will not be seeking the Liberal leadership. 

There are two other possible candidates that people in Ottawa believe some Martin team members could get behind. 

Liberal MP Belinda Stronach has given the strongest signal of all possible hopefuls that she is considering jumping in the ring and she has the resources to mount a serious campaign. 

There is also former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark, who is considered a possible darkhorse candidate. 

Clark was a regular television panelist for the Liberals during the election campaign and is married to Mark Marrisen, who was a key member of Martin's leadership campaign in B.C.

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