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Graham names former cabinet minister chief of staff 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:45 p.m. February 15, 2006]

OTTAWA  —  You can mark Jane Stewart off the list of potential Liberal leadership hopefuls.  

The former Liberal cabinet minister in the Chretien government was named Wednesday as the new chief of staff for Official Opposition Leader Bill Graham.  

Stewart was in cabinet for seven years in three portfolios -- Revenue, Human Resources and Indian Affairs. 

At Human Resources she inherited a scandal that become known as the "Billion Dollar Boondoggle."

Stewart backed John Manley in the last Liberal leadership race and was not among the Chretien cabinet ministers to survive after Paul Martin came to power in December 2003. 

She did not seek re-election in the Ontario riding of Brant in 2004. 

"Jane Stewart will be a fantastic anchor for the Liberal team in the OLO", Graham said in a statement. 

"In addition to her tremendous experience as Minister in three portfolios, as a caucus chair, and as an MP who understands the demands of Parliament, she is familiar with and has the respect of the Liberal caucus. I am delighted that she will be joining us once again in Ottawa." 

Stewart's name recently came up as a potential candidate in a Liberal leadership race that has become wide open. 

Days after Martin announced he would not lead the Liberals in the next election, reporters in Ottawa were sent an e-mail from a group called "Liberals for Jane Stewart."

"Should let you know that there are a number of people who are starting to talk about Jane Stewart as a good leadership contender, and are starting to lay the groundwork for her possible bid," the e-mail stated. 

"Stay tuned on the Jane angle -- it's starting. We should have a website up in the next little while and once we do, we'll send you the link."

A link to a Web site has yet to be sent. 

The Liberals are in an interesting position as Martin is still officially leader, but Graham is leader of the party in Parliament. 

Graham has a three-man transition team working for him, which includes his former chief of staff Gene Lang and House veteran Jerry Yanover. 

Last week, the Liberals announced that former finance minister Ralph Goodale will be the party's House leader and Karen Redman will remain the party's whip. 

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