OTTAWA – Jean Chretien is urging Liberals to support Bob Rae as interim leader of the decimated federal party.
Sources say the former prime minister has been phoning defeated and re-elected MPs since the Liberal party’s historic defeat in Monday’s election.
The once-mighty party was reduced to third place with only 34 MPs — even leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat.
Since then, MPs say Chretien has been promoting the idea that Rae should be interim leader for up to two years.
That would give the party time to regroup before choosing a permanent successor to Ignatieff.
But some MPs privately say a backlash is developing to what some perceive as backroom machinations to install Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario.
Since Monday’s slaughter at the polls Rae has said the Liberals need to consider whether merging with the NDP may be necessary to defeat the Harper Conservatives.
Chretien has also mused about a possible merger, causing some suspicions that he’s promoting Rae in a bid to hurry up the negotiations.