Just two days following the election, and the fall of the Liberal government, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, resigned from his post in Washington.
What does this mean?
First of all, such a move is not unexpected. As he stated in his letter, "this position is based on the ability to work intimately with the Canadian Government" and requires strong ties with the Prime Minister. He was appointed by Paul Martin approximately a year ago, and so it's likely that Stephen Harper would have eventually removed McKenna and replaced him with someone whose views are closer to his own.
But that's not all. Even before the announcement of Paul Martin's resignation as leader of the Liberal Party, McKenna's name was being floated around as a potential candidate, and he is considered now one of the frontrunners in the race for leadership.
However, the debate has turned from who will be running to when the leadership convention will be. Ever since McKenna resigned from his post, the rumours and whispers about the leadership race have been flying fast and furious. The dam has burst, so to speak, and now an argument is raging as to when the convention should be held.
According to the CNews article, dark horse contenders want more time to build their support base (a comparative advantage that the frontrunners already have). The convention is expected to occur anytime between November of this year and March 2007.
Surprisingly, also announced recently, John Manley has dropped himself from the race, stating, "While I hope to play a role in the renewal, healing and unification of the Liberal party, I have decided for personal reasons that I will not be a leadership candidate".
Manley was once the Finance Minister, and later Deputy Prime Minister, under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and he was considered a formidable opponent in the race against Paul Martin for the leadership of the Liberal Party (he later conceded, knowing that he didn't have the numbers to overtake Martin). He was also deemed to be McKenna's toughest competition until he dropped out.
Following him, it seems that Brian Tobin, an ex-Member of Parliament and previous Premier of Newfoundland, would be the next viable competitor (interestingly enough, both he and McKenna were premiers in the Atlantic provinces -- the ex-ambassador was the Premier of New Brunswick from 1987 to 1997).
However, don't discount the others in the leadership race: "Dark horse candidates include former ministers Martin Cauchon, Stephane Dion, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Belinda Stronach, Scott Brison, Ken Dryden, Anne McLellan and Joe Volpe and newcomer Michael Ignatieff, the acclaimed Harvard academic who won his first election Monday."
What some of them lack in profile, they make up for with tenacity and ambition.
However, it's all mere speculation at this point. When asked, all potential candidates have coyly answered that they're currently considering whether or not to run.
Just for interest's sake, check out CBC's "Waiting in the Wings" article on who the major players may be (including profile, advantages, disadvantages, among other things).
On a personal note: I'm very sad to see Paul Martin go. I truly believe that he was dealt a poor hand when he took over as Prime Minister and that he is a genuine and warm person. When we look back at it all, perhaps we'll see that we ousted a leader who was actually more understanding than most Canadians gave him credit for. I might be extremely divisive in saying this, but I think we've truly let someone who was great and could have achieved great things go over overblown media reports and an unfounded desire for change.
Update (30/01/06) - Frank McKenna announced, today, that he is dropping out of the leadership race, and rumour has it that Brian Tobin may soon follow. It comes as a bit of a shock, since both were considered frontrunners, and according to the Canadian Press, this could be the first time in 40 years that the Liberal Party will be without an heir apparent.
This race is about to heat up.