Bob Rae hits BBQ circuit to fire up support

Interim Leader of the Liberal Party Bob Rae talks to members of the media following the their last caucus meeting before the summer break from Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, June 22, 2011.

Credits: Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency


OTTAWA - Coming to a barbecue near you: an interim leader, his hand out, his ears open and a new poll showing the Liberals about as healthy as a mosquito on a windshield.

While details of Liberal Leader Summer Tour Three were being nailed down Tuesday, acting leader Bob Rae said the tour would be part of rebuilding efforts after the party was dropkicked to 34 seats in the election and saw millions in subsidies taken away and waves of staffers laid off.

He didn't mention the latest casualties - 20 employees at party headquarters in downtown Ottawa were given pink slips last week.

And there's the new poll Wednesday by Abacus Data Inc. It shows the Liberals with support of 17% of decided voters compared to 41% for the Conservatives and 32% for the New Democrats.

The online survey of 1,005 respondents was conducted June 23-24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll showed support for the Liberals dropped 2% since the election.

"For Bob Rae and the Liberals, these numbers confirm that the party has a long way to go to rebuild trust and support," said Abacus CEO David Coletto.

Rae, meanwhile, said there have been some minor victories since voters shunned the party. He said they've raised $150,000 in several days through e-mails to modernize the party's website.

He suggested the party is adapting to fundraising and understands the importance of having a war chest to counter negative ad campaigns the Conservative successfully used to frame his predecessors.

"Surely to goodness we've learned that lesson that you can't leave your leader exposed to artillery fire for six months before an election and note be in a position to respond."

He said the tour will take him to P.E.I. for a strawberry social next week, followed by a stop at the Assembly of First Nations gathering in New Brunswick and then the Calgary Stampede.

He said he will listen to what Canadians have to say, sell his party as an alternative to the Conservatives and NDP, as well as encourage donations.

"Anybody who tells me the Liberal party can't win the next election is just whistling in the wind. Of course we can," Rae said. "Absolutely we can. Will we? I don't know. But can we? Absolutely."

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