Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After a Life in Politics, Bob Rae Won't Stretch for the Leadership Ring Again

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After a Life in Politics, Bob Rae Won't Stretch for the Leadership Ring Again

Article excerpt

Rae won't reach for the brass ring again


OTTAWA - Bob Rae, who has spent a lifetime in politics and twice reached for the brass ring of the Liberal leadership, isn't going to stretch for it again.

The 63-year-old politician, a one-time Rhodes Scholar, a former NDP premier of Ontario and an officer of the Order of Canada, will instead remain the avuncular overseer of the leadership campaign as the party's interim leader.

His decision is an uncharacteristically tame one for a man who has lived with an internal political fire for four decades.

Rae was born in Ottawa in August 1948. He was the son of Saul Rae, a legendary diplomat whose career spanned the golden era of Pearsonian diplomacy in which he was twice Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.

Where the elder Rae had been a Massey Fellow at the London School of Economics, the son surpassed him, winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford.

He earlier earned a law degree at the University of Toronto where, for a time, he roomed with Michael Ignatieff, another scion of a diplomatic family. The two would later be political rivals for leadership of the Liberal party.

Rae's first foray into politics involved working on Pierre Trudeau's 1968 Liberal leadership campaign. It was a heady time for Canadian politics, with Trudeaumania sweeping the country and galvanizing a generation.

By 1974, Rae had joined the NDP while he worked as a labour lawyer. In 1978, at the age of 30, Rae was elected to the House of Commons as a New Democrat in a byelection.

Re-elected in 1979, it was Rae's amendment to a budget motion which toppled Joe Clark's Conservative government and precipitated the 1980 election which brought Rae's old idol, Trudeau, back to the prime minister's chair.

Rae won re-election in 1980 and seemed content as an MP. He might have stayed in Ottawa but for troubles inside the Ontario NDP, where an internal revolt against then-leader Michael Cassidy led to a movement to bring Rae in as a replacement.

He won the leadership handily, supported by many of the strongest members of the caucus, and won a seat in the legislature in a byelection in November 1982.

In 1985, Rae helped broker an end to four decades of Conservative government in the province. The election that year left the Tories with a plurality of seats, but 11 short of a majority.

Rae and Liberal Leader David Peterson worked out an accord whereby the NDP pledged to support a Liberal government for two years in return for implementation of some NDP policies. …

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