TORONTO - Michael Ignatieff announced Tuesday he will resign as leader of the Liberal Party after shepherding Canada's once natural governing party to a historic loss.
Ignatieff stood defeated but proud before a line of TV cameras to announce the end of his political career. He said he will meet with party officials to select the best time for his departure.
He placed part of the blame for the crushing loss on two years of Conservative ads that placed him squarely in their bull's eye, ads he called an "unscrupulous campaign of personal attack."
"But the only things Canadians like less than a loser is a sore loser," he said at an emotional news conference at a downtown hotel, with party officials openly weeping in the background. "And I go out of politics with my head held high."
The Liberal caucus will gather next week with deputy leader Ralph Goodale to select an interim leader and flesh out the next few months for the party.
A leadership convention in the fall is likely.
Monday night brought a triple loss for the Liberals: a majority for the Conservative government they helped bring down in March, the loss of official opposition status to the NDP, and finally, Ignatieff's own loss in his Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding in Toronto.
Asked to explain how it happened, Ignatieff conceded the Liberals helped lay the groundwork for the political shift that collapsed the party and allowed the Tories to come up the middle.
"I believe we sparked that need for change and the NDP benefited," he said. "In reaction, the Conservatives were able to attain their majority."
It was a defeat Ignatieff likened to "a forest fire," but he remains optimistic the party, with its long tradition, can rise from the ashes.
"I think the surest guarantee of the future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP opposition," he said.
As for his own future, Ignatieff said he looks forward to teaching again, this time in Canada.