Saturday, December 02, 2006

And it's Dion

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He was my choice from the outset, more or less, but I didn't think he would win. Not with a high-profile celebrity candidate like Michael Ignatieff heading to the leadership convention with the most delegates and an aura of Trudeau about him, not with the formidable Bob Rae in the race. Perhaps an alliance with Gerard Kennedy would help, but I thought the anti-Ignatieff movement would coalesce around Rae.

But no. After finishing third on the first and second ballots, he surged into the lead on the third ballot and won on the fourth. Yes, the next leader of Canada's Liberal Party, and perhaps our next prime minister, and perhaps sooner rather than later, is:

Stéphane Dion.

Which is good for the Liberal Party and good for Canada, I think, particularly if his team heading into the next election includes Ignatieff, Rae, Kennedy, and Ken Dryden, who finished fifth. Dion is not without his problems -- he's not terribly popular in his home province of Quebec given his strident anti-sovereigntist views, and he's not exactly the most charismatic of politicians -- but he should do well.

And while Harper's Conservatives pander to Quebec's soft nationalists in the desperate hope of picking enough seats for a majority, in so doing irresponsibly exacerbating the tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada, Dion will continue to be a passionate advocate of federalism, of a Canada that includes Quebec but that does not become so fragmented as to disintegrate. Indeed, I supported him mostly because of his strong, determined position on federalism, akin to Trudeau's, and I believe he will be just the sort of leader we need in Canada.

(For more on Dion, see here.)

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  • Apparently he ran largely on environmental issues. Is this a shift to the left by the Liberals?

    By Blogger ., at 12:53 AM  

  • In the sense that he was in Chretien's camp, not Martin's. But, then, it's not as if those two differed on policy nearly as much as on personality. He ran on the environment largely because he was Minister of the Environment under Martin and is serious about doing something about climate change.

    But he's known more for his federalism than for anything else, and his win certainly signals that the Liberals are serious about national unity -- national unity according to the Liberals, that is, with the federation supported by fiscal equalization, with money going from the big provinces to the small ones.

    And yet -- it's hard to say that his win signals anything really. He entered the convention as the fourth of the top four. He benefitted largely from an anti-Ignatieff movement, Rae's ties to the NDP (he was NDP premier of Ontario), and Kennedy's inexperience in federal politics. While the other major candidates had ceilings well below 50 percent, Dion was able to squeak through to victory.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:31 AM  

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