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2006 Federal Liberal Leadership Election

The 2006 Liberal Party of Canada leadership race was the Party's most uncertain and therefore most meaningful election since the convention that yielded up Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s. My blog recounts my involvement in the campaign.

Further resources are at:

My letter of endorsement before the convention

My letter of thanks after the convention

Television interviews, Newspaper coverage

The Prime Minister Canada Deserves
27 November 2006, 02h13 EST (GMT-5)

Well, it has been some time since I last wrote a blog entry! Fortunately, the world appears to have muddled through without the benefit of my mutterings and musings...

I have, however, been inspired to return to my keyboard because of the Liberal leadership convention, to be held in Montréal later this week. I will be blogging nightly from what will doubtlssly be one of the most uncertain, and therefore one of the most exciting conventions in Liberal Party history.

First and foremost, however, I should like to declare my support for Stéphane Dion. As my most recent letter to the Liberal Party membership makes clear, there has never been any real doubt in my mind.

In my view, in a field admirably crowded with talent, Stéphane stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Let Slip the Political Dogs of War
01 December 2006, 12h43 EST (GMT-5)

Thursday was my first full day at the Liberal Party leadership convention in Montreal, and as I collapsed in the evening exhausted, I was struck by the remarkable level of goodwill surrounding this election.

Conventional wisdom holds that contested leadership elections divide, whereas acclamations unite. In my experience, the truth is quite the reverse.

The 2003 Toronto convention was notable for the bile attendant upon Paul Martin's coronation. There was an undeniable animus in the air, presaging the Party purge that Paul's inner circle was preparing for anyone who had maintained an independent mind or who had otherwise, in their view, not supported them with sufficient fervour. Their near-unanimous victory convinced them that they were so powerful that they needed no one, and that they could tyrannise over others without consequence or accountability.

In this convention, with every candidate likely to poll less than 35% on the first ballot, each team is keenly aware that it can not win the election unless it is willing and able to reach out to others, to form a genuinely national coalition built around shared values. The result is an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect. Moreover, with such a wide field, it is not at all unusual for families to have spouses and children all supporting different candidates, and therefore acting as engines of reconciliation within the Party.

The last formal element to the day's agenda (before the serious business of hospitality suites), was the tribute through which the Liberal Party officially bade farewell to Paul Martin. It was a cheerful goodbye to a leader who had arrived with so much potential, tinged by sadness at the knowledge that he was leaving with that potential almost entirely unrealised. TV Ontario's The Agenda kindly invited me to record my thoughts on Paul's farewell as a guest blogger at their web site.

The all-important candidates' speeches will be held tonight, and then we will truly let slip the political dogs of war.

Dion Surges, Others Stall
02 December 2006, 01h10 EST (GMT-5)

With the first round of voting complete, Stéphane Dion has edged past Gerard Kennedy by the slimmest of margins. Michael Ignatieff remains the clear front runner, but has seen his support slip below the psychological threshold of 30%.

The results at 00h30 on Saturday 02 December are:

Michael Ignatieff: 1412 (29.33%)
Bob Rae: 977 (20.29%)
Stéphane Dion: 856 (17.78%)
Gerard Kennedy: 854 (17.74%)
Ken Dryden: 238 (4.94%)
Scott Brison: 192 (3.99%)
Joe Volpe: 156 (3.24%)
Martha Hall Findlay: 130 (2.70%)

As she occupies last place on the first ballot results, Martha Hall Findlay will be compelled to retire from the field before the second ballot. Joe Volpe has apparently volunteered to withdraw, to urge his delegates to support Bob Rae. A further 127 registered delegates abstained in the first ballot.

In total, some 413 delegates will therefore be in play for the second ballot, in addition to any delegates who may choose to switch their allegiances.

This represents a telling shift in the balance of power at the convention. Ignatieff's lower than expected results, despite a significantly higher than expected turnout of his committed delegates, suggests that his support is softer and his lead more vulnerable than anticipated. By contrast, Dion's ability to surpass Kennedy, by however modest a margin, suggests that he is the only candidate, thus far, with momentum.

I gave Stéphane Dion my support in the conviction that he is the best person to lead the Liberal Party and the country, notwithstanding what I believed to be his slim chances of victory in the leadership race. It seems I underestimated the extent to which a good person is all one really needs to mount a good campaign.

02 December 2006, 23h05 EST (GMT-5)

Against all conventional wisdom, Stéphane Dion has won the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. This is, in my view, a victory not only for him, but also for the politics of principle.

The Liberal Party's enthusiasm for Stéphane Dion struck a blow for those who hold to the ideal of the nobility of public service. It strengthened my faith in democracy's creed, that wisdom lies with the many and not the few. Most importantly, it marked the day the Liberal Party reclaimed its soul.

To those who slur our Party with the unworthy accusation that it is interested in power to the exclusion of principle, Liberals can riposte, with our heads held high, that we are the Party that elected Stéphane Dion.

Now, I am leaving the Palais des congrès in Montréal to return to Toronto, to sleep for a few days!

The Little Campaign that Could
05 December 2006, 04h15 EST (GMT-5)

I am still overwhelmed by the results of the Liberal leadership convention this past weekend. The election of Stéphane Dion has done much to re-animate my faith in the democratic process. Ours was "the little campaign that could," in the kind words of a friend who worked on Michael Ignatieff's bid. It was a quixotic but relentless effort to prove that idealism still has a place in practical politics.

Earlier today, I sent subscribers to my web site a letter of thanks for their participation in the election, following-up my letter of endorsement of last week.

This letter is meant equally for those who supported Stéphane from the first ballot, and those who did not do so even on the last. Stéphane's victory is a victory for the entire Liberal Party because he takes office after a campaign crowded with talent, because the other candidates greeted the results with faultless grace, and because Stéphane can only recognise the political and ethical imperative to rage against any impulse in the campaign team to exercise victor's justice.

I discussed the campaign yesterday on CBC Radio One's Here & Now, and I will do so again on CTS Television's Michael Coren Show today at 18h00 (EST). Please do tune in if you have a moment, and let me know what you think.


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