On Saturday, Stéphane Dion became the unlikely winner of a Liberal leadership race where youth and a progressive new vision took centre stage over old school Liberal cronyism.
That assessment may seem both lofty and harsh, but the uncomfortable truth facing both Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae is that they surrendered early leads with both the public and Liberal party members because they sacrificed their campaign’s early message of renewal and change by revealing themselves to be more interested in Liberal power than a change in the status quo.
Meanwhile, the Liberal machinery did its work as it has for decades as the establishment lined its support behind the two front runners. But with typical Liberal arrogance, everyone ignored the fact that Dion and Kennedy carried more combined support than either one of the front runners, and baselessly assumed that the votes from the third and fourth place candidates would spill upward into their camp. When Gerard Kennedy emerged to throw his support behind Dion they didn't even see it coming.
Kennedy could have stayed in the race through another vote. He may have succeeded in gaining ground on Dion. But both Dion and Kennedy were running for more than victory. Dion table a daring and uncompromising and environmental platform, while Kennedy remained committed to renewal within the party. Both never flagged in their values or their platform while lesser candidates did.
And so when Kennedy threw his support in with Dion, it meant a renewal truer than most would have predicted - one that brought together the demands of young Liberals clamouring for change with a new and growing Canadians zeitgeist of environmental consciousness.
Too lofty of praise? Hardly. The election of Stéphane Dion was a full expression of the values of Canadians who have been saying for a decade that the time of Liberal arrogance and cronyism must end, and that it is the environment that will ultimately define our future prosperity. Dion’s platform most fully expressed those progressive values of renewal and sustainability, and he will get the chance to bring those values to the voters.
The question now is, will Dion will make a legacy of those values? or fall into a long line of Liberal leaders who paid them no more than momentary lip-service? We will find out soon enough.