Dark Horse Comes From Behind to Win Liberal Leadership

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

  • Would you buy the Liberal Party from this man?

    Would you buy the Liberal Party from this man?

Written by May Warren

Francophone former Federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion came from behind on Saturday to win the Liberal Leadership race. Dion came into the convention, held in Montréal and attended by delegates from all over the county, in fourth place. He surprised many by beating frontrunner Michael Ignatieff, and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae.

The 51-year-old Dion received a huge boost in support when third place ranking Gerard Kennedy crossed the floor to deliver him his delegate’s support after Saturday’s second ballot. By winning 2521 votes on the fourth ballot, Dion was able to walk away with 54.7 per cent of the support and beat Ignatieff by over 400 votes. Rae finished in third place.

Third year University of Guelph student Meghan O’Keefe was present at the convention as an Ignatieff delegate. “Iganetieff was the one who stood up for human rights even when it required force, the one who wasn’t afraid to say the right thing even if he might lose his job (which, arguable he has), the one who recognizes the polarities in civil society,” she says, explaining why the political rookie was her choice as leader.

She says that although she’s disappointed by the results, she’s optimistic about the future of her party. “Though I never had plans of leaving my first behind, Dion was my second choice,” she says, praising Dion’s commitment to the environment as something everyone can get behind. “The environment is not a single issue; the environment is a domestic and global interdisciplinary matter,” she reports.

Dion began his role as leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, Monday, by attacking the Prime Minister on the idea of scaling back same sex marriage rights. Before question period, he was awarded with a standing ovation by Members of Parliament and personally congratulated by Stephen Harper.

Preparing to face the Conservatives in the Federal Election will be Dion, and his Party’s next big challenge. O’Keefe and the Young Liberals of Guelph say they are rallying around their new leader in anticpation of an upcoming election.

“We, the University of Guelph Liberals, cannot live in the past. While two of us passionately believed in a man who lost, we now all passionately believe in a party that can win,” explains a press release from the Campus Club. “I arrived home in Guelph with a vision for my party,” says O’Keefe. “I now know that I must be a Liberal linked by a leader. A Liberal linked by the land of my country. A Liberal linked by liberalism,” she explains.
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