I've transitioned back into the ever exciting world of IT journalism, but I did take time out this afternoon to watch Stéphane Dion's press conference. A sad day, inevitable after last Tuesday's results, but still a sad day.
On the day after the last election, as Liberals began to look forward, I wrote a blog post entitled Why not Stéphane Dion. And a few months later, having taken the measure of the assorted leadership candidates, I decided Dion was still my choice for leader. And a few months later, after a roller coaster of a convention, to the surprise of many, including myself, the leader he was. That chilly night he won the leadership in Montreal, when I made it back to the Travelodge still on an emotional high (and after a few glasses of wine, red of course), I wrote about the night and reflected on why I had decided to support Dion back in May:
This decision wasn’t about winnability for me. If I wanted to pick the winning horse I’d have gone for Ignatieff. I wasn’t concerned about who had the best chance of winning, and Stephane wasn’t given much of a chance at all. But I wanted to stand behind a candidate that I believed in, a candidate that I could be proud of. Someone I could respect, could honestly defend, and someone I could respect myself for supporting. Someone I wouldn’t have to apologize for, or make excuses for. That someone was Stephane.
Looking back now, I can honestly say that on these criteria, Stéphane Dion has never let me down. Stéphane was a good man that deserved a better fate, but life isn't fair, and neither is politics. But he can leave with his head held high, never having compromised his principles or his values, and that's not a bad thing to be able to say. In fact, it's pretty rare indeed.
No man is prefect; we all have our faults. Stéphane was unable to get past the language issue, although there was marked improvement. His stubbornness was also a challenge, he was too often unwilling to take the advice of those more experienced on the retail side of politics. The charisma was not in excess. And he was unable to pull this party together, although I doubt a thousand horses could have accomplished that mean feat.
Still, the Dion leadership was a noble experiment, if a failed one: can an honest, sincere man succeed in politics?
Perhaps this wasn't a true test of the question, for he had the decks stacked against him from the start: no money to counter a Conservative smear campaign, a caucus and party leadership that supported other candidates., and his own challenges to overcome already mentioned.
Still, as I begin to look ahead to the next round of the seemingly never ending Liberal leadership fracas, I find myself pondering the matter again: should we just go for the most electable, the most charismatic, other factors be dammed? I hesitate to say so, and yet I hesitate to dismiss the question. But that's for another day.
I'm glad that Stéphane is staying on until the convention, and I'm glad that today he identified some of the real issues of import to the Liberal Party and pledged to use the rest of his tenure to work on them. It would have been easy for him to just walk away, given all the grief he has been taking from the anonymous senior losers. But we have serious work ahead, and we need all hands on deck. That he is staying to help and work speaks to his honour and his commitment to the party, and reminds me of why I supported him in the first place.
While I obviously wish things had ended differently, looking back I have never regretted for one moment my decision in May of 2006 to support Stéphane Dion, and that hasn't changed today.
He is a great Liberal, and a great Canadian, and he has made me proud to be both.
Merci Stéphane, et bonne chance. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers