For many months we have closely watched our leadership convention. We have watched a solid campaign, fought with honor. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, and to the Arctic, our membership have had many opportunities to meet each candidate. A solid debate has taken place - if not on stage, then at least in the blogs and via the media.
Looking long and hard at all the candidates I decided I wanted to support those who brought forward new and progressive ideas for our party and our nation. With the large field of candidates we were (not surprisingly for Liberals) delighted by an exceptional debate. From the beginning the fresh ideas and educated opinions of Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion appealed to this voting delegate most. Ken Dryden's affable style and pragmatic solutions to Canadian issues were also high on the list.
As the campaign rolled on we all saw "shots" traded back and forth on various issues. All of the front-runners committed gaffes of one sort or another. Towards the end of the campaign we saw a more serious discussion about ideas. We saw the campaign coalesce into a serious discussion about Canada and this country's future.
Today, when we look at the frontrunners we see some clear distinctions:
- Ken Dryden is a great guy with some good ideas, but perhaps not the delegate support to seriously challenge the front-runners
- Bob Rae may not be as likable, and perhaps doesn't have the "baggage-free" past, but he has some real-world leadership experience (maybe not the best experience, but...) - in the wrong party
- Stephane Dion showed some great potential early on as the "surprise" candidate, who seemed to be "everyone's second choice". Things changed for Stephane when "angry Stephane" stepped out. Dion also missed some key opportunities to discuss ideas... being "former Environment Minister" was not enough when Ignatieff trumped him on environmental ideas... and getting beaten to the punch on the Quebec "nation" issue was not a good thing for the only Quebec candidate
- Gerard Kennedy has proven to be a "good guy", and "the kind of person this party needs in a future cabinet". Unfortunately for Gerard his lack of any serious pull in Quebec has hamstrung his campaign. Fighting it out with Harper in territories Harper is strongest in would not be the best situation for our party
- Finally, we come to Michael Ignatieff. Through the entire campaign Ignatieff has taken shots from other campaigns about his voluminous writings and some public statements. No matter how much flak the rookie MP has taken, he has risen above it all to come shooting back with more fresh ideas. He has been careful not to criticize the other campaigns or candidates (as a front-runner must be mindful of).
As the campaign comes to a close Michael Ignatieff seems to be the most "Prime-Ministerial" of the candidates. His powerful public persona has lent him an air of confidence and capability. One resounding fact permeates the entire Ignatieff campaign: This is a man who has given a LOT of thought to the Canadian equation. He has thought through the challenges and opportunities this land faces, and has come up with some significant thoughts on where we should go - and how to get there. It becomes apparent from speaking with Mr. Ignatieff that his ideas were not simply "hatched" for this campaign (as those of some other candidates may have been - to wit: the Bob Rae "campaigns are not about ideas" statement). Ignatieff displays thought patterns that have been at work since the 1968 leadership contest, during which he was a Trudeau campaign team member. Since that time it is obvious he has been touched by the Trudeau vision for constantly challenging this country with fresh ideas.
In Montreal this upcoming weekend I will be casting my ballot for Michael Ignatieff. I urge everyone to carefully think about what fresh ideas and a clear vision will mean for us. Last election we were defeated for a lack of ideas - all we could do was criticize Harper. Voters saw Harper as having ideas and vision - even if they did not agree with all of it, the fact was that he had given serious thought to where he wanted to take Canada. We need to ensure we have a leader who can beat Harper in the national debate, while proving to Canadians that we continue to be the party of new thought and ideas.