a liberal not to be trifled with

On the weekend, the federal Liberal Party remade itself. In choosing Stephane Dion, a former university professor, the party did much to rid itself…

On the weekend, the federal Liberal Party remade itself.

In choosing Stephane Dion, a former university professor, the party did much to rid itself of the destructive feud between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

Dion’s Liberal Party represents something new.

Over the past 10 months, much has been made of Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, the party’s two marquee names.

But Ignatieff was Martin’s guy. And Rae was Chretien’s — both pawns in the seemingly never-ending civil war.

And clearly a majority of party delegates were fed up with the shenanigans.

Gerard Kennedy, the campaign’s No. 3 candidate, was an outsider from Ontario who had served in provincial cabinet and had worked as director of the country’s largest food bank.

He cobbled together a team with  considerable support from the party’s youth wing.

Dion, the fourth-place dark horse was a loyal cabinet minister who served under Martin and Chretien, and yet had the support of neither. He, too, pulled support from younger delegates.

Together, backed by youth and other disgruntled delegates, they whupped the well-organized party elite.

Dion’s ascension signals a change in the party’s power base to a younger crowd, away from the old guard — a shift that allows it to move beyond the sponsorship scandal.

And with a new crew in charge, the party has more flexibility drafting new policy.

For example, Dion and Kennedy recognize the importance of the environment and the plight of the poor, respectively, and know the Liberal Party has taken a pasting through its poor record on these issues.

With their collective experience, they have the capability to restore party credibility on these issues.

Dion is also a guy who understands Quebec, and its separatist forces.

That, and his green policies will prove a potent mix, and could steal away much of the Conservative Party’s soft support in the province.

Finally, Dion isn’t well known in the rest of the country.

This takes the pressure off the guy a bit — he can surprise people.

And he’s proved to be pretty good at it.

Just ask Rae and Ignatieff.

They learned Dion is not a guy to be trifled with. (RM)