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In late September, some students and I were discussing the Liberal leadership race. They wanted to know why I boldly and somewhat rashly predicted that Stéphane Dion would beat Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, the acknowledged frontrunners. Ignatieff was making too many mistakes, I told them, and delegates would be wary of Rae’s legacy as the premier of Ontario. Dion would be the compromise candidate, given his experience in federal politics. His commonly cited weaknesses were hidden strengths. Stephen Harper had shown that charisma (a Dion shortcoming) was less important than an earnest delivery of policy proposals. Dion was unpopular with Quebec’s political elite, but his views on national unity appealed to many Quebec federalists and to Canadians outside Quebec. Dion could deliver for a party that always had winning on its mind. Liberals apparently thought differently. Dion’s fourth-place finish in pre-convention delegate selection reminded me of the noted baseball philosopher Yogi Berra’s contention that “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” However, convention dynamics, organization and luck saved Dion (and my prediction). A tense Ignatieff–Rae relationship meant that Dion and Kennedy were still alive, especially after Ignatieff’s poor first ballot result at the convention. Dion secured third spot by two votes over Kennedy, due to strong ex officio support and because several Kennedy delegates missed the vote due to travel problems. This set the stage for Dion’s victory: Kennedy and most of his supporters pre-emptively moved to Dion after the second ballot. When Rae refused to support Ignatieff after the third, the race was over. Immediately after the final ballot, a friend who knew of my prediction emailed me and said that he was going to Las Vegas. He asked who I thought would win the Stanley Cup. With apologies to Ottawa fans, I told him that I would stick with my annual preseason prediction of a Montréal Canadiens victory. Folks, you heard it here first…

Richard Nimijean,

Lecturer, School of Canadian Studies

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