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Monday, December 04, 2006

I stood with Iggy

I'm back in Sudbury now. I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about my recent posts from the convention floor. Some people have told me that they are somewhat confused about the choice I made.

Bob Rae being knocked off before the final ballot was an emotional blow for me. I - we - worked so hard to get him to that point, and it was devastating to see it come to an end. While I had always been confident Bob would make it to the final ballot, I did contemplate the possibility of having to make a choice.

For months, my second choice was Stephane Dion. He shares my values. On almost all issues, including foreign policy and national unity, his views reflect my own. He is a man of integrity, a man of action and a man of vision. I am comfortable with the choice the convention made.

It would seem natural, then, that I would go to Stephane when Bob dropped off. I didn't. Here's why.

This campaign has been rough on all of us. We all believed very strongly in our respective candidates. We believed that our man (or woman) was the best to lead the party and the country.

Logically, we also believed that other candidates were not right to lead the party. I felt that way about Michael Ignatieff. I disagreed with him on many issues of great importance. I felt he was a bad choice, and I said so bluntly on this blog.

Looking back at some of my previous posts, I realize that in many ways, I was unfair towards Michael. On several occasions, I had harsh words for him. More than once, I attacked his integrity and the integrity of those around him. Friends of mine who were committed to Michael took my comments personally. They told me so, in person and by email. I can understand their feelings: When people said bad things about Bob Rae, I also took it personally.

On the convention floor before the third ballot results were announced, I had a lot of time to reflect upon the past several months. I cried, not only because I knew Bob was about to lose, but also because I knew this campaign had been so negative and so divisive, and that I had been a part of it.

The results were announced. I looked over to the Dion and Ignatieff teams. They were both exhuberant. I looked at my own team. Everyone was depressed. I asked a few people where they were going on the 4th. Every single one of them said they were going to Stephane. "We've got to stop Iggy," they said.

At that point, I knew what the results of the 4th would be. I was not concerned about "stopping Iggy." I was concerned about party unity.

Party unity is about more than having faith, trusting and supporting our new leader. Stephane Dion is more than capable of inspiring our trust, and he will have my fullest support going into the next election. Party unity is about having faith, trusting and supporting each other. By being negative on this blog, I broke faith with many hardworking Liberals who supported Michael Ignatieff.

I called two of my friends on the Ignatieff team. I told them to make room for me. They did. I looked down from the table I was standing on and saw a senior Ignatieff organizer whom I met back in April when the campaign was just getting underway. I shook his hand. Another Iggy supporter and fellow Queen's Park intern was nearby. He helped me off the table, took off his red Ignatieff scarf and put it around my neck.

Through a sea of signs and people, I walked across the hall. I climbed over a few chairs, finally reaching the Ignatieff section. I embraced a close friend as the people around us cheered. "John Lennard!," people screamed, surprised at my move. (I never knew I had so many fans!)

Fighting back sobs, I went to the voting area. It took me three attempts at casting my ballot. I didn't want to vote for anyone else -- Bob was the man, Bob was my leader, Bob was my choice. I wrote a blog post from the voting room saying I just couldn't do it. It was painfully difficult... but I did end up voting.

At the end of the day, I stood with Iggy. I stood with his supporters as the results were announced. My friend from Queen's Park looked at me right before the big moment. We both knew what was coming. I was proud to be there with him, and I hope he was proud to have me there.

I feel completely at ease with my decision, because it was the right one to make. Friendship must always be more important than politics. The grind of the campaign and my own personal faults made me lose that perspective. But on the floor of the convention, among Liberal friends, I found it once again.