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international, Canada, Stephane Dion
Adrian Wyld,CP/AP
Liberal leader Stephane Dion pauses as he speaks to media while announcing his future
as leader of the Liberal Party in Ottawa, Monday Oct.20, 2008.

Liberal Shake-up as Canada Picks Conservatives to Lead

October 21, 2008 02:40 PM
by Christopher Coats
Liberal leader Stephane Dion stepped aside this week after leading his party to a third consecutive loss and less power, due in part to a controversial environmental tax.

Assessing Canada’s Elections

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Canada’s snap election has forced Liberal leader Stephane Dion from his post this week, after his once powerful party lost 19 seats, leaving them with just 76 in a 308-member parliament.

The snap election, held last week after Prime Minister Stephen Harper dissolved what he saw as a deadlocked parliament, resulted in the PM’s Conservative Party gaining seats. It was the country’s third election in four years.

Though the Conservative Party’s showing was enough to force Dion from his leadership position, it was not enough to earn Harper’s Conservative Party, in power since Jan. 2006, a majority.

The Conservative Party won 143 seats, short of the 155 needed to secure an official majority.

Harper was able to turn Dion’s green carbon tax, called the Green Shift, into a threat against the country’s struggling economy.

The first country to hold a national election since the global economic slowdown, Canada’s parliamentary poll focused on its faltering economy—an issue that Dion’s Liberals were unable to capitalize on with a proposed green carbon tax.

Citing the failed tax proposal and Dion’s trouble connecting with English-speaking Canadians—he is a French-Canadian from Quebec—national observers saw Dion’s inability to overcome a third consecutive loss of power to the Conservatives as a final blow to his time on top.

Rising to power in 2006 amid a tense struggle for party support between two leading liberal leaders, Dion was a surprise selection to head his party.

Praised at the time for his attention to environmental issues, namely his proposed green carbon tax, Dion soon fell out of favor with his supporters and some editorial boards who had supported his choice.

Dion admitted he “failed” as a party leader and in his effort to properly explain his tax proposal to Canadians, though he also called out his Conservative opponents for what he saw as their unfair and negative campaigning.

“The image the Conservatives gave to me is cemented in the minds of too many Canadians. I want to protect the next leader against that,” he told the National Post.
He has promised to stay in place until the Liberal Party can select a new leader.

“I will stay as leader until a new leader is chosen at a leadership convention that I have asked the party to begin to organize. I will not be a candidate for the leadership of my party at that convention,” the BBC reported.

Reaction: Who’s Next?

The Financial Post’s Craig Offman takes a look at the candidates likely to take over for the outgoing Dion, and what they have going for and against them.

Opinion & Analysis: Dion’s departure

The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson suggests that if Dion had not resigned following his party’s election loss, he would have been forced out, not for his campaign but for his overall leadership of the party. “Mr. Dion had little-to-no caucus support. His party lost ground (again) in the popular vote and, of course, seats. If he hadn’t gone, he would’ve been pushed,” Simpson wrote Tuesday.

However, The National Post’s Jonathan Kay counters that The Globe and Mail’s criticism of Dion runs against the argument they used to support his selection as party leader in late 2006, suggesting that the outgoing leader delivered exactly what he promised.

“Dion delivered exactly the same left-wing bill of goods he advertised back when he ran for party leader in 2006,” Kay wrote this week. “The people who should be spouting mea culpas are the Liberals who picked this earnest beta male in the first place,” citing The Globe and Mail’s editorial page as a guilty party.
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