Grits’ time to turn new leaf

Liberal Stéphane Dion stepped down as party leader Monday. He will stay on until a new leader is elected.

He was elected Dec. 2, 2006 over Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, both of whom have been named potential candidates for the next leadership convention, which will likely be held in May.

After two years of turbulence, Dion’s resignation is a step in the right direction.

Voters sent a strong message when they elected Dion’s Liberals to 76 seats last Tuesday and their lowest percentage of the popular vote since Confederation.

The Liberals, historically dubbed Canada’s “governing party,” need to take this humbling experience as a wake-up call.

It seems the party never recovered from its shaky start after the 2006 convention, which saw a bitter rivalry between the Rae and Ignatieff camps and what seems to have been a compromise pick in fly-under-the-radar Dion.

The Liberals should be searching for someone to unite the party under a strong vision.

Although the Liberals have traditionally stayed in the centre of the political spectrum, they need to now clearly define themselves. With the rise of leftist parties as legitimate contenders in politics and the government’s growing push to the right, the party has to use the upcoming convention as an opportunity to re-examine its priorities.

Party members must choose a leader who has ideas to improve Canada, not one who will merely win over voters with charm.

Although it may take more than seven months to fix their internal problems, the Liberals need to take the time to rebuild the party’s image instead of making another hasty leadership decision.

Dion shouldn’t stay on as Liberal leader until May. This session’s Parliament will inevitably focus on the economic crisis, which Dion, a former environment minister under Paul Martin’s government, isn’t strong on.

It would be better to appoint an interim leader who is experienced in economic issues to lead a strong Opposition party.

Right now, Dion is sitting like a lame duck in Parliament and allowing the Tories to govern with near-majority powers.

All Canadians can do is grit their teeth and hope the Liberals don’t make another mistake next May.

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