Exciting times for the Liberal party

As many of you are aware, I attended the recent Liberal leadership convention in Montreal.
It was an amazing experience, and I will try my best to convey the excitement and enthusiasm that I shared with more than 6,000 delegates and observers.
On the Wednesday morning (Nov. 29), I boarded the train from Ottawa to Montreal. The station was a hub of activity as fellow Liberals and Ottawa media made their way to the convention.
Once again I was reminded of the need for passenger rail service in Thunder Bay—an issue that’s constantly on my agenda.
We arrived at the Palais de Congres and were greeted by a massive rally of Stéphane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae delegates. Signs waving, people chanting, and a general feeling of excitement surrounded us.
After nine months of campaigning, we finally were “here” to choose our leader and the anticipation was palpable.
But first—there was work to do. The discussion of policy resolutions were slated for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
As chair of the rural caucus, I was anxious to discuss the numerous rural policies that were submitted not only by my caucus, but also by riding associations across the country.
I am extremely pleased that the five prioritized rural policies relating to supply management, the Canadian Wheat Board, the need for a rural affairs minister, the importance of fair funding and services for rural Communities, and the national food security policy were embraced by members from across the country.
Thursday evening (Nov. 30) was a gala celebration in appreciation for our former leader, the Right Hon. Paul Martin.
The program featured entertainment by Colin James and Natalie McMaster, as well as numerous video messages for Mr. Martin from dignitaries all over the world, including Kofi Annan, Secretary-General for the United Nations, Paul Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, and Sen. Romeo Dallaire, former Lt.-Gen. of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Friday (Dec. 1) dawned with freezing rain and blustery winds, but even such nasty weather could not put a damper on the fever of the delegates. Each candidate had the opportunity to speak to the convention and each rose to the challenge with true grit.
Martha Hall Findley gave an impassioned speech about the need for brains, guts, and heart; Scott Brison spoke of the desperate need to implement solutions to global warming; and Joe Volpe shared his passion for an improved immigration system.
Ken Dryden fired up the crowd with his vision of a “Big Canada”; Stéphane Dion spoke about environmental sustainability, economic responsibility, and social justice; and Gerard Kennedy explained the need for renewal and a long-term vision for the country.
Bob Rae spoke from the heart about the pursuit of education and innovation while Michael Ignatieff spoke about working together for a better Canada.
Saturday (Dec. 2) was about as exciting a day as one could have imagined. Each voting lineup brought people from across the country together to chat about their views; each ballot result brought us one step closer to the election of our new leader.
Finally, on the fourth ballot, Stéphane Dion was chosen as the new leader of the Liberal Party.
Having worked with Mr. Dion since my election in 2004, I am very pleased with the choice. He is smart and sincere, and has a vision for the country that understands that economic growth and environmental stewardship can be mutually achieved.
I look forward to working with him to implement that vision.

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