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article imageDion Steps Down as Canadian Liberal Leader

By Bob Ewing     Oct 20, 2008 in Politics
Stephane Dion, leader of the federal Liberal party, will step down and a new leader will be chosen at the May 2009 Liberal leadership convention.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will step down as leader the Liberal leadership convention in May. Dion has vowed to remain at the helm for now.
“I fully accept my share of the responsibility,” Mr. Dion said of the Liberal electoral failure. “We must learn quickly from this experience and move on. The search for a new Liberal leader will be part of a process of renewing our party, but clearly will not in itself be sufficient.”
“The past is the past,” he said.
“I wish I had succeeded, of course. But you need to accept in democracy the result and move on. That's what I'm doing.”
Bob Rae, a possible replacement for Dion, is calling on the party to renew itself, engage with the public and “not beat up on ourselves.”
“There'll be lots of time to reflect on the last election. It's a simple reality that sometimes you win elections, sometimes you lose them,” Rae said. “We'll be sifting through those tea leaves for some time to come.”
Rae said he has not decided yet if he will contest the party's next leadership convention. “Obviously I will be discussing it with people. It would be a little disingenuous to say I wouldn't do that, but I won't be making a decision for a few weeks,” he added.
Dion will be remembered as only the second Liberal leader in Canadian history who did not become prime minister, joining Edward Blake, who held the party's top job from 1880-87.
Dion was appointed to Cabinet in 1996 and had him run in the Saint-Laurent-Cartierville by-election two months later.
“Politics has its ups and downs. I'm happy to be able to say I've enjoyed many more ups than downs,” Mr. Dion told a news conference Monday.
He apologized to candidates who lost their seats under his leadership, and encouraged new MPs to make sure the government works in the best interests of all Canadians.
“We must look beyond leadership to understand what went wrong in the campaign. ... and begin to fix our problems so that we can, I hope and I am confident, form a Liberal government again for all Canadians,” Dion said.
“We have to bring our fundraising machinery into the 21st Century, or the Liberal party will be at a permanent political disadvantage. This work must start now, and be successful in the coming months,” Dion said.
“If people are asking why, it's because I failed,” Dion said.
The Liberals only won 76 seats last Tuesday, down from 103 in the 2006 election, and won only 26.2 per cent of the popular vote — two points lower than the disastrous showing in 1984 under John Turner and only four points ahead of the worst ever result in 1867.
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