The leader of the Liberals is now Michael Ignatieff, who brings at least somewhat more legitimacy and respectability to the party. The replacement leaves me much more optimistic about the political scene than I was a week ago, and with only one more thing to say to Stephane Dion: don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.
Ignatieff has an extensive resume, which has taken him from the University of Toronto to New York and Harvard. He is more of a centrist candidate, especially this time around, considering in 2006 he became a polarizing figure within the party, basically costing him the leadership at the time. But for all his positive attributes, he does not have my full support as of yet.
For one, I'm worried that Ignatieff is at the center of an "Obama Effect", where an academic is thrust into the political spotlight by the media by default and by taking a "middle of the road" position intended to please everyone and keep away from controversy. This is exactly how he ended up being handed the leadership recently. As a result, Dominic Leblanc and Bob Rae, his 2 competitors, quickly dropped out for the good of the party, as they knew Ignatieff was the "popular" choice to lead. Let's hope the "Obama Effect" doesn't trick people into jumping on the Liberal bandwagon without looking at the real issues.
His foreign policy also worries me: he supported the war in Iraq, is strongly in support of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, and has a questionable view on the use of torture. It seems his experience in the States gave him the feeling that war is required and has more benefits than drawbacks. Up here, that is not the attitude we have (at least not those who I have spoken to recently). Maybe he will have to change his tune on that issue to avoid the one major issue in which he is vulnerable to exploitation: the myth that he is too American. Hopefully the Canadian people will not be manipulated by the Conservative patriotism claims and realize that the neo-con, Bush-loving Conservative Party is more "American" in its operations than Ignatieff.
Bob Rae has more political experience than Ignatieff (Premier of Ontario 1990-95 as a New Democrat), but has been the underdog from Day 1 for a reason unknown to me. At least Rae displayed clear confidence in the Coalition and was insistent on taking down PM Harper; Ignatieff is leaning towards disbanding the Coalition and has agreed with Harper on some key issues. However, his past as Premier (which was marred by a recession created by the previous leadership) gives the Conservatives more ammo with which to attack, leaving Ignatieff was the number 1 choice in that regard. I preferred Mr. Rae as a leadership candidate due to his policies which work for the common good, his straight-forwardness and down-to-earth personality, and his intelligence and character.
Is this the beginning of the end of the Liberal rebuilding period? Ever since Jean Chretien departed, the party has been hard-pressed to find a stable, long-term solution as leader. Let's hope Ignatieff is that man. If he isn't, at least Bob Rae is waiting in the wings.