Last week the pundits were saying that it was a two-man race for the leadership of the federal Liberal party of Canada. The election that would decide who was going to lead the party back from the wilderness of opposition in the next campaign against Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada did come down to being a race between two men, just not the two men everyone was predicting.
While former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff's name was on the final ballot of the evening, his competition, and the eventual winner of the night, was not Bob Rae, the ex-socialist premier of Ontario, but Stephane Dion, the former Montreal political science professor. Going into the weekend's vote Dion was considered a long shot who at best might finish in third place.
After Saturday's first ballot everything looked to be playing out according to the script. Ignatieff was leading Rae by around 500 votes, and Dion squeaked into third just two votes in front of the fourth place Gerald Kennedy. The second ballot did nothing much to change the standings, and that's when the serious deal-making began behind the scenes which would see the beginning of the push that put Dion over the top.
With the person finishing last on each ballot being forced to drop out, Kennedy knew that he would be done after the third ballot, so instead of waiting for the inevitable, he announced his withdrawal and threw his support and that of his delegates behind Mr. Dion. Not only did it give Mr. Dion a boost in terms of votes, it also brought him the intangible support of Justine Trudeau. The charismatic son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is the man many have anointed as the leader of the future and he is beginning to attract a substantial following among the youth wing of the party.
This was enough of a swing in momentum and votes for Dion to take the lead after the third ballot. Still short of the majority needed to win the day, with Bob Rae having to drop out as the lowest vote getter, Dion's victory began to look like a reality. Even Ignatieff's people said later that they couldn't see their man coming back on the fourth ballot to overtake Dion.