About an hour outside of Vancouver, Stephane Dion and Janine Krieber rose from their front row seats and made their way towards the back of the plane, bearing cookies for the traveling press corps. After the treats had been delivered, the couple lingered for awhile.
Within five minutes, Dion had produced a book he was reading and was showing reporters a bar graph he found particularly interesting. Krieber made small talk with a few francophone reporters, chatting happily for maybe 15 minutes longer than her husband lasted. Dion reappeared briefly to award the grand prize (a pair of hockey tickets) in an onboard raffle.
He did not appear particularly stressed or burdened. Perhaps a bit tired. Shy, but perhaps no more sheepish than usual.
The crowd that awaited him in a sweaty ballroom at the airport Delta was loud, fervent, a bit silly. They had whistles and balloons and signs and hats made out of signs and a megaphone and chants. Maybe 200 people in all.
He launched one last time into his stump speech, the personal note that closed this version reading approximately as follows.
“I remember my first speech as a minister, in 1996. My first speech it was in British Columbia. And I said at that time, Mr. Chretien had brought me into politics, in fact it was Madame Chretien, it was to help us our country stay united. As a Quebecker, it was important for me to keep my country, Canada, united and I explained why for the first time here in British Columbia. And I said that Janine and I decided that I would go as unity minister to be sure that our daughter Jeanne would enjoy British Columbia as part of her country. And not mostly because of your mountains, though your mountains are very good, because of you people. Because I’m convinced that for your children to have Quebec as part of your country is as great as for Jeanne to have British Columbia as part of her country.”
“When the tough times come—and usually, as you know, Tory times are tough times—like the storm we have in the world today about the economy, that is putting at risk so many pensions, savings, mortgages and jobs, we are stronger because we are together. We may help each other much more. But there is another reason why I fought for the unity of my country. It’s because I know … how much Canada is a hope around the world. A hope where we may show to the world that diversity is a strength, having different religions, different backgrounds, different languages, different accents…
The crowd cheered his self-deprecation.
“That is the Canada that I love. I want this country to be a leading country of the 21st century. It’s why I’m asking Canadians to choose me as your Prime Minister tomorrow, with the great team I have in British Columbia and everywhere in Canada. We’ll make this country richer, fairer and greener together … And what I want is that after you have worked very hard to be sure that everybody goes to vote for the Liberal party, you will vote yourself. You will cast your ballot. And you will vote Liberal. And then you will go home and then you will look your children in the eyes and your grandchildren and you will be able to proudly say, I voted for me, to have a government that will help me now in the tough times in which we are. But I voted for you too, to prepare your future because … it’s time now, more than ever the time, to have a government in Canada that will not govern for the next day, the next poll, only the next election, but will govern for the next generation.”
And then everyone sang O Canada.