Dion pays for election loss

Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:22pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion has paid the price for a humiliating defeat in last Tuesday's federal election, announcing on Monday he will step down as chief of the opposition party once his successor is chosen,

The former politics professor, who is so fond of his green credentials that he named his dog Kyoto after the pact to curb global warming, campaigned on a promise to introduce a carbon tax designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He stuck to his guns despite high fuel prices, a market meltdown and problems in communicating with the electorate. The result was a bad loss to the ruling Conservatives.

"I was responsible for ensuring our machine was ready, that our finances were in order, and I did not succeed ... but I am very proud of the program we had," he told a news conference on Monday.

Dion, 53, was in his first electoral race as leader of the opposition Liberals. The former environment minister was a compromise candidate who came from nowhere to beat the two front-runners at the December 2006 leadership convention.

He is the son of Quebec academic Leon Dion, and he initially followed his father's path by teaching political science at the University of Montreal. Later he entered politics and became a cabinet minister in successive Liberal governments.

"I could never imagine that I could have enjoyed and loved a profession as much as I did teaching. But I was wrong ... every day I have had confirmed to me why I love my country so much," he said on Monday.

Dion, who comes from French-speaking Quebec, faced other problems. His gawky persona and heavily accented English made for bad television, and he found it hard to connect to English speakers, who comprise about 60 percent of Canada's 33 million population.   Continued...

<p>Stephane Dion pauses during a news conference to announce he will resign as leader of the Liberal party in Ottawa October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>