Richard from Manitoba here,
Stephane came off feistier than Kyoto in a dog park on Sunday, a performance that gathered many impressed "hmm" moments at the inter-camp debate gathering I attended. Dion stood up for the Liberal record against two party newcomers, and I think its important that every Liberal remember that renewal is different than rebuilding.
The 13-year dynasty of our party was not an accident, nor just a product of the "big red machine" in singing campaign mode. In 1993, Liberals had a purpose: to bring Canada to a point of fiscal balance, in anticipation of a day where Canada could afford to implement any policy or program it needed to address social and economic ills. Purpose drove policy, policy drove visible change, and visible change kept us in office. The finest campaigners of Power Corp would not have been able to market a government that appeared to do nothing when the country was in need of fiscal reform. Consider this: Liberals were able to survive the backlash of having to cut social spending (and indeed all kinds of spending), a chorus that could have easily sung the fat lady tune for our party; but no...our purpose was in synch with that of Canadians, and we succeeded.
Stephane, and all Liberals, should be proud of that, because it was an achievement that all Canadians sacrificed for. Our loss came not from that imminent backlash against program cuts: it came when we lost purpose.
The latter Chretien years and fully the Martin years were defined moreso by conditions and actions thrust upon us by popular demand. Chretien's defining 2003 refusal on Iraq was a neccessary reaction to the unilateral action of the U.S: didn't create the mission, we simply said no. Same sex marriage was moved first by nearly every provincial court, even the Supreme Court of Canada, before it was decided. Martin was there to watch the vote.
Overall, there was a vacuum left when we had slayed the deficit. Chalk it up to whatever reason you may, we did not switch modes from fiscal savers to social restorers as the vision initially entailed. At the end, we were managers more than leaders, so busy coping with the day-to-day funcion of governing that we forgot why we were doing it.
Stephane's work on the environment came at the tail end of this. Its clear to see that Stephane always saw the environment as his purpose, but it is equally clear that purpose was not generally embraced by the whole government, nor the whole party. For whatever didn't get done we cannot blame only one of us. The Liberal party gets things done when we all buy into a common and focused purpose, and the environment wasnt it.
Stephane is trying to make the envrionment that Liberal purpose, equal to that of fiscal management back in 1993. Its important that Liberals see our need for such a common purpose. No other leadership candidate has stepped up with such a focus on a grand enough issue. The Liberal Party has proven it can get accomplish amazing feats if it has a purpose...environmental sustainability need be that new purpose, and Stephane need be the leader who can express and act on that purpose: our ability to once again realize this party's potential depends wholly on it.