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Former Liberal leader Dion makes appearance at NDP convention

Instead of his trademark backpack, he carried a bag of materials given to all delegates at this weekend's federal NDP convention.

Still, there was no mistaking Stéphane Dion.

The former federal Liberal leader stood out amidst more than 1,500 New Democrats at Vancouver's new convention centre on Saturday.

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Mr. Dion said he was there because Bob Rae, the interim Liberal leader, asked him to attend as an observer.

To that end, Mr. Dion spent Saturday watching resolution debates, and speeches to delegates.

At one point, he took a telephone break to dial into a virtual convention of his own party, which ended with an agreement to postpone the next leadership vote to no later than June, 2013.

The former federal environment minister also said he ended up shaking hands with many New Democrats, who sidled up to greet him.

"People are very friendly," Mr. Dion said in a brief interview. "Many people told me they voted for me in 2008."

But they may not have voted for the Liberal party in 2011, which was reduced to third place in Parliament, and took hits in Mr. Dion's native Quebec.

Not Mr. Dion. The former academic survived as the MP for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville.

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"I'm well known in my constituency, in my riding. I worked very hard for the last 15 years. I am respected there so it helped for me to survive," he said.

"Many of my colleagues who worked very hard did not survive."

The author of the Clarity Act setting out rules for Quebec sovereignty said he fears Jack Layton may think that in order to remain popular in Quebec - the base for more than half the party's new 103-member caucus - he needs to appease separatists.

In particular, he questioned Mr. Layton's assertion that 50-per-cent-plus-one would justify sovereignty.

"He should recognize that his own party decided you need two-thirds to amend his constitution so why does he think, in order to please Quebec, he needs to accept an idea that would break up Canada?"

He also said Mr. Layton should explicitly ask his new MPs if they believe in a united Canada.

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"Some of them may have been separatists in the past, and it's OK if they stopped because we will not say no to every Quebecker who was a separatist once in his life. I think this is another mistake he is doing," he said.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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