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Knowing when to fold 'em

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There are two reasons today why I believe Bob Rae is a class act.

Whatever his politics, whatever baggage he has from his days as the Ontario premier, Rae’s decision Tuesday to walk away from the leadership contest and throw his unqualified support to Michael Ignatieff was a classy thing to do.

He bowed out gracefully and at the right time for the Liberal party to put an end to the divisive politics that once again were tearing the party apart.

A coronation for one candidate without a full vote of the party isn’t the best way for the Liberals to pick their new leader, but in the circumstances, it’s probably the best way for the Liberals to move forward.

Ignatieff two years ago earned the support of 30 per cent of Liberal members before a single vote was cast, and finished second in the leadership race. He already had the support of more than half the Liberal MPs and had the support of thousands of Liberal grassroots members.

So it’s not as if he was taking over the party without having the support to back it up.

Rae knew that, and he also knew that for the good of his party he had to put personal aspirations aside.

But I heard another story about Bob Rae yesterday that proves to me that he is more than just a political brain.

In 2006, amid the circus of the last Liberal leadership, he called a certain Liberal senator who was supporting one of his opponents.

Rae told the senator the call was not political in nature. The senator was bemused by the claim, considering the leadership race was well underway.

But Rae said he was calling because he had just heard the senator’s daughter had just been diagnosed with lymphoma. And Rae said his brother had been diagnosed with the same cancer and he had the names and numbers of all the top specialists in the country. He wanted to pass them on, he said, and with his involvement in the lymphoma society he would do whatever the family needed to help the senator’s daughter get the best care possible.

Some might see the call as political, but the senator believes firmly that Rae was calling because he really wanted to help, that he could help, and that politics aside, he reached out to a colleague to help, even though at that moment the two were not sitting on the same side of the leadership fence.

Yep. Politics aside, it was an incredibly generous thing for Rae to do. And it’s no wonder the senator has not forgotten about it.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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