A Trudeau led the Liberal Party when Bob Rae entered the House of Commons. And a Trudeau leads that party as Rae leaves. The Dippers were never sure Rae was one of them. And the Liberals were never sure if he belonged in their camp, either. That is why they never elected him permanent leader of the party.
But there has always been a remarkable consistency to Bob Rae. He believes that government can be a force for good. He believes it has a responsibility to the less fortunate. Like his father, he believes that Canada can be an honest broker on the international stage. And he believes in fair play.
He stands in stark contrast to the present prime minister. The kid who used to deliver Richard Nixon's newspaper learned how not to do politics from Nixon. Stephen Harper used Nixon's politics as a template for governing this country.
We probably will not see Rae run for elected office again. But that does not mean he has abandoned public service. Tom Walkom writes in today's Toronto Star that Rae's decision to negotiate with Ontario on behalf of Canada's First Nations is all of apiece. He has a long record of seeking the just outcome:
If there was a high-profile issue, Rae was involved. The federal government asked him to inquire into whether there should be an inquiry into the 1985 terror bombing of an Air India flight (he said yes).
The Ontario government asked him to inquire into whether university and college tuition should increase (he said yes again).
He investigated softwood lumber exports for the lumber industry and Sri Lanka’s civil war for a non-governmental organization he chaired.
When a scandal over tainted blood erupted, Rae led an investigation into what to do with the Canadian Red Cross. When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra found itself in financial trouble, Rae negotiated a government bailout.
Problems with a native fishery in New Brunswick? Call on Bob Rae.
No one should doubt Bob Rae's ambition. He really wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada. But, in the end, he has done Canada stellar service -- without seizing the brass ring.