Tonight in Vancouver Michael Ignatieff will be anointed leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The process makes official the results of last winter's strange coup in which Stéphane Dion essentially deposed himself by falling into the frantic foolishness of a coalition scheme.
We regret Dion's demise. For all his flaws, he deserved a better fate than this. But politics is an unforgiving game and Ignatieff has already shown himself to be far more hard-headed than Dion, or Paul Martin before him.
And yet we haven't seen clearly what kind of a leader Ignatieff will make. Opinion polls say he's already prime-minister-in-waiting, but polls alone will not get you from Stornoway to Sussex Drive.
Ignatieff has been in the Commons for just three years, after spending most of three decades outside the country. Canadians still don't know him. Aside from his evident industriousness and his tendency to overheated rhetoric in question period, he's still largely a mystery to the people he aims to lead.
We do know already that Ignatieff is the first bona-fide intellectual we've had as a party leader since Pierre Trudeau. He is also an aristocrat, coming on his father's side from a line of Russian counts (and a distinguished Canadian diplomat). On his mother's side, meanwhile, Ignatieff is descended from ... well, if the rock-ribbed and sober-sided Protestant British Ontario of 19th- and early 20th-century Canada had had an aristocracy of accomplishment, the Grants would have been in it.
He tells of those ancestors in his slim new book True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada, a brisk read despite its serious tone. The book has the blandness of a campaign biography, giving us few clues about where Ignatieff stands on major issues. But it does show that Ignatieff has thought deeply about Canada - although he could hardly have avoided doing so, given his family tree. He's not afraid to proclaim himself a patriot, under his own definition of patriotism: "enduring, impatient, non-ironic belief in the promise of the land you love." Such patriotism, he asserts, is "the single greatest asset of successful societies." Canada, here I am!
Critics grumble that this weekend's Liberal convention, and indeed Ignatieff's leadership so far, have been short on policy and long on waffling. That's not a fair criticism: It's unreasonable to expect a fully-developed platform, or even a scaffolding, from a man still getting to know his party.
But this convention ends his honeymoon with his party and with Canadians. Starting now, Ignatieff will have to show Canadians what all those quarterings of status and merit, and all those high-minded sentiments, have fashioned him into.
Here is an academic getting down into the arena, and for that alone he deserves credit. Ignatieff will not be one of those "men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows," scorned by Teddy Roosevelt. Instead he will now "actually strive to do the deeds." His country will be watching.