The Liberal leadership contest got a double dose of academic star power Friday as a pair of high-profile former university professors declared their candidacies on the first official day of the race.
Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion added an instant touch of gravitas to a race that will feature plenty of back-slapping, burger-flipping and membership sales by Liberals seeking the party's top prize. Both sought to position themselves as centre-left candidates in a field that could swell to more than a dozen participants over the coming weeks.
According to a Decima poll provided to The Canadian Press, a scant few percentage points separate a handful of potential leading candidates.
Neither Ignatieff nor Dion would have appeared until recently on the short list of Liberals considered leaders-in-waiting.
But after an electoral beating that saw the Liberals face charges that they were bereft of ideas, the intellectuals from Toronto and Quebec City are expected to draw considerable support.
Ignatieff could easily have been speaking for both of them when he quoted Czech author and former president Vaclav Havel in his opening speech.
"He said hope is not a feeling," the former Harvard professer told a Toronto audience.
"Hope is the belief that what you are doing makes sense. What I am doing today makes sense."