Mike Eizenga, 47, who was nicknamed "Zinger" in high school, is a low-profile London, Ont., lawyer who came out of nowhere to beat Akaash Maharaj as the Liberal Party of Canada's new president on Nov. 15 in Toronto, winning with an estimated 55 per cent of the delegates cast, according to unofficial party numbers. Mr. Eizenga replaced the bow-tie wearing, colourful and outspoken Stephen LeDrew. Congratulations to Mr. Eizenga. The Liberal Party has given him their confidence as it prepares to head into the next federal election which is likely to be held in five months. But we have some advice for Mr. Eizenga who beat the more philosophical and independent-minded Mr. Maharaj. We encourage Mr. Eizenga to speak up, to be independent from the party leader and the Prime Minister's Office, to work fully with grassroots party members and to keep all the promises he outlined in his most recent campaign speech. We encourage Mr. Eizenga not to kow-tow to Canada's 21st Prime Minister Paul Martin. Mr. Eizenga seems like a polished well-behaved character. He also stands in sharp contrast to the more intellectual, big-thinker Mr. Maharaj, who had lofty plans to "transform" the party, and who made it clear that winning elections was nice, but it should not be the driving force behind the party's raison d'être. Mr. Eizenga is no stranger to politics, yet he was a virtual unknown before he entered the race late in the game. Akaash Maharaj, on the other hand, had been campaigning for the job for two years. He would have been the first visible minority elected party president. He was the one to beat and he was clearly disappointed by his loss. Mr. Maharaj promised to shake things up. He was a trail-blazer. Mr. Maharaj won an estimated 900 votes. He believed he would win. It was a nail-biter of a loss. But Mr. Eizenga had Martin's team behind him, including strategist Michele Cadario, who last week was named the party's interim national director, and Leslie Swartman, a Martin communications strategist. The Maharaj team had alleged that Mr. Eizenga's late entry into the race was a hypocritical move, especially since Mr. Martin's campaign team had campaigned for the party leadership on a platform to allow MPs and the grassroots to have more of a say. Mr. Maharaj's campaign manager, Mike Cooper, told the National Post's Anne Dawson that he had heard from riding associations across the country who had initially pledged support for Mr. Maharaj, but switched allegiances after being pressured by Martin campaign workers. "Knees are being broken to get people to support Eizenga," sensationally claimed Mike Cooper. Mr. Eizenga's team denied the charge, and Mr. Eizenga has always maintained that he had supporters in John Manley and Sheila Copps camps. Nonetheless, Mr. Eizenga will have to prove his independence. Meanwhile, he outlined his six priorities. He said his first priority, as the new party leader, will be to pay down the party's more than $2-million debt as well as the party's provincial wings' debts and to start raising money for the next general election. He wants to do that in five months. Second, Mr. Eizenga vaguely said he wants to "significantly decentralize" the party's operations, allowing party members to be "agents of change in their local communities." Third, he wants the party to come up with a long-term strategy for grassroots fundraising, eliminating the receipting fee that "punishes" ridings which successfully raise money. Fourth, he said the party must include a "deliberate" strategy to elect more women, more aboriginals and more visible minorities. Fifth, he said he will respect the party's constitution and will schedule the next biennial convention when it's supposed to be held and suggested on even sooner than later, proposing spring of 2005. Sixth, he said the party should establish a council of presidents to meet between biennial conventions so that Ottawa never loses touch with "real Liberals" in the ridings. Good luck to Mr. Eizenga, but we hope he won't be lock step and barrel with everything Paul Martin says.